Delving Into The Disconnect Between Zach Bryan Lovers & Haters
Just a few short years ago, we could only dream that an artist coming up organically through the independent ranks would be one of the most popular artists in all of country music for going on a year now, but that is exactly where Zach Bryan is today. His popularity is so immense, festivals are building their lineups around him, he’s perennially stuck near the top of all of the songs and albums charts in country, and even country radio has been forced to acquiesce and give his single “Something in the Orange” significant play.
You go to sold out Zach Bryan shows in arenas, and there are ten thousand fans screaming all the words to Zach’s songs back at him with an enthusiasm that is tantamount to modern day Beatlemania. But just like we saw with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Tyler Childers, and others before them, as soon as an underground hero gets mainstream-level attention, the boo birds come out and rain on the parade.
You merely mention Zach Bryan’s name in an article, and the comments sections on social media and elsewhere fill up with folks saying, “I just don’t get it” at the most polite, and “this dude sucks and is a fraud!” at the most pointed. Some will tell you Zach is just the latest pop star construct of the industry, manufactured to suck up all the anti-Nashville sentiment and co-opt it into the fold.
Clearly though, you go beyond the vocal minority of internet comment sections and there is an extremely strong contingent of fans who love Zach Bryan. That is why he’s in the position that he’s in. So what accounts for such a wide disconnect between Zach Bryan lovers and haters?
Some of this is just the regular rhythms of independent music. Independent fans have been conditioned to be cynical and distrusting of anything successful, and they tend to think that the only way someone is allowed to rise to the top is because the game is rigged in their favor. Some independent fans are just possessive, and want to keep their favorite music for themselves. They want the music to feel exclusive, like they know something the rest of the world doesn’t. So as soon as something is popular, it’s passe.
There is also an age disconnect when it comes to Zach Bryan. There are definitely exceptions of course, but Bryan is singing about young adult concerns because he’s a young adult. That doesn’t always appeal to grizzly old Outlaw fans or Americana listeners who are looking for music that is a bit more mature or refined.
Some also grouse that Zach Bryan’s music is not exactly country. This is a fair criticism, but it’s also fair to say that Zach Bryan is more country than he is anything else. It’s earnest singer/songwriter material that fits in the country universe similar to how Guy Clark, Townes Van Zadt, and other songwriters did—though not to compare him directly to those folks. There is fiddle and banjo in Zach’s music. No, it’s not pure country, but it’s country enough, way more country than most of what’s on country radio today, and organic if nothing else.
Some of the Zach Bryan disconnect also comes from the fact that he’s so prolific, he challenges the audience to display a little patience, and to listen intently and separate the wheat from the chaff. Busy folks with a jobs and kids just don’t have time for all of that. Give them them 10 songs every two years and they’re good. Zach Bryan and his vast catalog of under-produced songs just seems like a mess.
It’s not that Zach Bryan is without fault himself. Sure, a lot of his songs “sound the same,” if only because production is rarely an imperative focus of his studio work. At times the writing is sloppy, perhaps even amateur. From a conventional point of view, Zach Bryan needs a producer and co-writers, and to edit down his material. But what people don’t understand is that if music industry handlers got a hold of Zach Bryan, the would crush everything cool about him. He got here by being just the way he is.
It’s Zach Bryan’s everyman, starry-eyed attitude that people identify with. It’s his improbable rise and backstory that builds those unbreakable connections with his audience. And the fact that Zach continues to be so prolific despite his overwhelming success is what makes him fascinating to his loyal audience. Nothing about Zach Bryan works on paper. It’s paradigm changing. And at the risk of sounding condescending, it’s okay if some don’t “get it.” Maybe it’s just not for you. But maybe it’s because you’re just not listening, haven’t experienced him live, or just haven’t heard the right song in the crush of tracks he’s released.
Whenever anyone asks why Zach Bryan resonates so resolutely with so many fans, the most crucial element that I always point to are the poignant little bits of writing embedded in many of his songs that pierce straight to the heart. Isolated and written out, they may not look like much. But it’s the way Zach delivers them, and how you know they came from lived experiences that makes them resonate with listeners, and on a grand scale unparalleled by other more seasoned performers.
If there was one song out of the 44 songs Zach Bryan has released in the last year or so that best illustrates why Zach Bryan has found such phenomenon-level appeal, it might be “Oklahoma Smokeshow,” which he recently release a video for. It didn’t appear on Zach’s gargantuan 34-song American Heartbreak from last year. It came on the 9-song Summertime Blues he released a few months later.
The song has one of those lines that pierces straight to the heart in “that small-town bar scene, where small vices kill your big dreams.” It has that almost cinematic quality where listeners are transported to a very specific time and place in their mind where they can see all the characters of the story interacting, and feel the tension and drama as the tug and pull of small town life seizes upon potent moments.
Zach Bryan fans feel like he’s able to peer into the very souls—like he’s patently aware of their own life stories, and writes his songs patterned specifically for them. He puts words to emotions they’ve never known how to express, while evoking emotions in them they’ve never felt before.
If you’re on the outside looking into this phenomenon, it can seem implausible, or even phony. But don’t fool yourself into believing that’s the case. What we are witnessing is the return and the wide proliferation of earnestness and honesty in popular songwriting. And even if it’s not for you, that doesn’t mean it’s not real, and of tantamount importance to our current time in music.
North Woods Country
May 4, 2023 @ 10:46 am
What I’ve noticed about Zach Bryan is his music doesn’t transcend all moods for me. There is a place I need to be in to really enjoy his songs. At other times it comes off a little too melodramatic. It really just depends on the day. I’m sure a live show would be worth seeing, though.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:09 am
Yeah, I kinda understand. I’m still waiting on another Merle.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:37 pm
His music is for antidepressants I’m not on.
May 5, 2023 @ 4:01 am
I feel that is the Young Adult aspect to his appeal. Young Adult leaning material usually amplifies every emotion into melodrama, and it really hits for folks in the high school and college age range. I tried to read a popular book that was YA and I thought, there is no way real people would care this much, but then I remembered what it felt like to have a crush when I was 14. It’s definitely a mindset that I think folks who are a little more “grizzled” have to work to get into, or just can’t and the art has no appeal.
wayne the original
May 4, 2023 @ 11:14 am
Count me in the group of “outside looking into this phenomenon”. One thing’s for sure. SCM is certainly not in that group – ha ha. But seriously, no complaints from me.
Not a criticism, just where I am personally. Best wishes to him.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:16 am
Great article Trig – i’ve been a ZB fan since i first read your article covering the release of ‘DeAnn’.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:17 am
I don’t hate Zach Bryan. I think the terminology that Trigger used is I’m of the “I just don’t get it” mindset. I mean, he’s good, he has some good songs, but there are others I just find so much better and connect with so much more.
I also just feel like there’s such Zach Bryan overload….he released a 34-song album last year, an EP, and a live album. And he’s already planning to release another album this year. It just feels overdone to me.
Heck, I like Ryan Adams, but he released six albums last year, including 2 cover albums, and already released a cover album this year. It just felt like too much.
I know a lot of people always feel as soon as an artist puts out a new album that “I can’t wait for the next one, to see what they have next,” but there’s also something to be said for letting something set for a bit, allowing fans to enjoy what is already there.
That’s my two-cents anyway.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:19 pm
I think we are used to artists taking years to put out their next album. The Beatles, Cream, plenty of other older artists put out an album every 6 months.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:45 pm
i get the overload thought. I personally dont mind it – while i couldnt recognize every one of his tracks by name upon hearing it, i usually find several that i’ll really dig.
Despite being a fan, i dont disagree with the opinion that some of his songs sound the same, whether thematically or for the reasons Trigger pointed out. As someone pointed out earlier, they have to be in a particular mood to listen to him… i get that – i just tend to live in that mood i think, ha
Not everyone has to like everything. Theres plenty of good bands that just havent connected with me for one reason or another…
May 4, 2023 @ 3:35 pm
I can understand some of the reasons why people don’t connect with Zach Bryan, one I can’t wrap my head around is the “too many songs” concept. Listening to music isn’t a chore. I would have loved nothing more than if Turnpike had put out a 34 song album before they went on the long hiatus (Thank the Lord they are back). We can add Luke Bell and many others I’m not aware of to this list. We never know when these artists are going to call it quits or worse. We need to be thankful for every song they put out because it could be their last.
May 4, 2023 @ 8:28 pm
Listening to dozens of songs in a row that all kinda sound the same in order to pick out the good ones, is absolutely a chore. I have to listen to a record 3 or 4 times to know what I think, but I can’t do that with 34 songs. There’s other stuff to do.
Richard Cronkite III
May 5, 2023 @ 6:30 am
Listening to a 34-song record is a chore. I would consider myself a Zach Bryan fan, but I haven’t even listened to all 34 songs on the album because it’s a lot do do, when instead I can just listen to a few at a time.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:20 am
I’m a singer songwriter in the Eastern Oklahoma scene and I live 1 town over from Oologah. I’ve only been here a little over a year, I’ve met Zach’s dad, and I know a bunch of people who know Zach. I think there is a lot of resentment for Zach among the musicians in this scene because there’s a feeling that he didn’t earn his success. He didn’t “pay his dues” playing in the bars we all do. He posted videos on youtube and became viral. Like Justin Bieber being discovered on youtube or Carrie Underwood winning American Idol. That’s sort of how some people see him. I could see that as being a reason for the disconnect between the love and hate he gets. At first, I didn’t like him because I thought he sounded like a Tyler Childers knock off. But he’s starting to grow on me to the point that I now cover a couple of his songs at my gigs. Some people in the scene support him and a lot of others resent him. I think it comes from a place of bitterness and jealousy, to be honest. But that’s just my two cents.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:51 pm
” I think there is a lot of resentment for Zach among the musicians in this scene because there’s a feeling that he didn’t earn his success. He didn’t “pay his dues” playing in the bars we all do.”
Yes I agree. There is some of that too. What I always say is Zach paid his dues in the Navy. That’s good enough for me.
Also, Zach is the first to tell you he has no idea how the hell all of this happened, and that he doesn’t even really consider himself as a musician.
May 5, 2023 @ 9:42 pm
Why does serving in the military get his dues? I will never understand how people glorify the military. in the US, its an odd American thing. They basically terrorize the world and you can see that by getting outside that American bubble. Zach Bryan though had made it and he’s a really good artist so people should just enjoy his songs or respect it that he’s made it
May 6, 2023 @ 1:08 pm
I think you would be surprised how many Americans would agree with you that American interventionism has been tantamount to terrorism in many instances, and are just as befuddled why we’re spending billions of dollars on military actions across the world when there are folks at home struggling for basic needs like housing and healthcare. However, I’m not going to lump that responsibility on Zach Bryan or the other enlistees who are often just doing what they can to get a hand up in their own lives. He wasn’t piloting drones over Yemen dropping bombs on marriage parties, he was on ships doing maintenance. Zach Bryan didn’t spend years playing five nights a week in honky tonks because he was deployed and working often 60 hour weeks doing stuff many others don’t have the commitment to do. That’s a good enough excuse for me.
May 6, 2023 @ 3:43 pm
It’s called the “service” for a reason. It’s doing some bigger than yourself and personal needs. The individuals serving are not the decision makers, nor policy makers.
May 6, 2023 @ 10:10 pm
Well said. No rebuttal to the OG Trigger
May 5, 2023 @ 7:27 am
Zach wrote, recorded, and came to fame while living in Jacksonville FL, where Southern rock was invented by Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Synyrd, Allman Bros. I like it a lot.
I didn’t include Limp Bisk on purpose. ♥️
May 5, 2023 @ 9:16 am
Hi Jesse, I also live one town over from Oologah. And I also agree with your sentiments 👍🏼.
I count myself on the “outsiders looking in” when it comes to ZB. But I am watching it unfold. I’m curious to see where his writing and sound will be five years from now.
May 7, 2023 @ 1:39 pm
There is a big difference between Bieber, underwood and him, he writes his own songs. He has true merit for his popularity, and he is just an honest good fella.
May 14, 2023 @ 1:26 pm
Don’t you think his attack on Travis Tritt might have created some of the dislike or resentment?
May 4, 2023 @ 11:21 am
I have known about ZB for 5 or 6 years, so my opinion has nothing to do with the fact that he has gotten successful. I did not like him then, and I do not like him now. I cannot get into his songs, and I still feel that he would not be popular if it were not for him trying to sound like Tyler Childers! He is signed to Warner Records, so he is not exactly an independent. I wish nothing but the best for him, but I do not understand why he is so popular. I hear his fan base is a very young crowd, and very annoying at his shows, but I have no firsthand knowledge of this.
May 4, 2023 @ 4:21 pm
What ZB song sounds like Tyler’s? I haven’t’ heard it, but I know TC well and ZB not that well.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 7:34 am
That’s because there really aren’t any, haha!
I’ve been saying this for years: He’s what WCG would sound like if he grew up on Isbell, Moreland, and Turnpike rather than Randy, Wade, and Watson.
May 7, 2023 @ 1:43 pm
Man, you sound like an old grandpa that is stuck in his old ways. He is more of a Turnpike fan than anyone else he followed in his career path. Hence the heavy fiddle and guitar sound. I don’t get the Tyler reference either, other than they both have gruff sounding voices.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:22 am
I count myself a fan. His story and music rings of authenticity to me. If it’s an act, give him an Oscar. So many musicians have only done “the industry” and Zach brings an outsiders view- even of Americana/Alt Country/Pop country/whateverwecallitnow. I like his low production quality on much of his music, his buddies laughing in the background. I feel like we could be friends, even though I’m 20 years his senior.
All respect to folks who don’t like the music, but there is a vocal element who seem to want to take a kid down that they can’t get behind.
Zach doesn’t need another voice in his corner because he’s won far more hearts than he can count, but I say, keep it up and keep doing your thing bud.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:25 am
Nice article Trig. I’d add two more points.
1. His rise was so quick and so sudden, a lot of us who listen to Red Dirt, Americana and independent country felt left out to a degree. Artists who’ve had 2-3 albums and years of touring developed grassroots fanbases (like Turnpike and American Aq.). Zach Bryan didn’t have that. It was an overnight success that a lot of felt left out of or have little attachment to.
2. To steal yours and Eric Church’s expression, we’ve been waiting for a Country Music Jesus for a while. An independent artist who not only makes it in Nashville but becomes the biggest thing in all of music.
Zach Bryan did this, but without any identifiable trait. He doesn’t have the one-in-a-million voice like Chris Stapleton, he doesn’t have the hooks and songs like Turnpike, and doesn’t have the pure country sound that Sturgill & Childers had on their first albums.
I really do enjoy Zach Bryan’s music, but I’m also left thinking “Wait this is it? This was the one artist that was good enough to dethrone the rest of the country universe”.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:53 pm
All these guys have built what they’re doing on the backs of the ones that have come before. Who knows, maybe someone will walk through the doors Zach Bryan has opened, just like Sturgill did for Tyler, and Tyler did for Zach.
May 4, 2023 @ 1:06 pm
Im already hearing new artists name check him in their lyrics! I mean- wow. The speed of the whole thing. For the “paying his dues” crowd…. He was certainly paying in uniform, and that’s the source of a lot of the lyrics. I’m retired military, and am not here to bow before anyone who served, but it definitely informs him musically.
May 4, 2023 @ 1:40 pm
I am curious where Zach Bryan goes from here.
Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson seemed to be set on expanding their boundaries and getting away from what made them breakthrough (for better or worse- it’s their music). Stapleton sort of did his own thing too after Traveller. They all seemed happy to have the spotlight taken off them and released concept-ish albums.
Zach Bryan is young though. And he doesn’t seem musically obsessed with trying new things. I could see him keeping the same recipe for a bit.
May 5, 2023 @ 11:50 am
I think the thing is. he straddles the line between what is trending in pop country(rock sounding)/and more traditional sounding country music than most other artist right now. So he gets listeners from both sides.
Maybe his song writing isn’t the top of the line like Turnpike, but it is definitely high quality. Almost all of his songs have a line that catches your ear and makes you think. His voice and singing may not be Stapleton’s but how many country legends have voices like that really? A lot of them are pretty plain singing voices.
I don’t know if he is set to dethrone anyway yet. I get he has great numbers and everything, but there are a lot of country music fans that only get their music from whatever the radio plays that haven’t ever heard of him yet.
May 7, 2023 @ 3:31 am
I keep hearing Turnpike checked as the benchmark for songwriting or at least compared to the upstart. I’m going to preface this by saying I’m a big Turnpike fan, and the songwriting is good but not a benchmark by any (well, my) standard. ZB’s songwriting is excellent, especially for his age. Metaphors are good, earnestness and lovesick is where lots of us were in our 20’s. Girls, friends spread all over and just lamenting that they aren’t crammed together on a ship for 6 months at a time, the worst of times blasted open by the best 36 hours in a foreign port call, and then back to the grind and then just missing the pain and your buddies you’d bleed next to. Fuck. Intensity of youth giving way to real adulthood in the late 20’s. Looking back at 47 I just miss the intensity of that life. He brings it back for me a little.
Jer in Idaho
May 4, 2023 @ 11:33 am
I find myself wanting to hate Zach’s music, exactly for the reasons you state in the “Independent fans have been conditioned to be cynical” paragraph. I pride myself in hating “popular/radio” country music and Zach is just too popular.
When it comes right down to it, though, I just can’t hate his music, and I wind up listening to it a lot. You’re right that there’s not much meat on the bone there, but I don’t need meaty country ALL the time. Yes, it’s a little too catchy, and yes, I’m okay with that.
So Zach is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and I really couldn’t give a shit about what the haters think about that.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:48 am
Zach plays guitar. He writes his own songs, and they are heartfelt. He cares about the music.
There are so many artists that check none of those boxes who young adults could be listening to. We should all be thankful they are listening to Zach.
May 4, 2023 @ 11:57 am
The bar kicked us out I guess Jim was too rowdy
You will never take the boys out of us
It rained walking home with your hand on my shoulder
The blue of your eyes went straight to my heart
Someday we knew we would be soaring like eagles, but for now all we have is a something witty about how small this town is and hopes
I get how this stuff resonates with so many people, but this is all I hear in the content and the pseudo bad boy love dreamer content is old super quick
May 4, 2023 @ 1:02 pm
Hahahaha, gotta admit (even as a big ZB fan) this is pretty accurate. However i think it only represents his most popular songs, not necessarily his best songs. Turn your attention to songs like “November Air,” “Quiet, Heavy Dreams,” “Tishomingo,” or “Billy Stay” for some of his better writing that’s not just like i‘m a single young dude who gets drunk and likes girls.
Can anyone else not stand all the ZB copycats emerging from the woodwork now?? If you’ve heard them you know who they are.
They’re definitely NOT Jeremy Pinnell, who is known to rip in a nice and pleasing way (especially his last album Goodbye LA)
May 4, 2023 @ 1:11 pm
Oh it is not easy these days to provide opposing arguments on anything online because some psycho is likely to jump down your throat. My post was not really a diss, but more just to spread a bit of humor.
The copy cats are still better than so much else out there. I just struggle with love songs, woe is me songs, and songs written to girls, because it just seems like the lowest hanging fruit.
Pinnell does rip. Fighting Man makes me want to slam an 80 oz beer and break a table with my face – in a happy way obviously
Lil’ DL’s introspection
May 4, 2023 @ 12:03 pm
Here’s my take for what it’s worth – I think the reason it’s resonating with so many of my peers is because the popular music in our time has become so crazily artificial that so many are craving some authenticity in their music. I think that’s the reason it doesn’t resonate with me personally, I already listen to Townes and Guy and Dylan and Croce, people who do what he does except, in my opinion, much better. But his fans don’t know that, they don’t know those older guys, they’re just happen to finally have music that feels like real people make it.
May 4, 2023 @ 5:47 pm
Spot on. I’m in my mid-20s and have about 2 friends that l can shoot the shit with about the artists you mentioned (some of my favorites). Seems like just about everyone else would talk about ZB any chance they get. Nothing against the guy and I like some of his tunes but just doesn’t resonate with me like TVZ or John Prine.
May 4, 2023 @ 8:16 pm
I completely understand the sentiment here. I just don’t compare him to the all-time songwriting legends. I think he has the potential to make big leaps and I think that a co-writer, as Trig mentioned, would make a huge difference. He and Ian Noe are two artists I probably listen to the most. Noe is, in my opinion, the best songwriter going right now. ZB on the other hand, has another level he could reach, but in the meantime, just puts out relatable, genuine material.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 7:46 am
As someone who loves Townes/Guy/Dylan/Croce, I’d actually say that ZB scratches a very different itch…largely because he’s writing these songs in the 2020s, not the 60s and 70s.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:08 pm
I think this piece answers a lot of the questions it poses: the songs frequently sound too immature/youthful, clumsy or abstract, not country enough, not distinct enough, and there’s just so damn many of them.
For me, it’s simple, apart from the above: I just don’t love his voice, I don’t love his sound, I haven’t identified with the songs (from the handful I’ve heard), I’m probably in a way different age demographic regarding the subject matter of the songs honestly, and there’s such a huge volume of songs (released in such a relatively short period of time) I honestly just don’t have the desire or patience to do a deep dive. Maybe, subconsciously, it’s just easier for me to put him in the “disregard” column. No “hate,” just “disregard”.
What I like about country music, or at least what I like about the county music I listen to, is that it usually sounds timeless and ageless in both subject-matter and sound. I just do not get that from ZB. More power to him and his audience, but he sounds exactly his age. Same reason I don’t listen to most rock or hip-hop anymore. There’s very little in those genres I identify with at this point in my life. Doesn’t mean I’m not happy other, mostly younger, folks enjoy it.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:11 pm
Most of his songs seem like Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Rosalita’ to me. Fast-paced, wordy, and filled with emotion that is defined in a way that I just cannot relate to. I just don’t get a lot of his lyrics and I question if his fans either but regardless they are emotionally connecting with his music. I am not.
I recently started playing gigs with a guy who plays a lot of Zach Bryan. Younger people love it and request it. More and more I’m starting to quietly resent playing it.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:07 pm
Good call on the Bruce comparison. I appreciate what Bruce does and represents, but I’ve rarely actually enjoyed his music – because of the wordiness and lack of hooks (to my ears).
Sounds like a jumble of meandering stream-of-consciousness words, set to a tune (but only just barely a tune). I know some huge Bruce fans and they know every word, and they sing along loudly, and it’s almost more of a social, tribal, nostalgic, regional thing (eastern PA and southern NJ) for them. Might be similar for ZB.
May 4, 2023 @ 4:01 pm
That’s how I feel about most of Springsteen’s music with the exception of the Born in the USA album and some of his later songs. ZB hasn’t had his “Born in the USA” album.
The problem with steering ZB is that he has become so successful doing it his way. However I’d like to hear him behind a band that doesn’t sound like a mix of Tyler Childers and Mumford and Sons and with lyrics that have more classic pop sensibilities.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 7:48 am
I saw him in Ireland. I’m 30-ish, and was one of the oldest people there (and one of the few Americans).
He sold out two nights, and the entire crowd knew every word to every song.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:15 pm
I see what you’re going for but let’s not slander a classic like “Rosalita” by comparing it to ZB’s sophomoric efforts at songwriting.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:17 pm
Zach Bryan pisses excellence. 😉 I’m an old dude, but I have to admit I love the music. Love the songs. Love the lo-fi approach. Love his connection with the younger folks. My 19-year-old is a fanatic and has been from the very early YouTube days. My kid has a huge tattoo of the “Quiet Heavy Dreams” album cover. And has met Zach and said he is an incredibly humble and nice guy.
I get why some people aren’t into it. You name the artist, some folks are going to love it and some not. For instance, I don’t understand why Billy Strings is an arena headliner, but more power to him and his fans.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:20 pm
I’m a 26 year old fan of country/roots music, and a sucker for guitar-heavy and simple, stripped-back songs, so I feel like I should be right in Zach’s core demographic. I want to like him, I truly do. I’ve listened to all his albums/EP’s multiple times through and given them their fair shot. It just doesn’t do anything for me. As another commenter said, I already listen to Townes Van Zandt and Jim Croce and such artists who I feel already did what Zach does, but a million times better. I’m not a hater, though. Music is subjective, and if these folks are getting something out of the music, then who am I to tell them they’re “wrong?” The bigger someone’s stage is, the louder and more numerous their critics will be – it’s always been that way. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, nor is it unique to ZB. Some like him, some don’t, and that’s fine.
At the end of the day, it’s genuine songwriting, and it’s human, which are not things most of pop country (or popular music as a whole) can claim these days. Even if I’m not a fan myself and I don’t have any ZB in my playlists, I celebrate that someone like this is making such waves in country music right now. It can only signify good things to come. Perhaps this will open the door for someone else who (I think) has greater musical/artistic ability to blow up to ZB-type levels, like CWG or someone else. That would be a very good thing, I think we can all agree. So I see ZB as a net positive, if you view him as an indicator of the direction of country music going forward, and what young people want to hear in their music nowadays.
May 4, 2023 @ 3:46 pm
You are wise beyond your years, Nick. I found your comment particularly profound and extremely fair. I was much older than you are when I finally found the joy (and despair) in “genuine and human songwriting.” Great to see you on this site and I hope you comment more often because you have something worth hearing to say.
May 4, 2023 @ 4:36 pm
Thanks for sharing your perspective. Enjoyed your comment
May 4, 2023 @ 12:23 pm
Older guy here(55). I have seen Zach Bryan in an arena setting and have a couple of his albums . Kinda have Love/Hate feelings towards his music. The Gen X’r in me actually appreciates the youth movement in his songs as well as some of the rawness. I am happy that my son is a huge fan. If this is what the kids are listening to then I am here for it. I can only listen to him so much because of the repetitiveness of the melodies and chord progressions. I am an old time Album guy. American Heartbreak about killed me to listen to all the way through. It’s meant to be shuffled and not a full album run through. Someone said by the time you get to the last song on American Heartbreak, you feel like you have been listening to one long giant song. I prefer Homies Ticketmaster because live the songs sound separated and the Gen X’r in me actually appreciates the rawness and the out of tune instruments.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:49 pm
That might have been my sentiments on American Heartbreak.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 7:51 am
I know DeAnn and Elisabeth cold…but American Heartbreak should have been two 13 song albums.
Do agree with the live album love – my second favorite Isbell is still Live from Alabama.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:48 pm
1. His rise was meteoric, based on YouTube videos and not the traditional spending countless hours in the “Ya Come Back Saloon.” Carrie Underwood faced some of the same blowbacks because she was discovered on American Idol. We want our stars to be the outcome of years of eating fast food and stomping on peanut shells. Having a career fast-tracked by YouTube tracks feels like “cheating.”
2. The glut of material. In an era where artists release albums every two-three years, folks have a hard time handling a singer who dumps material whenever he pleases. Throw in that a good chunk of it could be refined and sharpened. It is the same issue with Wallen. 30+ songs are nearly impossible to pull off.
3. Jealously. We all want to see our favorite bands receive the recognition we think they deserve. Turnpike is my favorite band. They should be national country superstars. Same with Boland. I understand why Nashville stars are stars, but Zach Bryan doesn’t feel that special compared to the headliners of Red Dirt, Texas Country, and underground guys.
4. Similar sound. Like Wallen, some of his music blends into one giant song.
5. Independent music fans can be close-minded. There is some aura (for some reason) about the struggling and starving artist whose works aren’t successful until they are dead and gone. Or, as you mentioned, Trigger, they don’t want to share their discovery. The Pokémon fanbase suffered from the same issue when Pokémon Go exploded.
I like some of Bryan’s songs. I wouldn’t say he is my favorite, but he is blazing his path. I respect that.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:57 pm
I was one who just didn’t get it then I listened to his album and his live at Red Rock. Count me in as a fan. He really does have something. Looking forward to his next album. Would definitely go see him.
May 4, 2023 @ 3:03 pm
I’m not a fan of his music but am a fan of him as a person, at least the little bit I know about him. I haven’t listened to the Red Rocks show but admire that he performed it during a snow storm. When Trig posted an article about that, I commented that I was impressed they were able to perform. I can’t play the guitar after coming inside after walking the dogs in the snow. My hands are too cold and my fingers don’t do what I expect them to do until they warm back up. He seems to be a hard working, humble, down-to-earth guy, playing humble, down-to-earth music, which I really respect so am happy to see him being successful.
May 4, 2023 @ 12:58 pm
I don’t disagree with you. I have nothing against him, but a lot of guys around here do. Like I said, I think it’s more out of jealousy than anything. His dad showed up to one of my gigs wearing overalls and talking to everybody, so I would assume Zach is down to earth based on interacting with the man that raised him. He was in the right place at the right time and caught lightning in a bottle. And I’m sure he gained plenty of life experience in the Navy to be able to write about things he’s experienced.
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 7:53 am
Ran into Lane at one of my local pubs in Dublin after the second show – the guy was absolutely lovely…and all the bar staff had nothing but good things to say about Zach from the night before.
May 4, 2023 @ 1:03 pm
I am one of those “give me 10 songs every two years and I am good” folks that you mention.
I can’t get into Zach for the same reason that I can’t get into Charley Crockett, there is just too much of it. I’ve seen Charley live and enjoyed the show, as I am sure I would enjoy catching Zach. But I’ll never cue up their latest and greatest because there is just too much of it. Add to that that I am an album guy, I rarely listen to anything out of the context of the album. And I would never subject myself to something like American Heartbreak with 34 songs and so little variation.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:28 pm
Same boat here. Almost mentioned Crockett here earlier as a comparison to BZ. If I hadn’t jumped on the Crockett thing relatively early, I probably wouldn’t give him a second look now. Seen him live enough now though, I’m probably just a fan because of sheer momentum.
But, there’s just so much content and the songs, especially the newer ones, rarely warrant repeat listening. Besides his first four albums or so (when there was still some variety in his style), I’m rarely reaching for a Charley Crockett album and rarely excited for a new one. I bet he’s already got a couple in the can ready for release soon.
May 4, 2023 @ 1:34 pm
I haver recently been to gigs in the UK by Mike and the Moonpies, American Aquarium and also Zach Bryan. All great gigs but what stood out at the ZB concert was the average age of the audience was a long younger than the other bands. He put on a great show at a small venue.
May 4, 2023 @ 1:43 pm
Honestly, I enjoy 90 percent or more of ZB’s music. I see him more as a bridge from the mainstream “country radio” to the Americana/roots movement. Part of me agrees that the 30 song album is too much, but another part of me thinks that self editing can be a slippery slope that can derail personal confidence in a musician’s own work. I like him a lot, I just don’t know if he is a generational talent like Jason Isbell, Sturgill, Stapleton, or Tyler Childers. You can be pretty damn good and still not be on their level (ex: Colter Wall)
May 4, 2023 @ 1:46 pm
I applaud his grass-roots, stripped-down approach and the fact he’s accomplished what he has without the backing/promotion of some big Nashville record company. But I’m in the, “I’m not getting it” category. To me, his art doesn’t seem worthy of the lavish praise he gets. (And yes, every element of that sentence — art, being worthy, praise — is subjective. So people can argue that it *is* art, it *is* worthy and he deserves every bit of praise he gets.)
ALL good art requires editing. His songs lack that. It makes for bloated songs, fuzzy narratives and stories that go around in circles. He seems to have bought into the belief that everything he writes in a notebook ought to be released as a song. There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris.
If ZB demonstrates anything, it is the DIY democratization of today’s music industry. Record companies used to be the gatekeepers, but now any Tom, Dick and Harry (including me) can stick songs on YouTube or wherever. That reality doesn’t care if something is “good” art or “bad” art. Justin Bieber’s first song on YouTube, “One Love,” has 741 MILLION views. John Hiatt’s song, “Cry Love” was posted the same year and has 950,000 views. You can’t tell me Hiatt is only 0.12% of the songwriter Bieber is.
If ZB gets serious about editing, I’ll consider becoming a fan.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:06 pm
“He seems to have bought into the belief that everything he writes in a notebook ought to be released as a song. There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris.”
I’m not sure if this is what he believes, or since it’s gotten him to this place, there’s no reason to change the formula. From the very beginning of this phenomenon, I was saying he needed to refine his songs, work with a producer, and par down the amount of songs. If he had done that, he’d probably still be in the Navy.
That said, it’s understandable why some listeners see it as just too sloppy. Because from a conventional standpoint, it is.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:17 pm
Let me just preface this comment by saying that I am a country music purist. I like hank snow, Tom T. Hall, the Louvin Brothers, And when I was in high school, I was routinely rewinding an old VHS that I had taped of the Porter Wagoner show. I can tell you the specific episode it was: Norma Jean sang I don’t love you anymore Porter did the brides bouquet. Mack the fiddle player did Smiths rag.
Red Sovine was the guest
I think that golden era of country music, which I consider beginning in 1945 and ending in 1972 with hee haw entering syndication after the cbs rural purge, to be Not just the golden age of American country music, but the golden age of jazz, and of American culture in general
Those were the peak miles Davis years, the great American songbook still had a grip on society, the best cars were being produced, the best television was being produced
And after 1972, minus about five years in the 1990s, there hasn’t been an equivalent era of good quality country music.
And I am not the world’s biggest fan of modern independent country. A lot of it has a lot of the same rock and roll influences that would have equated it more to the Marshall Tucker band than the Louvin Brothers.
I couldn’t get into Cody Jinks, I struggled with Sturgill Simpson, because as much as he openly loved country music, and the country music legends, he was charting his own course, not exactly being the country music savior we needed in 2015
And after Chris Stapleton released traveler, I just didn’t find his later albums to be particularly moving. I went to see him open for Hank Junior in 2016, only a couple months after seeing Sturgill Simpson. I wish I had seen Jason Isbell open for Willie Nelson, except that was an expensive show and I’d already seen Willie Nelson once.
I’m not averse to independent country music of the modern era, I just don’t connect with it the same way I connected with those Porter Wagoner show reruns my dad showed me
And it’s not that I dislike Zach, Bryan, or that I don’t get it about Zach Bryan. It’s just that I can’t muster the opinion to feel strongly one way or the other about Zach Bryan.
But Zach Bryan, Luke combs, etc, Don’t do one thing that their immediate main stream predecessors, the tractor rapping, backwards ball, cap misogynistic white trash bro country singers did do:
And that thing is make country music look bad.
I didn’t listen to much radio country in the 90s, I certainly didn’t listen to much in the 80s, and I absolutely never turned on a 2000s country artist
It didn’t morally upset me, or make me feel like I was being attacked or erased or culturally
appropriated, I just didn’t like it.
I remember the first time I heard hillbilly bone in 2011 or 12, I remember hearing Georgia Jones name dropped in dirt Road anthem, and feeling morally offended
I remember old farts and jackasses
It wasn’t just that I didn’t like the music, it was that the music and the people making it were intent on erasing my experience, and not just staying in their lane, and making their own music, but attacking me and my music. And it made all of country music look bad.
So let Zach Bryan be popular, he isn’t hurting me any, and as far as I can tell, he’s making music that is as country as anyone nowadays. And I think I know a thing or two about what country music is supposed to sound like I’ve listened to country music from every era starting with the Maddox Brothers, and Hank Williams, the Carter family, and uncle Dave Macon, Through the golden era, through the 80s with the Statler brothers, Barbara Mandrell, the rise of Garth Brooks, Tracy Byrd, Gary Allan, and the Kentucky headhunters, right up through the modern era.
I have my preferences, within the last week, I have chosen of my own volition to listen to uncle Dave Macon, Glen Campbell, Tracy Byrd, and a tragically underappreciated late 80s early 90s country singer named Clinton Gregory, who may be unknown to most readers on this site
But when I say that Zach Bryan sounds like country music, you can take it to the bank.
I won’t fault anyone for choosing not to listen to it, Lord knows I’ve never bothered, outside of a couple curiosity moments
But nobody says, if you like country music, you have to listen to what’s current. As long as whats current is keeping it country, let the millennials have what they want.
And Zach Bryan can stay in his lane, and not try to stop me from listening to Hank snow when I feel like it. And I’ll tip my hat to him for making sure that the country music fans of tomorrow get actual country music
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 4, 2023 @ 6:21 pm
Howdy Fuzz. I love that you mentioned Clinton Gregory. What a great singer. He released a “comeback album” quite a few years ago, and still sounded great. They had him on one of the WSM shows at the time, promoting it…seemed like a really humble guy. Time sure does fly; that “comeback” album must’ve been at least 10 or 12 years ago now.
What’s your favorite song by Clinton? Mine is probably a predictable choice: “If It Weren’t For Country Music I’d Go Crazy”.
May 5, 2023 @ 10:36 am
Never heard of him. Queuing up his music on Spotify.
Thanks for the tip.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 5, 2023 @ 7:59 pm
You bet. I’ve always wished Trig would do “Obscure Artist Spotlight” articles to give attention to folks like Clinton. There’s so many of them; they had the talent, in many cases, beyond measure, but for whatever reason just could not hit it big.
May 5, 2023 @ 4:59 pm
If a broken heart could kill, no question
Guy should have been a major country music superstar, the top dog of his era
He had the songs, the voice, the fiddle chops
I think it was just that he was too country when radio country was fast tracking towards pop
May 4, 2023 @ 2:28 pm
I know some people will vehemently disagree with my opinion. And that’s okay, that’s why it’s my opinion, not yours.
I love Zach Bryan. But he doesn’t fit into my own small view of what country is to me. Admittedly, my view of country is probably not yours. To me he is folk. Which is a great genre, but requires a specific mood. I feel similarly about Chris Stapleton. To me his voice and music has more of a soul sound to it. Ray Lamontagne’s “God willing and the creek don’t rise” is a great album with a lot of pedal steel, but doesn’t sound country to my ear s. If I’m in that mood he is great. When I personally want country it’s somewhere between George Jones and Cody Johnson. But that’s just me.
As far as paying his dues, Trigger you nailed it. He paid them in the Navy. As a fellow service member, this also probably contributes to why he has released so many songs in a short time. Many times, once people either retire or get out, they release a lot of pent up material they have been saving for when they have the ability to show that side of themselves.
Just my two cents.
May 4, 2023 @ 2:30 pm
I see him as punk Americana.
Amateur, earnest, careless of everything but his need to express himself. I don’t hear much art in it. To Gen Z, that’s probably a point in its favor.
I wish him well, but I’m just not interested in someone so determined to be literal and, in this song’s case, simpy.
May 4, 2023 @ 3:06 pm
There are a handful of comments on here with comparisons (good and bad) to Springsteen. I have to agree. In high school way back in the mid-80’s our crew would grab a couple 8-packs of Little Kings Beer, a bottle of Mad Dog, and a jam box and head to an empty parking lot where every word of every song on “Born to Run” was sung out of tune at ear piercing volume. We were just dumbass kids but the music transported us and shook our souls. I’m extremely happy the younger generation today has found their “Born to Run.” Albeit with 50+ songs to sing along to instead of the 8 we had. “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways. Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays….” Sounds like something Zach would write if Bruce hadn’t gotten to it first.
David:The Duke of Everything
May 4, 2023 @ 3:56 pm
My point on him is more about him being annointed the hero who saved country music when I don’t consider him country at all. Now the song trigger mentioned is one that does definitely have that sound and I like that song. But one song doesn’t turn you into a country icon. His music even that one is very poorly produced. He might very well come across better live than over the digital air. So again its fine. He’s not terrible and people can listen to him if they want. Just lay off the country savior part
May 4, 2023 @ 4:05 pm
I’ve only listened to his live output. It’s fantastic. I really don’t understand the hate. I am a child of 80’s hairbands. We had the “Motley crowd”, who considered Poison lame. You know what. Everyone that dissed Poison back then loves them today. That’s how I see the Zach hater of today. They will turn up the tunes years from now and long for the time Zach ruled.
May 4, 2023 @ 5:35 pm
I think he’s cool, his music hasn’t grabbed me but definitely hasn’t repulsed me. As someone who has been writing and playing country and folk music for 25 years, I’m just happy someone cool is making money at it! I hope he starts a record label!
May 4, 2023 @ 5:51 pm
I have 3 or 4 more of those isolated moments when I feel like he’s piercing into my soul (although they might be more personal than your universal example).
I love the guy. He’s tremendous for the genre.
As a 46 year old man, I do find myself wondering “what the hell am I doing here?” at his concerts. He’s the first artist that’s made me feel old. He and his fans are young and act even younger. Interestingly, however, I don’t feel that way at 19 yo Logan Halstead shows.
But I probably won’t experience that again, cause I’ll never go through registering and a lottery for concert tickets. If I was 22 with more time on my hands and less responsibilities, I would.
May 4, 2023 @ 6:45 pm
All it really comes down to for me is that his voice is not special and neither are his lyrics. Certainly not enough so for me to love him as a primarily acoustic and voice artist. I have a few of his songs on my playlist but I’ve been removing some lately, just keep finding myself skipping them.
May 4, 2023 @ 7:26 pm
I don’t reach for his music, but I’m glad he has success. I hope he stays away from awards shows and continues to be an ‘every man’ type of artist that sticks it to music row and radio. His songwriting is too all over the place for me and the melodies don’t pull me in at all. It’ll be interesting to see where his music is in a few years songwriting-wise. He recently said he’s in his ‘quality over quantity’ era and I am interested to see/hear what he considers to be quality in his next release. For me, Charles Wesley Godwin has a more unique/pleasant sounding voice and can craft a song better than Zach. And, overall, I want more collaborations and covers from indie artists vs. albums that have 30+ songs on them.
May 4, 2023 @ 9:45 pm
In my 40s and I love a lot of classic era stuff – western swing, hard honky tonk, Bakersfield, Austin, outlaw, neotraditionalists – and some of the alt country stuff. In addition to a bunch of other non country genres. And I like Zach Bryan because he manages to sound like country music without being a revivalist, more often than not. Are his songs any more repetitive than honky tonk, really? I don’t mind his release schedule, his production is no worse than Starday-era George Jones, his voice isn’t any worse than Willie’s, and when he hits he hits. I can put him in a playlist next to Jesse Daniel and not bat an eye.
May 4, 2023 @ 9:58 pm
This comment mainly goes to Trigger who, I feel, left out a huge point.
If anyone has read some of the marketing playbooks like Scott Adams “how to fail at everything and still win big” or the classic Influence and later Pre-suasion by Cialdini, you’ll see what annoys me about Zach.
Look, it seems like most people agree that he’s an amateur writer, amateur singer and amateur guitar player with a production that ‘sounds’ slapped together , BUT is actually well mastered so it comes out evenly on a Bluetooth speaker.
Trigger’s review of his first album was something I agreed with. Basically ‘this is not an album. Its nice but stop pretending its an album’
Then I watched the best ‘fake it until you make it’ campaign ever. Without improving in any way, somehow he got famous.
But there is so much from the gamebook on marketing that was obvious. Number one, you can always be the best if you can’t be compared to anyone. So ZB was always different. Stripped back, unfinished.
Make people feel they are doing a smart sensible thing by being his consumer. His twitter responses were always perfect to show him as a humble underdog. The perfect amount of making him seem universally popular. Being so ‘understanding’ about the poor people who don’t like his music.
Its something similar to watching young Taylor (who I fell for and still is a guilty pleasure) or even some of the pop teen viral discoveries, like Justin Bieber.
So my annoyance is that he is just ok, but he has put me in a position where i’m feeling basically gaslit that its my fault I think he’s just ok and his success is not musically warranted (not begrudging his success, good on him).
I’m happy for him being famous, I’m happy for the younger people who are finding acoustic music to connect to, BUT I just wish that the provailing opinion of more mature music listeners would be considering him as a ‘viral teen idol’ who is kind of good, but shouldn’t be taken seriously.
When someone says they are a ZB fan, I should be able to say ‘thats cute’ and not sound like a total douche.
May 5, 2023 @ 3:23 am
Do I fit the demographic as a 42 yr old woman from the Netherlands? not sure, but I still am happy as hell that my partner discovered Zach Bryan in 2019 shortly after the release of Deann – we have been loving his music ever since. Even though we are not particularly into country music, my husband is more of a metal/rock guy – I used to listen to a bit of all genres ( like really All genres – from hardcore punk bands to classical music to dance hall and electronic music) – Then what is it about Zach Bryan that makes me love his music so so much? . To me the music resonates with a heartfelt honesty I do not find in many other musicians. I can imagine some people find his songs repetitive however I have listened to his music on almost a daily basis the past years and this is even surprising me: it doesnt get boring one bit, and I have never had that with any artist.
I understand he is not the best musician, or even the best songwriter, but still he has it all for me. I was one of the few lucky Europeans to see him perform live last week in Utrecht and Hamburg and can I tell you: It was one of the best experiences ever, was one of the first times I felt a little old.
I think that it is not just technical ability, or writing the best song that makes music good, or popular, it is the feeling it gives people that counts. Music in a sense is also belief – and I believe Zach in every word he sings, and that make me feel it all.
By listening to Zach Bryan I discovered a lot of good musicians like Charles Wesley Godwin, Pony Bradshaw, Tanner Usrey and Wyatt Flores, but none of them make me feel in the same way Zach does. That is to me why he is so popular, he makes people believe and feel it – so yeah I believe how Trigger describes it is very accurate – it goes against all odds, but it is very real to many young people (and the occasional middle aged ones 😉 )
May 5, 2023 @ 3:30 am
Yeah.. I scrolled all this way to chime in. His stuff isn’t offensive like most guys who are rapping their songs about Applebees and cold necks.
Best of Tyler and Sturgill really made a difference to the canon. Something in the orange is a cool tune. The other ones my friends are in my east scout don’t move me
May 5, 2023 @ 3:35 am
i’m definitely in the ” grown up with kids , too many songs not enought time” category.
His impact is good for sure.
May 5, 2023 @ 6:02 am
Don’t dislike his music but my mind and mood has to be in a certain place to enjoy it.
May 5, 2023 @ 6:08 am
…the american haters seem to run out of worthwhile causes.
John R Baker
May 5, 2023 @ 6:16 am
I think Zach really isn’t country at all. That style really has always been associated with Nashville polish and glitter. He has no association with it at all. His stuff is so appealing to some people because it’s honest, raw and spontaneous. Its “unprofessional” like the DIY punk rock era or hoary Woody Guthrie type folk music was. He totally eschews the kinds of politics they tended to get into but he’s much more comfortable associating himself with the indie folk scene that traces back through those genres than anything country. Where he is “country” it’s really more western which was also true of Guy Clark and Townes vanZandt. And like them he’s really more about the song writing.
May 5, 2023 @ 6:54 am
What about the indifferent?
I’ll admit I have said I don’t get it. I like his music, but don’t understand the big fuss over him. However, my wife and daughter took a liking to him and have started looking for similar music. I’m suddenly hearing good music around my home and in the car. I’m even catching them listening to stuff I was listening to over the years past that they used to tell me they hated. So thanks Zach for ushering my household into better listening. Even if I don’t get it.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:31 am
Most of his songs sound the same, and often he sounds like a foghorn. Still like him, just can’t listen to him for more than 2o minutes at a time.
I discovered him via his song “Felker” (EF who I can listen to for an eternity and never want to stop) that he recorded sweating on a back porch in Florida.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:34 am
He’s awesome, great story and a bunch of great songs. Zach Bryan, count me a fan.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:44 am
I understand why some don’t connect with ZB and I agree that some of his songs are repetitive (for example “younger years” and “heavy eyes” ) but speaking as a young adult I think part of the reason he resounds with the audience that he does is it’s not so much a song as much as it’s almost like having a conversation with a friend. His songs are very relatable to gen z or late millennials. the heaviness on his first two albums is different from anything I’ve ever heard. (it’s kind of like the NF of country, if y’all know who that is) That heaviness (especially in 2020/2021) was uber relatable and still is. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:45 am
“Sure, a lot of his songs “sound the same,” if only because production is rarely an imperative focus of his studio work. At times the writing is sloppy, perhaps even amateur. From a conventional point of view, Zach Bryan needs a producer and co-writers, and to edit down his material.”
This is exactly the issue, yet you seem comfortable glossing over it every single time you talk about the man. It is directly tied in to attempting to be the “everyman” that you described. Being an “everyman” makes you seem corporatized. It comes across as inauthentic. He is big enough to not be an amateur or make amateur mistakes, yet he leans really hard into that “everyman, I’m just a kid trying to make it” aspect of himself as an excuse for thses mistakes, which is in no way authentic at this stage in his career.
Also, something I never see talked about is that his online presence is just as annoying as Isell’s at this point.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:49 am
I wouldn’t say I gloss over this point at all. I point it out every time, including here. I started off by saying this guy needed a producer really bad. I’ve just learned now that it’s the exact opposite of what he needs because it would kill what people find appealing in him. Two things can be true at the same time. I can appreciate if some find his aw shucks attitude inauthentic. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But a lot of folks find it refreshing and endearing. That is how he’s gotten where he is.
May 5, 2023 @ 8:32 am
With the exception of maybe,10 songs…his music is background music. It’s when you’re in a car with a few friends, talking. I wouldn’t hate his music in a restaurant/bar on a Friday evening. I wouldn’t pay massive cash to see him. It’d be cool, if he was on a tour of someone I really loved. Meh.
May 5, 2023 @ 9:10 am
I like Zach Bryan. I have listened at least half of American Heart and like a lot of his songs and am bored with a few of them. Ultimately though, he’s of my music world and seeing such a artist have such success feels like a good thing.
When I was like 19, I bought the first two Steve Forbert albums, which were Alive on Arrival and Jackrabbit Slim. The latter was a new release and had his one national hit called Romeo’s Tune. I think he was about 25 at the time. He was a big deal for a while, but then had label problems and sort of disappeared from the national consciousness. But he has kept plugging and continues to be a top notch songwriter and performer. I still love those early albums of his and Alive on Arrival is one of my favorite debut albums of all time. I wonder how Zach Bryan’s music will age with his core fans. Is his current music a sugar rush or will it stand the test of time. I don’t really know because I haven’t dedicated that much time to it. Mainly, because like what others have said, there is too damn much of it for me to keep track of and I like but don’t love the stuff that does appeals to me.
May 5, 2023 @ 12:33 pm
I’m old. I’ve seen all the big dogs Turnpike, Childers, Simpson, Isbell, Stapleton etc in rooms of 100 people or less.
Zach Bryan is the real deal and his songs are very good. There’s definitely too much of it out there and I don’t think I’ll be able to listen to it forever but it’s very good music. Anyone saying so is just trying to be antithetical to what’s cool.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 5, 2023 @ 7:35 pm
I don’t have a thing in the world against the guy. In fact, I don’t think anything about him at all. His music and voice are about as snooze-inducing as it gets, and he’s not country, either in music or persona. From what little I’ve seen, he seems like a nice guy.
He’s another absurd example, held up by people like Trigger, to show that C(c)ountry Music is better than it has been in years. The glaring problem with that assertion is that he isn’t a country singer. He’s as not-country as any of the bros and hoes who’ve dominated Country radio over the last 15 years, even if his music is more substantive than theirs. Trigger and his loyal followers make this same mistake over and over again: “non-country music with substance=C(c)ountry Music”.
Here are the requirements to be popular one of the sub-categories that fall under the Country umbrella these days.
Mimic something from the past without authentically being what you are mimicking.
Be edgy in persona (grunge look, drug references in songs, etc.).
Sing music that isn’t country, but does have substance.
May 7, 2023 @ 4:49 pm
For a guy who doesn’t think about him at all, you have quite a few opinions about him. And several posts about him. I respectfully disagree, and I’ll further assert that he’s already eclipsed Childers, whom I love, in total value of their work. Bryan isn’t quite there yet with his writing and performing, but you know where the lyrics come from. Childers stopped producing truly new stuff, and it makes me sad, because I believe him to be a generational talent. To a lesser degree, Simpson is the same.
King Honky Of Crackershire
May 7, 2023 @ 6:20 pm
Sorry, you got me; when Trigger writes an article about him, I assess my opinion of him again and repeat it.
I simply meant that I do not harbor the hatred for his music that I do a lot of other supposed saviors. I’m indifferent…I find him boring. His music does not cross my mind unless I see him on this website.
May 7, 2023 @ 6:52 pm
Truly wasn’t trying to corner you- you have opinions and they are valid. I think a lot of the discussion comes down to- “to each, their own”.
May 5, 2023 @ 7:44 pm
I am hot and cold with this guy, there for a while I thought maybe I was missing something but it appears I am not alone.
May 6, 2023 @ 7:28 am
I’m a singer, guitar player, and songwriter. I feel like I’m predisposed to dislike Zach Bryan. And I could probably sit here and nitpick all day about various annoyances in his music. Especially some of the production. His mic signal chain is awful. He needs to use a compressor there and in the guitar chain. Better room mic placement might bring in a little of the ‘air’ around notes his music seems to be missing at times. That’s just the musical nerd in me showing through.
And yet I think he’s pretty great! He pulls off the most important thing a songwriter can do: he connects emotionally with his fans. Much like Trigger says, great production and amazing musicians backing you up won’t get you there.
It’s the magic and mystery of art. Indefinable and illusory but it’s the secret sauce.
Zach has a lot of room to improve technically. He’s got some maturing to do from a songwriting perspective. But he’s already figured out the one thing that stumps the vast majority of us out here pouring our emotions into mics and instruments and songbooks.
I tip my cap to him. And I think as he matures the output will get better and better. He’s in a position to really have a positive influence on the direction of Country music over the next few years.
Now go get a great mic! And a tuner pedal. And find someone who can make a Telecaster sound like a heart breaking…😉
May 7, 2023 @ 11:33 am
Good article, but it misses some of the point. His appeal, and singing back from his audience is due to his lyricism and storytelling. Every song is a story that hooks and damn near every song has a lyric or turn of phrase that is a universally appealing gut punch — this makes the artist / fan connection personal because he’s singing about something that means something personal to me.
Secondarily, it’s not music for hearing, it’s music for listening and that also adds to the intimacy. Not a single song sounds the same to me and that’s probably because I have listened to them over and over.
May 8, 2023 @ 10:15 am
When I go to the shows, I go from back stage to the back of the crowd, and most places between that I can get to. Hell, I even sneak through the floor die hards just to see Zach and JR’s faces when I pop up in front of them. I say all that because as I make my way around the audience, I see folks of all ages. It’s the most fun meeting the 70 to 80 year old folks singing every word and just grinning. The mom or dad in the very back, holding their 10 year old’s hand and just singing along is another favorite. I hope Zach stays the course and avoids the genre silos and that everyone maintains the freedom to either love him or not. See y’all out there. – Dad
May 9, 2023 @ 7:32 am
You should be very proud! One of my favorite things about ZB’s music is the fact my wife and I love it, my 19 yo daughter loves it, my 12 and 8 yo boys love it. It’s so rare today to find anything that transcends in music/entertainment like this.
As in anything to each their own, I enjoy story telling and lyrics in my music and that is why I am a big fan. I can listen to American Heartbreak with no skips which says a lot. Hoping to see him live soon!
May 9, 2023 @ 7:52 am
Thanks for chiming in Dwayne!
May 9, 2023 @ 7:35 am
Well said. Even as a fan, I can acknowledge there’s a bit too much. I find myself listening to the live album versions more than many of the original tracks, just because there’s some production, some backup, some oomph behind it. Someone said he’s an organic Taylor Swift for men in their 20s and 30s, and I felt that. Haha
Cool Lester Smooth
May 10, 2023 @ 9:05 am
Cool Lester Smooth
May 9, 2023 @ 8:39 am
Quite frankly, and this isn’t a backhanded compliment…the only real comparison I can make for Bryan’s rise is that his stuff hits 20-something guys in the 2020s like Taylor Swift’s first few albums hit teenage girls in the 2000s.
The very nature of what he’s doing means that not everyone is going to “get it,” but he works so well for his audience because he’s not trying to make it work for anyone else.
May 12, 2023 @ 6:06 pm
I’m in the “it’s not for me” category. ZB sounds like every other alt-country act I tried in the early 00’s. Nothing against those that like him. Maybe I’ve reached the grizzled Outlaw status. Kids thee days and whatnot.
Ghost of Country Future
May 24, 2023 @ 5:51 am
As a twenty-so ZB fan, I can say his writing does that tap that well of being 20-something in the 2020’s. Songs like “Twenty So” “Summertime Blues”, “Heavy Blues” and so on really tap into the emotions I have. I think it’s unfair to compare him to a GC or TVZ since they’re just at different points in their careers and times.
I also think the production on his songs is really compelling. Many of his songs have some fun with tempo changes (“Dawns”, “The Outskirts”) that are really dynamic and build and then dissipate musical tension that I don’t think people give enough credit.
Just my two cents.