Since independently releasing his breakthrough smash hit “My Truck” on social media in 2020, genre-bending singer-songwriter Breland has spent the last couple years taking the country world by storm and making quite the mark on Nashville along the way.
In that time, the New Jersey native has kept busy, hosting his own “Breland & Friends” benefit concert at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, which raised over $140,000 for the Oasis Center, as well as being included on countless artist to watch lists. He’s been featured on many projects from established country and hip-hop artists, such as Dierks Bentley‘s “Beers On Me” alongside Hardy, Nelly‘s “High Horse” with Blanco Brown, and more. Not to mention he’s been popping out his own collection of collaborations, including the Gold-certified “Throw It Back” with Keith Urban.
All the while, though, the magnetic entertainer was hard at work perfecting his eagerly awaited debut project, Cross Country, which was officially unveiled today (Sept. 9).
Taking its name from his autobiographical 2021 single, which earned a remixed version featuring Mickey Guyton, Cross Country features over three dozen co-writers within its fourteen tracks spanning varied levels of success, from Nashville writer royalty such as Derrick Southerland, Ashley Gorley, Monty Criswell and Jessie Jo Dillon, to fellow artists like Sam Hunt, Ernest, Hardy and Ryan Hurd. Its track list also features a fair share of newer tunesmiths such as Jacob Durrett, Cameron Bartolini and Rocky Block. However, Breland’s hand and signature flair can be heard on every song.
“I’m someone that can write a song entirely by myself, but I love co-writing because it’s social,” Breland shares with MusicRow. “You end up coming to different conclusions than you would come to on your own, and I feel like each of the songwriters that I wrote these records with all have a unique point-of-view. They all have different things that they bring to the table melodically and conceptually.
Cross Country includes a handful of previously released tracks, such as the title track with Guyton, the Urban-graced “Throw It Back,” the infectious “Praise The Lord” featuring Thomas Rhett, and the Shania Twain-inspired “Natural.” However, the project also brings plenty of fresh blood in its track list, all of which showcase Breland’s journey over the past few years.
“[This album] has been a long time coming. I feel like every artist is waiting for the opportunity to put out their debut album, and I’ve been working on this one since I signed my deal two and a half years ago. There are songs on here from early 2020 before the pandemic and songs from just a few months ago,” he notes. “I’ve grown a lot during that span and lived a lot of life during that time as well, so there’s a good array of songs, a lot of sonic diversity, and also a lot of different types of stories on this album.”
Helmed by Breland’s longtime producers Sam Sumser and Sean Small, who oversaw the project nearly in its entirety, the album encompasses his signature “Cross Country” sound which, as he explains, includes a myriad of different musical influences. Whether merging with gospel, Motown, R&B, hip-hop or any other combination, the project aims to show a slightly different side of country music intersecting with other genres through each song.
“Each song is important and helps cover some ground in terms of the different intersections that I’m trying to hit with country and [other genres]. They all contribute to the Cross Country narrative and soundscape,” he explains. “You never know when you go into a room what’s going to happen, especially when you’re trying to be experimental with the sounds. You’re not always going to land it, which is why when you end up with a body of work with a bunch of songs that you feel like you did land it, they all represent something more.”
An entertainer known for his high-flying collaborations, Cross Country includes two new ones: “Told You I Could Drink” with help from country trio Lady A, and “Here For It” which features labelmate Ingrid Andress.
Born after a surprise meeting at a CMA Awards after party, Breland joined forces with Lady A’s Charles Kelley for their tune, along with newcomer Zachary Manno. In May of this year, Manno signed with Reservoir in a first-of-its-kind deal for the publishing house through its Protégé mentorship campaign. Launched by Breland, the platform aims to elevate and guide rising Nashville talent and provide them with opportunities that might otherwise be hard to come by.
“Zach is such a talented man. It was shocking to me that he hadn’t had any major cuts given the talent that he possesses as a writer, producer and guitarist, coupled with the vibe that he brings to the studio. I had written with him a few times and every time we got in together, we made something magical,” Breland shares. “He’s someone that I think is going to really crush it in country music.”
Among the rest of the album’s track list are a few that the Bad Realm Records/Atlantic Records/Warner Music Nashville artist is particularly excited for fans to get their hands on, including the powerfully delivered “For What It’s Worth,” which he believes will be one of the biggest songs on the record and ready for radio in no time.
Another highlight of the project can be heard in “Good For You,” which was penned alongside rising Warner Nashville artist Tyler Braden. The track gives the breakthrough entertainer a chance to show off his pipes with a moving vocal performance that hasn’t really been heard before. “I think if you just listen to ‘Throw It Back,’ ‘My Truck’ and some of the bigger records, people might not know that I’m a vocalist,” he notes. “That song gives me the opportunity to share some of my chops, and it’s a really well written song.”
However, the song that Breland is most looking forward to is a touching track titled “Growing Pains” that nearly didn’t make the cut for the project. Chronicling his journey over the past few years, the young trailblazer notes that it’s the most accurate reflection of where he feels he is now, while also diving into some of the recent lessons learned.
As one of the voices leading the charge for Black country artists’ representation in the genre, “Growing Pains,” which was written with Sumser, Small and Stephen McGregor, speaks to that sentiment while also showing that growth isn’t always pretty.
“Growing Pains’ was the last song written to make it onto the project.” He explains, “I’ve grown a lot [over the past year] and I realized that the career growth that I’ve experienced is a direct reflection of the personal growth that has been happening… However, it’s also recognizing that growth isn’t always a linear process and that you might still have down days, but it’s how you respond to those that really shows how far you’ve come.”
With this colossal debut project under his belt and the start of a new chapter in his career, Breland, as always, has his eyes set on what’s next. Already hard at work on his sophomore effort, the burgeoning artist has plenty more in the works, including some still-under wraps opportunities in the TV and film space, and hopefully bringing these new songs to crowds all across the country.
Breland’s debut album, Cross Country, is available everywhere now.
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