After bursting onto the scene with a viral YouTube video performing his original "Heading South" in the fall of 2019 that's accumulated over 16 million views, Zach Bryan has organically built up a fanatic fan base while quickly climbing the ladder to become one of the brightest and most genuine up-and-coming songwriters around.
Featuring a gritty, raw sound, the "honorably discharged" former U.S. Navy member Bryan follows in the footsteps of other Oklahoma cowboys like Garth Brooks, Toby Keith and The Turnpike Troubadours in continuing the state's rich history of blue-collar country stars. Despite only having four albums to his name Bryan has already penned well over 75 songs (and counting), nearly half of them appearing on his most recent project American Heartbreak, a 34-song effort released to critical acclaim this past May.
To commemorate the release and Bryan's quick rise to being one of the most sought after young country artists on the circuit, we've gathered up 15 of our favorite songs from the artist below.
15. "Poems And Closing Time"
Bryan explores the symbiotic relationship between his love of poetry and struggle with alcoholism and how without the latter he may not have discovered his gift of music on "Poems And Closing Time." The song is one of many examples in Bryan's catalog centered around struggle inspiring growth.
14. "Happy Instead"
Bryan imagines the life he could've had with a past lover even though it's clear she's moved on on "Happy Instead." The song later moves to 10 years in the future when the tables get turned as he gets a call from the former girl of his dreams, only to have moved on himself with a family of his own. It's a lesson on not letting past failures keep you from present day happiness.
Sometimes the best way to move past tough times is to gather with the friends you hold dear for an all nighter full of Jim Beam baptisms and Johnny Cash vinyl, which is exactly what Bryan does on "Revival." Together the friends share in each other's transgressions, finding comfort in company as they lay their angst to rest.
12. "Ninth Cloud"
The ups and downs of Bryan's life finally lead him to cloud nine on "Ninth Cloud." The rock'n anthem carries a message of not letting a harsh world weigh on you and stop you from chasing your dreams. It's also a reminder that it's how you deal with hard times that define you, a sentiment summed up by Bryan as he sings "But the hard times were just a step to get where I am on this ninth cloud."
11. "Cold Damn Vampires"
Bryan encourages pursuing your passion in spite of the damn, cold vampires running the capitalist machine wanting to steal your hope, build an empire of things they can take and make some green on "Cold Damn Vampires." The song reinforces the notion that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, no matter what obstacles and people try to stop you.
10. "Whiskey Fever"
A bonafide blast from the past, Bryan sings of a man struggling to keep away from the booze on boot-stomping banger "Whiskey Fever." The hold alcoholism has on him results in trouble wherever he goes, including bar fights and an arrest that leave his breath smelling more like regret than the whiskey he'd been consuming since 11 a.m.
9. "Sober Side Of Sorry"
Bryan sings about the regrets of being so drunk that you are 1,000 miles away from those right next to you and losing sight of the person you are without alcohol on "Sober Side Of Sorry." It's both a lesson in moderation as well as a glimpse into the havoc that the overconsumption of alcohol (or any substance) can have on your life and the people who care for you most.
8. "Flying Or Crying"
Bryan reminisces on late night hangouts with friends reflecting on past adventures that saw some of their highest and lowest collective moments on "Flying Or Crying." It shows the importance of having a support system and holding onto the people who are there for you in not only your best of times, but also when things go bad.
7. "From Austin"
Bryan sings about a lover who deserves better than "a man who doesn't move as quick as trains rollin' through town" on "From Austin." The song is a reminder of the difficulties of love and how sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time.
6. "Something In The Orange"
Bryan hopes for a second chance with a scorned lover who is everything to him despite him being just another man to her on "Something In The Orange." The heartfelt confessional illustrates how emotions from relationships long gone can linger long into the future even if "Something in the orange tells me you're never coming home."
5. "Heavy Eyes"
Bryan looks back on the exuberant joy and mischief of his youth like "when Mary brought her own Jane" and being drunk off his ass in the back of an old Bronco on "Heavy Eyes." The nostalgic tune paints a picture of not only Bryan, but many of our own childhoods filled with a mix of innocence, first times and a whole lot of misbehaving.
4. "God Speed"
Bryan begs for mercy on "God Speed," a stripped back ballad that sees the artist wishing for simpler times after eight years in the Navy, like laying in bed all day with a lover, and thinks about dying an old man with "Messed up stories of me and all my old friends." The song illustrates how all of our lives come in chapters and when one door ends there's usually another nearby getting pushed open.
3. "Let You Down"
Bryan laments a lover too sympathetic to show him the door on "Let You Down." The sorrow-filled is yet another tune from Bryan that touches on substance abuse and other shortcomings that have previously caused him to regretfully let down those he cares for most. However, the self-recognition of these issues by Bryan shows how humble he is as he constantly works toward being a better man, something we should all aspire to.
2. "Crooked Teeth"
A murder ballad about a man who lost his wife to the finest man she's ever known, "Crooked Teeth" is an emphatic, angst-fueled sing-a-long about a disgruntled ex seeking the worst kind of revenge. The song touches on the dark side of romance and the slippery slope it resides on as Bryan sings about how "Love is such a mighty drug, a mightier disease."
1. "Heading South"
The song that first sent Bryan on the path to stardom, "Heading South" is a song that the artist penned one day behind his barracks while still in the Navy. The song carries a message of always holding your head high -- no matter who tries to drag your spirits down and to go and spend time where you're appreciated.
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