Brandon Wylie grew up with line work in his blood from his father and music in his soul from his grandfather, so it was just a matter of time before the two parts of him collided. And when you cross a passion for music with that of line work you get a song that can light up a room and help bring recognition to an entire industry. Wylie wrote the song “Highline Cowboy” to express his love of the industry and can be found working on his music when he’s not working his full-time career. For his day job, Wylie is a certified Safety and Training Specialist at Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG) where he teaches the importance of safety to linemen across the country. Thankfully, he hasn’t had any safety issues of his own but has lost a couple friends to the dangerous profession.
“Being a lineman is not just a job or a paycheck, it’s a lifestyle,” said Wylie. “You live it every day of the year.”
And this job requirement is what frustrated Wylie as a child since his dad would sometimes miss big family events, including holidays and birthdays, in order to keep the lights on during a storm. Eventually, he realized his father’s actions taught him how to have a strong work ethic in order to provide for his family.
So how did he make the transition from hating the lineman life his dad chose to decide on the exact same career? He did it through trial and error. Wylie started down a mainstream career path but realized utility work was in his DNA. He admired his father and wanted to follow in his footsteps of a rewarding career so he blazed his trail into a life that is as strenuous as it is rewarding.
Wylie began his journey as a lineman around the same time he taught himself to play the guitar. It took him about 8 years to realize that teaching safety was another of his passions. The most important safety tip Wylie has is that a lineman should always wear his rubber gloves even when they aren’t required.
“You can never go wrong by wearing [rubber gloves],” he said.
Other top safety items he recommends are glasses, Flame Resistant (FR) clothing, fall arrest gear and ergonomic battery tools that can be a tremendous help in reducing shoulder and elbow injuries.
He’s currently a member of the National Utility Training & Safety Education Association and the Georgia Lineman Rodeo Association. Wylie also serves on the board as Vice Chair of the National Association of Journeymen Linemen. He has previously served as an APPA Power Lineman’s Competition Judge and as Master Judge for the Georgia Lineman’s Rodeo and a Competitor in the International Power Lineman’s Competition.
Before serving the different associations, he won the APPA rodeo in 2004 and a 2nd place finish in 2007. He has seen the industry from all sides and continues to help various organizations with their mission of bringing recognition to the linemen who deserve it.
Wylie is currently a trainer with over 16 years of experience, but when a big storm hits he’s sent in to fill the General Foreman/Coordinator role. When there is an opportunity to roll up his sleeves and do the work he will jump in and help his crew. The latest major storm he assisted on was Hurricane Sandy of which he said, “was the safest storm I ever worked.” He did however hear stories from that storm where guys were burned or killed so he counted himself among the lucky.
“We watch each other’s back because everybody gets tired when working a storm,” he said. Many work 16-18 hour shifts for weeks at a time during a storm and Wylie advises they be conscious of their pace and try not to be a hero when in dangerous situations. There is an unspoken lineman bond and the goal is always to get home safely each day to see their loved ones.
“Lineman work around the clock and many die in the line of duty in order to keep the rest of us comfortable,” he said. “People have become so dependent on electricity that they don’t realize who keeps the power on.”
Linemen don’t get the recognition they deserve because they are usually very humble. This phenomenon is what makes Wylie’s song even more important to the industry. Linemen are a group of people who take risks to put the needs of others before their own and are often the first responders on a scene.
One time while on vacation in Florida, Wylie was thinking about his career and the hurricanes, tornados and ice storms that bring down the lines and put linemen in danger. It was at this time when the words to his song “Highline Cowboy” popped into his head. Just like a lineman, a cowboy would have to leave his family and spend weeks out in the elements doing a job in some of the most harsh weather conditions in order to take care of his family at home. A cowboy and a lineman both do the work because they have a passion for it and both risk their life never knowing what they could encounter each day. “The song literally wrote itself in 5 minutes,” he said. “There may be better songs lyrically and musically, but this one came from God and a lineman.”
His grandfather, who was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame as a mandolin player, would be proud of his grandson’s passions. Wylie enjoys writing more serious songs that pull at the heart strings and is a country music performer at heart. Being a part of the utility industry has allowed Wylie the opportunity to play his music at various linemen rodeos and conventions. His song will also be featured in a new industry film that plays tribute to linemen across the country.
Wylie knows first-hand how difficult the line career is on families as he has a 9 year old son and wife at home. He’s always trying to practice what he teaches when it comes to safety on the job. “Your family expects you to come home,” he said. Wylie’s own father is his hero and role model and he hopes his son might carry the same lineman passion in his own DNA.
“He loves the music but he’s not into line work yet,” Wylie said. “I would definitely recommend this career to my son.”