It was almost three years ago to the day that he released his debut album DeAnn on August 24, 2019. And the rest is history…
It all started as an outlet. A guy in the Navy with a lot on his mind and a way with words, putting pin to pad in an effort to process the world and his place in it. Eventually Zach put some of these songs he had written on YouTube, with no intention of becoming famous, or even any inkling that it would resonate with people, but knowing that if it touched just one person it would be worth it.
I remember coming across Zach’s early videos on YouTube of him playing “God Speed” and “Snow” back in 2018. I was immediately hooked. Then shortly after the Turnpike Troubadours announced their hiatus, in the summer of 2019, Zach Bryan’s “Felker” blew me away. With the blink of an eye, Zach had garnered a solid following solely off of YouTube. He was active duty in the Navy at the time, and while music may have been a passion, it was more of a hobby than anything.
But as the fan base grew, and his songs were so well-received, something had to be done. And Zach’s response? Drop one of the best debut albums his decade has witnessed.
The man doesn’t need an introduction anymore, but following the release of Summertime Blues in July and American Heartbreak, the best album of 2022, in May, his newest fans may not be as familiar with how it all started.
So let me remind you…
DeAnn was recorded at an AirBnB in Jacksonville, FL, where Zach was stationed in the Navy, following in the footsteps of his father and other family members before him. With mattresses lining the wells to improve the sound, the album was produced by his boss Leo Alba and featured the help of his friends. The result was raw, relatable, and real. And it resonated.
The writing was all his, and deeply personal, telling intimate stories and exposing his relatable vulnerabilities. In fact, the album was named DeAnn after his late mother, one of Zach’s biggest influences who had passed away in 2016. The record’s title track, “Sweet DeAnn,” and countless others on the album and afterwards, reference how much she meant to him.
With a knack for introspective writing and storytelling characteristic of legends like Evan Felker, BJ Barham, and Jason Isbell, all the writing on the album was Zach’s own. Dealing with love, relationships, substance abuse, mortality, and so much more, Zach’s music will punch you in the gut, yet leave you wanting more.
Sonically simple and refreshingly original, yet extremely sophisticated, Zach’s song writing and guitar playing on the album laid the foundation for him to grow into the artist he is today. And thank God the album blew up.
With all of the new music, high profile shows, and newfound superstardom, it’s hard to believe DeAnn was released almost three years ago to the day, on August 24, 2019. If you are a new Zach Bryan fan and haven’t taken the time to listen to his first full length project, or even if you’ve been there since the beginning, take the time now to dive into his iconic debut.
Here is each track on DeAnn, and in an effort to highlight his masterful lyricism, my favorite lyrics from each one.
“Flying or Crying”
“So don’t stop running boy But don’t be naive ‘Cause this world will burn and break you Worse than hearts like ours believe”
“I hope we make it out of all these younger years alive Sittin’ under sundowns in about ten years time And I’m just there grinnin’ over the shit that I’ve been through Saying I’ve made it over ’cause the hope I’ve found in you”
“I’m movin’ at God speed Only God and my mama know what I need And I feel the hardwood floors on my knees As I beg you just to take it easy on me”
This Charlotte concert with Christian McCaffery on piano was, and always will be, one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed.
“Don’t Give Up On Me”
“If my mama could just see you laugh I know that she could see the shine in you She’d say thanks for taking care Of a baby boy ’cause she can’t be here To hug you ’til your little lungs turn blue No, I won’t give up on you”
“I use to hang around a rowdy crowd out in the Rogers Siren sounds ain’t nothing boys as long as you can dodge her And I had no idea this damn road got so curvy You said brother this roads straight You’re just drunk and it’s gettin’ early”
“Letting Someone Go”
“Take it slow as you leave me Don’t you go home this evening With someone, that you’re acting like is me And I will try my hardest darling Wait on a star that’s falling And I will wait so patiently One thing I have quickly come to know Nothing kills you slower than letting someone go”
“Shivers Down Spines”
“I know I’m nothing, but I am not bluffing When I say you’re meant for the sky ‘Cause beauty that holy and a heart so kind Deserves a place it can fly”
“Take it away and you give it to God Like the night you dumped out All the liquor I bought And there’s a way the grass smells On a summer night When it’s freshly cut the moisture’s right It’s nights like these in the August heat I think the Devil’s just another boy I can beat
You bring heaven down to me Coarse it through my blood as I breathe I bet the Angel’s jealous of a girl I know She takes my stain and makes me”
“Man That’s Never Known You”
“You grow so fond of things meant to be free What if letting go is what’s killing me I’ve never felt this beat down before Soon as I’m back up I’m coming back for more”
“Moon in Oklahoma”
“Cause you look like Oklahoma And I’ll keep you like I stole ya And I thank God when I hold ya Cause it feels right You’re the moon in Oklahoma And I’m the night”
“The girls that walk downtown are like some stars that fell to earth They like the veins in my arms, the story in my hurt The boys they always tell me, that my words get ’em by They can tell how much I mean it by the bloodshot in my eye
So don’t try to make it my fault, if you plan on leaving don’t come at all Lord knows no glory in the fall, If no one’s around at the end of it all
I’m condemned, I’m condemned, oh, my heart is on a mend Looking for somebody who can save me I’m condemned, I’m condemned, just like all my worthless friends Waiting on the wind to set us free”
An ode to the late DeAnn Bryan.
“But I don’t want the stage, I don’t want the girls I want back the days you were breathin’ in this world Then I think about the moments it’s a shame you’ll have to miss My wife and I’s first kiss, and your baby raisin’ kids Sweet DeAnn I miss you so, and you go wherever I go For reasons I don’t know, but I’ll sing em’ loud and slow So you can hear me from the Heavens, and you can call my thunder down I miss havin’ you around, but in my heart you’re always found…”
The Turnpike shirt in his Opry debut just makes this video that much better, too.
Zach Bryan is an anomaly in country music, in the best way possible.
He listens to the same music as us, drinks the same beers as us, and experiences the same ups and downs. It’s this auspicious relatableness in his music and his down to earth personality, as well as his refreshing humility and infectious spirit, that have amassed him such a large and passionate following.
When someone is this vulnerable and real in their music, it is hard to not feel as if you’ve gotten to know them just by listening along. I’ve never met him personally, and will probably never get the chance to, yet I am proud to have watched his progression from a hidden gem on YouTube to one of country music’s biggest superstars.
And to think it all started with a little album called DeAnn just three years ago…