Zach Bryan Details His Transition To Music After Being “Honorably Discharged” From The Navy, Releases ‘American Heartbreak’

Zach Bryan; Photo Provided by Warner Records

Zach Bryan recently shared how he transitioned to music after being “honorably discharged” from the U.S. Navy, developing as a songwriter, and more on Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen.

Bryan stopped by the show in support of his long-awaited album, American Heartbreak, which was released on Friday (May 20) via Belting Bronco Records under an exclusive license to Warner.

The Oklahoma native told Bannen that he didn’t even mean to set out on a music career.

“I would say that I didn’t really even mean to build [my career] up. I just kind of was making music with my buddies in the Navy barracks at one point,” Bryan shared. “And then I released two albums and then everyone resonated with the songs and then everyone went kind of crazy for them. So I’m like the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t really deserve any of it, but it’s been an absolute blast. And I would catch them up by saying, ‘Hey, I’m just a 26-year-old. I’m just a guy like everyone else, trying my best to get through life.’ And if people wanted to join, they can. If they don’t, that’s okay too,” he said.

In addition, Bryan said he feels songwriting is his “God-given gift” and that he’s “always been a writer.”

“I feel like, and this is going to sound pretentious. It’s not. I feel like I’ve got a God-giving gift of writing. I’ve always just been a writer. That’s it. That’s all,” Bryan explained. “And people, people give me grief for not having any dynamics in my music. And I’m like, ‘Dude, I didn’t mean to be a songwriter ever. I wanted to be a writer. You know?’ So I’m writing, like… every morning when I wake up, I write. And every night when I go to sleep, I write because it’s just like how I deal with life. Just like people watch sports, just like people go golf, just like people listen to music, it’s just something that comes naturally to me, which is beautiful to find that and get to do that.”

Bryan also described his songwriting process, saying, “But I’d say that first 100 songs were terrible because I was just trying to figure out how to make poems and things that I’ve written into work that people could connect with through melodies. The melody thing took a long, long time. I sat in my barracks chamber for like eight years trying to figure out how to write a song. And I produced a lot of my own stuff that’s on SoundCloud that’s just terrible. I go back and listen to it, and it’s just, it’s bad. But I’m so thankful for every bad song because it led to [where] I could write one and it made sense.”

“For me, I believe that the best songs are written after the best living’s done,” he continued. “That’s why I have to really… sometimes I get in my head and I’m like, ‘Oh, you got to write some music.’ And no, you don’t have to write anything. You just have to live and then write afterwards. Don’t get the whole like sitting down to write something is never … I’ve never done that because it’s so strange. I have to go out and live the best that I can through family or kindness or adventure or heartbreak and all that. And that’s, it sounds weird but I just, that’s why I write, to like, understand life myself.”

During the interview, Bryan revealed that he left the Navy to become a musician, explaining that his gunner was the person who encouraged him to follow his dream.

“I had people who were in my life that weren’t supportive of me [being a musician]. And I was like, ‘That’s strange. I want to be supported in everything that I do,'” Bryan told Bannen.

He continued, “So I left those situations and I honestly was in the Navy and I wasn’t… that’s why my supervisors and things, they were like really, really intrigued by me because I told them. I was like, ‘I don’t have to get out of the Navy. You guys can keep me if you want. I don’t care. I’ll always write music. No matter what anyone or anyone says or anyone does, this is what I do. And that’s what I’m going to do. So you guys can keep me in the Navy. I don’t mind.'”

“I wanted to be in the Navy. I love the Navy. I love the military. I love being American. But my gunner at the time, he’s from Nashville actually, Gunner Pease. He looked at me one day and he is like, ‘Dude, you have to do this. If you don’t do this, millions of people who strive every day to do this are going to be disappointed in the fact that you wasted this chance.’ And he saved my…yeah, he saved my butt. He looked at me and said that. And I was like, ‘You know what? You’re right.’ And he actually got me honorably discharged from the Navy because he knew that if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t be helping people and getting them through their lives with songwriting. But I was meant for something different I guess,” he said.

Bryan’s album American Heartbreak includes 34 tracks and was produced by GRAMMY-winner Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson). He kicked off his Ain’t For Tamin’ Tour Thursday (May 19) and will be on the road through Oct. 7. Bryan was also recently added to the Palomino Festival on Jul. 9.

View the full track list for American Heartbreak here:
1. “Morning Time”
2. “Something in the Orange”
3. “Heavy Eyes”
4. “Mine Again”
5. “Happy Instead”
6. “Right Now the Best”
7. “The Outskirts”
8. “Younger Years”
9. “Cold Damn Vampires”
10. “Tishomingo”
11. “She’s Alright”
12. “You Are My Sunshine”
13. “Darling”
14. “Ninth Cloud”
15. “Oklahoma City”
16. “Sun To Me”
17. “Highway Boys”
18. “Whiskey Fever”
19. “Billy Stay
20. “Sober Side of Sorry”
21. “High Beams”
22. “The Good I’ll Do”
23. “Someday (Maggie’s)”
24. “Poems and Closing Time”
25. “From Austin”
26. “If She Wants a Cowboy”
27. “Corinthians (Proctor’s)”
28. “Open the Gate”
29. “Half Grown”
30. “No Cure”
31. “’68 Fastback”
32. “Blue
33. “Waterwell”
34. “This Road I Know”

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