He’s sung background for the popstar Charlie Puth. His a capella group opened for Pentatonix. He was invited to audition live for America’s Got Talent. He graduated from Berkeley College of Music in Boston with a degree in songwriting. And yet, none of that compares to the way music helps Brandon Pak feel the Spirit and share that feeling with others.
“Before I really understood what it meant to feel the Spirit … music was the closest thing I could find to actual spirituality,” Brandon says.
When a life headed toward musical fame left him feeling completely alone, Brandon turned back to the gospel he'd once left. His soul felt unburdened for the first time in years, and he recommitted to living a life that would bring him true joy, even giving up an opportunity to be on America's Got Talent in favor of serving a mission. He now uses his music to help others to find their own self-worth through the gospel.
Unsure of the Gospel
The Pak family moved constantly while Brandon grew up since his father was in the military. This made it hard for him to connect to any one place or group of people. But music and family were always constant in his life and provided him with love and happiness. Church was a part of his childhood, although it wasn’t the focus for many of his early years. Brandon experienced discomfort with the gospel when his father would testify of something Brandon simply hadn’t felt yet. Feeling that he didn’t fit in at church and simply didn’t understand it, Brandon decided to stop going at age 17.
At the same time that Brandon struggled with his beliefs, he grew more confident in his music. He was accepted into Berkley and flew across the country to Boston to study a double major in music education and music therapy. Studying both types of music helped Brandon realize that what he really wanted was to pursue songwriting, so he switched his major halfway through his studies. He performed and toured with various groups and took all sorts of musical gigs, and from the outside, it looked like his life was perfect. But on the inside, things were only getting harder.
Brandon describes the year he switched to songwriting as one of the most difficult years of his life. Everyone was excited for him and everything he was doing. He got to sing background for Charlie Puth. His a capella group opened for Pentatonix. He got to tour with various bands. Friends were constantly congratulating him for his success.
“They’d say, ‘You must be having the time of your life. You’re out there touring, you’re moving, you’re constantly gigging.’ And I was like, ‘I think this is the most depressed and difficult my life has ever been.’ On paper, everything looked so beautiful, but I felt so empty,” Brandon says.
“I didn’t feel like there was any constant for me anymore keeping me grounded,” Brandon says. “I used to do these long night runs out in Boston, like at 2 a.m., and I’d go run on the Charles River until I was completely exhausted just to feel something because I felt so alone.”
It was on one of these night runs that Brandon realized he’d reached his limit. He knew he needed help, that he needed to change something in his life. Unsure of what to do, he found a nearby chapel in Boston with a 9 a.m. meeting and decided to go and see what happened. He says, “I remember sitting in the pew for the first time after so much time away, and it was just the most amazing, exquisite feeling. Just feeling like I had landed somewhere and all of the heaviness and the weight, … so much of it was just alleviated. There was this immediate sense of relief.”
Building His Own Understanding
The Longfellow Park YSA ward welcomed Brandon with open arms that day, lining up to greet him. The Spirit began to fill those hollow spaces inside of him, and he began to understand the gospel in a way he never had as a kid. “I don’t feel like I returned to any level of spirituality that I was at before. This was something totally different, my heart was in such a different place. So much more open.” Brandon says.
Brandon decided to test this new feeling by living the gospel with full commitment for the next three months to see if the change would stick. He stopped drinking. He spent his time differently and engaged in different kinds of entertainment. He says, “Those three months were the most transformative period I’ve ever experienced in my whole life.”
The gospel became the most interesting thing in Brandon’s life. He devoured scriptures and doctrine every single day, stating “I was just hungry for it.” Even during his classes, he found himself drifting toward the scriptures. One day the songwriter for Jesse McCartney came to his class and while the rest of the students swarmed their visitor with questions, Brandon sat at the back of the class behind a pillar, reading from his paper scriptures.
By the end of the three months, Brandon knew he needed to serve a mission. He put in his papers and didn’t let anything stop him, even turning down an offer to appear on America’s Got Talent. Brandon says, “I knew what it felt like to be lost and to find the gospel, and what type of worth that gave to me as a person and what excitement for the future. And I wanted other people to be able to have that.”
Following his mission, Brandon joined Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain Publishing to work on writing and singing faith-filled original songs. Some people journal to record spiritual experiences, others write poems or make art. Brandon sings.
“Every time I have a spiritual experience, I immediately process it through writing a song. I don’t feel like I’m ever being forced to write about spiritual topics necessarily. I just feel like the way I best compute events in my life, and very difficult to describe feelings, has always come through music,” he says.
Even the way in which Brandon feels the Spirit relates to how he feels playing music. “I always compute [feeling the Spirit] through the lens of music. For me, it feels like when you hear a song for the very first time, and it feels like it was written just for you: the lyrics connect, you feel seen, and I get these chills that start in one place in my body and spread all over.”
Worth Saving, Brandon’s new single, evokes this same feeling in listeners. The song describes how despite our sins and mistakes God always believes we are still worth saving. This is just the first of many new songs to be released by Brandon this year. He hopes his music will connect with people and teach them that you can always ask for forgiveness and try to grow to be a better person.
Check out this recent All In episode to hear Brandon share his faith journey, or listen to his music by using the Spotify link below.