CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 05: Zach Bryan performs during the Windy City Smokeout on August 5, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.
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Zach Bryan: Everything Die-Hard Fans Should Know About Country's Newest Headliner

Life comes at you fast when you're Zach Bryan. In 2021, the internet sensation debuted on the hallowed Grand Ole Opry stage before signing with Warner Records. His first big-label deal paid near-instant dividends for all parties involved when an ambitious triple album, 2022's American Heartbreak, reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums and Top Rock Albums charts. It also peaked at No. 5 on the all-genre Billboard 200, establishing Bryan as a hot new star whose status already transcended country music. He followed that up less than two months later with Summertime Blues, a nine-song EP that returned him to the Top 10 of multiple charts.

Bryan consistently reaches new heights by appealing to a wide range of fans, from country radio listeners in search of the next Luke Combs to Americana followers jonesing for another Tyler Childers. The critical acclaim withheld from many Nashville hit-makers comes along with this audience approval, as proven by the breakout single "Something in the Orange" and its Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance.

In short, the singer-songwriter behind "The Greatest Day of My Life" might've had the greatest year of any relative newcomer in any genre.

Here's everything you need to know about Bryan, from details about his humble beginnings to more context about his swift rise to mainstream prominence.

He Was Born in Japan

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 18: Musician Zach Bryan performs onstage during the 'American Heartbreak' tour at The Wiltern on October 18, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

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Though he was raised in small-town Oklahoma, Bryan was born in Okinawa, Japan. That's because both of his parents were in the U.S. Navy. According to the Oklahoman, Bryan's uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather also served their country — a lead the future country star followed at age 17.

"It was really cool being able to grow up like that. They say 'Navy brat' ... but I learned a lot," he told the Oklahoman.

He Fell in Love With Songwriting at a Young Age

AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 07: Zach Bryan performs in concert during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on October 07, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

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Bryan developed a passion for writing songs long before he fathomed pursuing something other than becoming a military lifer.

"When I was 14, we started making these dumb songs up, me and my buddies sitting around, and I just never really expected to be a musician, ever," he told the Oklahoman. "But I always wanted to write songs. That's what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a songwriter."

He First Found an Audience on YouTube

INDIO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 30: Zach Bryan performs onstage during Day 2 of the 2022 Stagecoach Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 30, 2022 in Indio, California.

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Songs written as a teenager and throughout his eight-year stint with the Navy worked Bryan's creative muscles, preparing him for his surprise next step. Performances shot on an iPhone got shared on YouTube in the days before TikTok started changing the trajectory of country artists. A video for "Heading South" was recorded behind his barracks on a sweltering summer night. It went viral — as did his fortunes — changing footage of "DeAnn" and "God Speed."

He Had Two Prior Albums

Press shot of Zach Bryan courtesy of Warner Records

Warner Brothers

A pair of full-length independent releases preceded Bryan's major-label debut. His first album, 2019's DeAnn, was named after his late mother, who'd died in 2016. It was written in two months and recorded with friends in Florida at an Airbnb. Elisabeth followed in 2020 and reached a respectable No. 41 on the country albums chart. Elisabeth bears the name of yet another Navy veteran: Bryan's wife, Elisabeth Rose Madden.

The Navy Discharged Him So He Could Pursue Country Stardom

Press shot of Zach Bryan courtesy of Warner Records

Warner Records

On Oct. 14, 2021, Bryan shared personal news on social media. He'd been honorably discharged from the Navy so he could embrace his inevitable future as a music megastar.

"If it was my decision, I would never get out of the world's greatest Navy, but here I am and they kindly honorably discharged me to go play some music," he wrote in Instagram. "Can't tell if I'm a coward or if I'm chasing a dream but regardless, the best eight years of my life were spent serving the best country in the whole damn world. Thank you guys and I'll see you on tour."

Touring hasn't stopped since for country music's newest headliner.

His Triple Album Was an Instant Success

Album artwork for Zach Bryan's triple album 'American Heartbreak'

American Heartbreak stunned a wide audience upon its May 20 release. It piled up more first-week streams and sales than any other country album in a year, with full-lengths by Combs, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kane Brown, Thomas Rhett and other heavy-hitters. It also set the first-day streaming mark among country albums released in 2022 on both Spotify and Apple Music. Even though its length — 34 songs that total right over two hours — did inflate the numbers some, those are still jaw-dropping figures for a major label debut album that sounds far from mainstream.

Of course, it takes memorable songs to achieve such numbers. American Heartbreak doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity, with "Heavy Eyes," "Highway Boys," "Sun to Me" and "Late July" among the well-crafted stories that are still winning over repeat listeners.

He's a Solid Song Interpreter, Too

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 10: Zach Bryan performs at the Ryman Auditorium on February 10, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Bryan's songwriting talent is undeniable, as heard on the Yellowstone soundtrack selection "From Austin" and the 32 other originals on American Heartbreak. He's got another layer as a well-rounded entertainer, though, with his minimalistic arrangement of folk standard "You Are My Sunshine" showcasing the song interpreter skill that's crucial in the country space.

READ MORE: Bailey Zimmerman: Everything You Need to Know About 2022's Breakout Country Star