Southern Fryed Lead Singer Cuts Long Hair, Hides Tats For Wyoming House Run

People around Cheyenne know Exie Brown as “Russ,” the lead singer of popular country band Southern Fryed. Now he’s ditched his long hair and covered his tattoos to challenge longtime Wyoming House incumbent Landon Brown.

Leo Wolfson

June 28, 20249 min read

Exie Brown, lead singer of country band Southern Fried, has adopted a more conservative image for his run for hte Wyoming House.
Exie Brown, lead singer of country band Southern Fried, has adopted a more conservative image for his run for hte Wyoming House. (Courtesy Photo)

Many people may know Exie Brown as “Russ,” lead singer of popular country band Southern Fryed, but he’s ditched his long, flowing locks and covers his arm sleeve tattoos with a suit jacket in his new identity as a candidate for the Wyoming Legislature.

He’s challenging veteran incumbent state Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, in the Republican primary this August for the House District 9 seat.

The main photo on Exie Brown’s candidate page shows that he’s chopped off most of his long, golden curls and turned in his cut-off-sleeved shirt for a slick haircut and suit. He said this reflects the approach he takes when working the business side of his band and his other small business.

He also said he was already planning on getting a haircut before deciding to run for the Legislature.

Although being the lead singer of a regionally famous band may sound like a semi-rockstar lifestyle, Exie Brown said running the band’s business and planning concerts and appearances can involve a surprising amount of work.

It’s a responsibility he said takes up about 30 hours a week, including dealing with talent buyers and decision makers, negotiating contracts and shows, working the logistics of the travel, and managing lighting and state setup at their shows.

“There’s a lot more to the music industry than just what people see on stage,” he said. “What people see as far as the performance on stage and the entertainment that we provide the fans, that’s only about 10% to 15% of the music industry I deal with.”

The Testerman Issue

Exie Brown said he was already strongly considering a run for the Legislature because of his opponent’s voting record, but was fully convinced after Landon Brown testified in court in May on behalf of Gabriel Testerman, a former Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper convicted this of first-degree sexual assault.

Landon Brown requested the judge give a relatively lenient sentence.

Exie Brown believes this is emblematic of a long pattern of bad judgment from his opponent.

“That is one thing people bring up when I am going door to door,” he said. “They say, ‘Well, we’re not going to vote for a guy who supports a convicted rapist.’”

Landon Brown has since publicly apologized for taking this action and said he also apologized directly to Testerman’s victims, who he said accepted his apology. It’s a mistake he said will stay with him until the day he dies.

If he could go back in time, Landon Brown said he would follow more in line with a previous letter he sent to the judge asking for a “justified sentence.” He also said Testerman’s attorney “goaded” him into saying what he did.

“I have certainly learned, and I’ve grown from that mistake,” Landon Brown said. “I think that takes a lot of courage for somebody to stand up and not only admit when they’re wrong, but also take the punishment of what public perception has been about for me for a while.”

Who’s Landon Brown?

Landon Brown is seeking a fifth term in office after first being elected in 2016. He said if reelected, this will likely be his last term in the House.

“I’ve made a name for myself being a balanced legislator,” he said.

Landon Brown said although he was already considering stepping down, he couldn’t find an adequate replacement. He’s concerned about the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, a group of farther right Republican legislators, taking over.

“I feel like if I step down right now, there’s a good chance that the Freedom Caucus would find someone to run in this position,” he said.

Landon Brown is a prominent member of the Wyoming Caucus, a group of Republican legislators who are opposing the Freedom Caucus’ efforts.

During his last term, Landon Brown passed laws authorizing firefighters to receive annual cancer screenings under their workmen’s compensation and purple star designation for schools that take specific actions to assist military connected students.

He also attempted legislation in 2023 that would have lowered and broadened the sales tax base, an effort he wants to continue if reelected. He said that bill would have reduced the average tax payment residents make to government services, but broadened the number of items taxed.

“That’s one of the things that we have to do to stop this ebb and flow of revenue issues in our state,” he said. “That volatility is only going to get fixed if we fix our tax structure.”

On property taxes, Landon Brown said the state should pause any future efforts to make reforms until it finds out the impacts of changes that were made during the 2024 legislative session.

During the session, laws were passed putting a 4% cap on year-to-year increases and providing tax exemptions to specific groups of people. After studying the issue for the next two to three years, he said he would support significant changes that could lead to major property tax cuts.

“We’re clearly not the only people in the country having issues with property taxes right now, so I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned,” he said. “We certainly are in a position of, let’s see what damage we’ve done to ourselves and to the pocketbooks of our citizens for at least a year.”

Still Left To Do

If reelected, Landon Brown said he wants to continue to work on early childhood literacy, an effort he believes has shown substantial progress over the past five years but could still achieve more.

He also wants to find a steady stream of funding for the state’s roadways, which are about $600 million behind on maintenance. It’s an issue Landon Brown can put significant effort into as chairman of the House Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

“We have to do something about that,” he said.

Landon Brown didn’t have much to say about his opponent, only that he’s disappointed Exie has never directly reached out to him about his voting record or has ever got involved politically until starting this campaign.

“I’m frustrated that he is accusing me for not being a representative of the people,” Landon Brown said. “For him to accuse me of something and not be a representative of the people, I can tell you that I have represented the vast majority of people that do email me from my district.

“To blast into the scene and say he knows better than I do is a little frustrating when I’ve been living it for eight years.”

Exie Brown’s policies align with most members of the Freedom Caucus. Landon Brown said if the Freedom Caucus does take over the Legislature, he’s fine with it as it will be what the people decide, who will then get to see what they voted for.

“You’re going to see a significant reduction in the amount of spending from the state of Wyoming on specifically social services for the state of Wyoming,” Landon Brown said. “I think people in the state of Wyoming will quickly see what damage people in the Freedom Caucus can be doing to our state and how atrocious their policy decisions can actually be to us.”

Who’s Exie Brown?

Exie Brown has lived in Wyoming since 2000 and is a retired U.S. Air Force and Wyoming Air National Guard veteran. In addition to the band, he also runs his own painting company.

“All that culmination combined I think has helped me prepare for this role in the Legislature,” he said.

Exie Brown said he’s unhappy with various votes Brown made over the years, including on an early version of a bill banning transgender females from participating in female youth sports in Wyoming when it was considered in committee. Brown later ended up voting in support of the bill before it passed into law.

“These are things that constituents in this area, they were not happy with,” Exie Brown said.

He also cited Brown’s effort in 2021 to try and convince Gov. Mark Gordon to resettle Afghan refugees, a request Gordon ended up firmly denying.

“Given that history and given his track record of poor judgment and poor decisions, it’s time we need a change here in District 9 and the state of Wyoming,” Exie Brown said.

If elected, Exie Brown said property taxes will be one of his biggest points of focus. He believes the property tax relief enacted during the most recent session was more of a band-aid than a permanent solution and that every resident of Wyoming should be granted relief.

“I think there’s more we can do instead of just pinpointing select people and select groups to get this tax relief,” Exie Brown said. “We need to be able to provide good, long-term tax relief to all of our citizens.”

He also wants to work on school choice and limiting the growth of government, which he does not believe should grow faster than average wages.

On energy, Exie Brown wants to fight federal government regulation to help the sector’s growth.

The District

Exie Brown is convinced that his opponent isn’t meeting the demands of the voters in his district.

“I have felt that we have not always been well represented in this district,” he said.

During the 2022 Republican primary, Landon Brown easily beat his two opponents.

Exie Brown said this can be mostly credited to the significant amount of campaign donations he received from special interest groups, his two opponents splitting the vote against him, and Democrats switching their party affiliation to vote as Republicans for Brown.

Exie Brown believes the latter issue will be fully resolved now that a new law is in effect moving up the day to change party affiliation by a number of months.

“I think my chances are pretty good,” he said.

Although Exie Brown said his opponent’s election performance wasn’t particularly impressive all things considered and shows his support is waning, Landon Brown still would have won even if every person that voted for his opponents would have combined their votes for a single candidate.

He won his 2020 and 2018 elections unopposed after beating his opponents in the 2016 election by a comfortable margin.

“It’s clear that my district has fully supported my style of politics and being transparent and honest,” Landon Brown said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter