Few artists within the country and Americana space have enjoyed such a meteoric and dominant ascent over the past couple of years as Oklahoma's Zach Bryan.
After amassing a small but dedicated following through his much-loved DeAnn, Elisabeth and Quiet, Heavy Dreams projects throughout 2019-2020, Zach Bryan's popularity exploded in 2022 when his wistful, slow-burning ballad, ‘Something in the Orange’, went viral across TikTok.
This ensured his 2022 major label debut, the 34-song American Heartbreak, became a smash hit, earning Zach Bryan the biggest first sales week of the year for a country album.
He swiftly followed this up with his acclaimed Summertime Blues EP, and has since earned a reputation for his prolific, almost flippant release schedule - one that was further consolidated by the release of a smattering of singles and a 24-track live album before the end of 2022.
In the space of around twelve months, Zach Bryan has become one of the biggest names in country music, despite frequently playing down his ties to the genre.
Although the singer-songwriter is now unquestionably mainstream, Zach Bryan has managed to maintain his anti-establishment, outer-fringes image. This has ensured that, although his fanbase now stretches far across the Atlantic Ocean, in many respects he still enjoys the fervant, impassioned devotion of a cult following.
Given the rapidity of Zach Bryan's emergence onto the scene, many new listeners were left to sift through a disorienting haze of rumours, gossip and speculation regarding the artist's personal life, his time with the Navy, his role in country music and more.
To help bring a little clarity, background and context to country's newest superstar, we've compiled answers to some of the most widely asked questions about Zach Bryan.
@hollercountry Did you know this about #zachbryan? 👀 We’ve answered the most asked qs: How old is Zach Bryan? Was Zach Bryan a Navy SEAL? Why was Zach Bryan discharged from the military? Why is Zach Bryan so popular? Who is Zach Bryan touring with in 2023? #countrymusic #livemusic #fyp #musictok #somethingintheorange ♬ original sound - Holler
Zachary Lane Bryan was born in Okinawa, Japan, while his family were posted overseas as part of a Navy deployment. However, Zach spent the majority of his youth in the rural haven of Oolagh, Oklahoma, with the Grammy-nominee regularly referencing his beloved home-state on songs such as ‘Oklahoma Smokeshow’ and ‘Oklahoma City’.
Zach Bryan's date of birth is April 2nd 1996, making him 27 years old. Due to Zach's penchant for nostalgic, sepia-tinged lyrics, he's often described as an ‘old soul’, with many fans surprised to learn he's under 30.
Zach served for eight years in the US Navy, after enlisting at 17. He came from a family of fellow veterans, with his late mother, Annette, his father, Dewayne, and his grandfather all being past members of the US Navy. During his time in the Navy, Zach Bryan worked his way up to achieve the rank of Petty Officer Second Class.
Not currently, although the ‘Something in the Orange’ hitmaker was briefly married to Elisabeth Rose Madden. Although she keeps a low profile online, Madden is believed to be a fellow US Navy veteran, with Zach meeting her during his period of service. Zach and Elisabeth tied the knot in 2020, before parting ways a matter of months later. Zach named his 2020 album, Elisabeth, after her, with a number of songs from the vulnerable project being inspired by their relationship.
Now, Zach Bryan's muse is Deb Peifer, his current girlfriend, with Zach continuing to tease a range of unreleased tracks he's penned about her, such as ‘177 Chrystie’.
Zach Bryan blurs the lines between country, folk and Americana.
This has always been a contentious issue. Zach Bryan is included in the umbrella heading of ‘country’; he's performed at the Opry and he's eligible for a variety of country music awards, with Zach being named the 2023 ACM New Male Artist of the Year, as well as receiving a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance.
However, both of Zach Bryan's first two albums, DeAnn and Elisabeth, are listed under the ‘Singer/Songwriter’ category on Apple Music, while his Essentials Playlist sits in Apple Music's ‘Americana’ section. Many country traditionalists question Zach's inclusion in their genre, especially given the fact that he repeatedly distances himself from country music institutions - particularly, for instance, on ‘If She Wants A Cowboy’, during which he pokes fun at the use of auto-tune in Nashville.
Zach makes a similar point on a recent unreleased song teaser, entitled ‘Dallas’, during which he underlines that Nashville “ain't my scene”.
Originally slated for a February 2023 release, Zach Bryan's next album is now expected to drop either in the summer or fall of this year. In 2022, the singer-songwriter revealed that the record would be called Writers and Fighters, and more recently, Zach shared that it would comprise just eleven songs - a drastic reduction compared to American Heartbreak.
Zach Bryan's mother was Annette DeAnn (Mullen) Bryan, who was born on June 24th 1967 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Annette sadly passed away at the age of 49 on August 3rd 2016, and her death continues to inspire much of Zach's music. His debut album, DeAnn, was recorded in honour of her, while his evocative, heart-rending tribute, ‘Sweet DeAnn’, continues to be a fan-favourite at his live shows.
Annette's impact on Zach can even be heard on his most recent song, ‘Dawns’, during which he sings wistfully, “I miss my mother's Southern drawl / And her praying through the walls in the evening”.
Zach was honourably discharged in 2021, to allow the up-and-coming prodigy to pursue a career in music, after he was signed to Warner Records earlier that year.
In an emotional message posted across his socials, Zach Bryan explained his conflicted feelings about the move, “If it was my decision, I would never get out of the world's greatest Navy, but here I am and they kindly honourably discharged me to go play some music. 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”.
He first started building a following after a video went viral of him playing the now-Platinum ‘Heading South’ by a campfire while on-base in Florida. He soon followed this up with a rendition of ‘Condemned’, which would appear on his debut album, DeAnn.
Zach's sound has often been likened to that of Tyler Childers, with both artists having built a fiercely loyal army of followers. Listeners regularly cite Zach's soul-baring, poetic exploration of grief and loss as a key reason for his sustained surge in popularity.
In addition, Zach Bryan has become known for his anti-authority rhetoric and refusal to play by long-accepted rules when it comes to ticketing and the rollout of his music, which has contributed to his reputation as a ‘man of the people’.
Zach Bryan has been hitting the road hard in 2023, and the Oklahoma native is being joined by Charles Wesley Godwin, Jonathan Peyton, JR Carroll and Trampled By Turtles for the US leg of his Burn, Burn, Burn tour. Earlier in the year, Zach performed across the UK and Europe for the first time, before returning Stateside in May.
And lastly, just in case you were wondering, Zach Bryan is not touring with - nor is he related to - Luke Bryan.
For more on Zach Bryan, see below: