Zach Bryan´s Star Is Rising So Fast; he is
ALREADY ON MY PLAYLISTS
says Norman Warwick
Musician, singer/songwriter Zach Bryan shot up the charts doing things his way. The Oklahoma Son has sold over a million albums and 10 million singles since he began releasing music in 2019, and he’s done so by first going viral on his own. Marooned out in the Atlantic on this small holiday island since 2015 I guess I pretty much missed most of that. may of you will have read previously how I had only been here a couple months when the great UK floods of December 2015 swept away the thousands of priceless cds and books that were in my brothers lock up.
Still, things are better these days. I constantly replenish that cd collection, aided and abetted by Sotify and computer created collections. What I buy these days is Spanish folk-lore music, echoing as it does some of the American music I lost.
Now, though I am even beginning to re-stock my Americana co0llection and even occasionally add new (to me) names, often recommended by my remote (very remote, by some three thousand miles) occasional writer Sidetracks And Detours and now weekly contributor to our weekend walkabout Sunday Supplement, PASS IT ON. As our bona fide writer of American features Peter Pearson is constantly reminding me of names I still cry over because I lost so many of their albums (john Stewart eg), and also chides me that I need to listen to more of the contemporary stuff (Zach Bryan eg). So I did. And Peter was right.
Some have noted that Zach´s music does not revel in country music cliches, is introspective and self-reflective, and rings with sincerity and authenticity. If you are not yet convinced listen again to East Of Sorrow. It´s the real deal, so let’s take a closer look.
Zachary Lane Bryan was born on April 2, 1996, in Okinawa, Japan, where his Navy father was stationed at the time. The guitarist and singer grew up in Oologah, Oklahoma, a small town with a population of about 1,200 (and one stop light) that is located approximately 30 miles north of Tulsa. Bryan was both a wrestler and on the student council in high school, and he wound up enlisting in the Navy when he was 17, three years after he started working on his own songs.
Bryan served as an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy until he was 25, when he was honorably discharged. He reached the rank of Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class. He had been stationed in Washington and Florida, and he also did tours in Bahrain and Djibouti. During his time in the service, the future country star worked on his material initially for fun as he built up his repertoire and songwriting chops. The spare time was well-spent as his first two self-released albums from 2019 and 2010 featured a combined total of 30 songs.
photo 2 album cover Bryan’s first album, DeAnn, was named after his late mother. It was released on August 19, 2019, and eventually achieved double platinum sales status. He had already started loading iPhone videos of his performances onto YouTube since 2015, with “Heading South” eventually becoming a viral hit. He wrote the song behind his Navy barracks and it was included on his debut. It racked up over 30 million plays on Spotify, and its official single release sold 2 million units.
Of his first album, AllMusic wrote, “Zach Bryan’s debut doesn’t precisely feel like a demo, but it isn’t far removed from that territory, either. Performed largely by Bryan accompanying himself with an acoustic guitar, DeAnn is unadorned and intimate, a record that demands to either be listened to intently or without a lick of concentration.”
Bryan reportedly wrote DeAnn in two months and recorded it in a Florida Airbnb; he played his first concert in Medford, Oregon, in October of that year. His second album, Elisabeth, arrived fairly soon after, in May 2020. It was recorded in a barn behind his Washington home, with the song “Oklahoma City“ hitting No. 34 on Billboard‘s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart.
By April 2021, Bryan had performed at the famed Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and was on his way to signing with Warner Records. In October of that year, he was honourably discharged from the Navy in time for his first national tour, dubbed the “Ain’t For Tamin’ Tour.”
photo 3 album Bryan’s major label debut, American Heartbreak, emerged on May 20, 2022, and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard albums chart. It featured 34 songs, a wider range of instrumentation, guest artists, and a two-hour run-time. The album produced a half-dozen singles, the fifth of which, “Something in the Orange,” shot to No. 1 on the Hot 100 singles chart and would go on to sell 6 million units in America, over a half-million in Canada, and nearly 300,000 in Australia. The song was also nominated for Best Country Solo Performance at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.
On Christmas Day, 2022, Bryan released the live album All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster (Live from Red Rocks), and in May 2023 he won the Academy of Country Music Award for New Male Artist of the Year. He released his self-titled fourth album on August 25, and it hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 while “I Remember Everything,” featuring Kacey Musgraves, also hit the top singles slot. The 16-song album was recorded at the famed Electric Lady Studios in New York City
Of his fourth album, no less heady a media outlet as Pitchfork pondered, “Why does Zach Bryan feel like a breath of fresh air? For all his high-stakes musings on life and love and death, sung in a gruff, boyish howl that makes even just the word ‘child’ sound like a stifled sob, Bryan has a lot of fight in him.”
The New York Times declared, “It is a refreshingly unpretentious album, with songs that take the shortest path from feeling to words while also deploying some alarmingly lovely turns of phrase.”
Bryan is a prolific songwriter and enjoys performing, so he’ certainly has his career cut out for him he is well-positioned to continue challenging established fans and turning on new ones. He seems to be constantly working on new material, and doesn’t hesitate to collaborate, working in tandem with the likes of Maggie Rogers, the Lumineers, and Bon Iver. He appears to prioritize staying true to his roots (which is smart since that characteristic seems to have made a big difference to his loyal fan-base), and he also seems to genuinely appreciate all of the success he’s had. Bottom line for Zach Bryan: the song-writing comes first, or else he has nothing to work with on stage.
In a profile of him by The New York Times in September 2022, he intimated that he wasn’t really cut out to be a big star. That is not his end game. He still takes his craft very seriously, aware that fame is fleeting.
“People feel entitled to be famous and rich,” he told the Times, “and I’m like, dude, you could be digging ditches, bro.”
The primary sources for this piece was written for the print and on line media publication American Songwriter by Bryan Reeseman. Other contributing Authors and Titles have been attributed in our text wherever possible.
Images employed have been taken from on line sites only where categorised as images free to use.
For a more comprehensive detail of our attribution policy see our for reference only post on 7th April 2023 entitled Aspirations And Attributions.