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Photo Credit: Rolling Stone
Zach Bryan released his first album in 2019, and in the short time since he has become one of the biggest names in country. His biggest album, “American Heartbreak”, broke single-day album streaming records both on Spotify and Apple Music, and his most recent work is topping country charts too.
Although he is not yet a household name, his fanbase is growing at an incredible pace thanks to his authenticity, both in his personality and his music. Even more impressive: his meteoric rise has come with virtually no media push behind his work.
What Makes His Music So Special?
Zach Bryan makes music that is palatable to even non-country fans. His songs are vivid, brilliantly written stories that are emotional and unique. His music does not feel “manufactured”, which offers a stark contrast to the mainstream, pop-leaning country that dominates this industry.
Despite his talent, country radio has yet to embrace his music. Although, that doesn’t seem to matter much, as he is one of the most popular country artists on virtually all streaming services, even with virtually no radio plays. The lack of radio exposure adds to the grassroots feel of his music, which is refreshing both to country fans, and to those who don’t like the mass-produced country being pumped out of Nashville.
Songwriter with Humble Beginnings
In late 2021, Bryan was honourably discharged from the US Navy to pursue his music career full-time. During his eight-year service, he wrote and sang his music, posting videos he filmed in his barracks on YouTube.
Zach Bryan is a songwriter at heart, making music not for income, but out of passion. His biggest hit “Something in the Orange” is a solo write, and so too is the vast majority of his discography. This allows him to convey his moving stories the way they are intended to be.
His lyrics are sincere, playing with the listener’s emotions on the highest and lowest levels while telling stories of love, hard work, melancholy, and perseverance. This depth used to be common in this genre in days gone by, and in an era where big artists are seeming to grow out of touch with their fans and their struggles, Bryan is refreshingly relatable.
By staying true to his roots both in his personality and his music, he connects with his fans on a much deeper level than most big artists today.
Protest Against The Institution
Bryan’s most recent release (especially its title) encapsulates his stance on “the industry”: “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster”.
The album was announced on his social media, in a post saying that artists who make music for working-class people, should be able to pride themselves on fighting for them.
While the title and post serve as a protest to the recent scandals regarding profiteering in live music, the work beneath it is still beautiful. The album puts a touching spin on his fan favourites, all in an intimate live performance at an outdoor venue in Red Rocks, Colorado.
While playing in the snowstorm, Bryan routinely engages with fans as if they are his friends. The entire time, he also thanks them for “pushing through the cold” to watch him perform. He truly cares about and is thankful for his fans.
Lessons to Learn from Zach Bryan’s Success
Those who make music out of passion are not in it to get famous, they do it out of love. However, it can require a degree of commercial success to sustain and grow that passion full-time.
In pursuit of success, it can be easy to conform to what the industry wants. That route may work for some artists, but not Zach Bryan. He stayed true to himself and his art, and is unlikely to be “bought out” anytime soon. This authenticity makes him relatable, and respectable to his fans.
Sometimes, authenticity is your best bet to stand out. If you make your entire persona about chasing success, there is a chance you may not find it in a sea of others doing the same.