Chase Bryant has had his fair share of ups and downs – from top ten singles to the darkest time of his life, and all of this culminating in his just-released debut album Upbringing. Chase and I sat down for a chat about why Nashville wasn’t working out, the visual and musical inspirations throughout his career, how to write songs that stand out, and so much more – enjoy!
Ciara’s Country (CC): I’m thrilled to be joined today by the phenomenal Chase Bryant – I first saw Chase perform at C2C London back in 2017, so I’m really excited to be chatting with him! Chase, thank you so much for joining me.
Chase Bryant (CB): Thanks for having me, I appreciate it!
CC: Where in the world are you today?
CB: I’m in Texas, South Texas, so back home.
CC: Is this the place you grew up?
CB: It is! I’m actually in the house that my dad grew up in, that I bought about a year ago, but I grew up right down the road.
CC: Was this house ready to live in when you bought it or did you have to vamp it up a bit?
CB: I’ve pretty much renovated the whole thing, so it’s been it’s been a process for sure. I don’t think I ever want to do that again! It’s very worthwhile having done it once though – I was in Nashville for about 10 to 12 years, and it’s been really nice to be able to get away from all the noise there and just settle down here.
CC: Home seems to be a pretty big deal for you – your new album is called Upbringing, and I heard that you felt like you had to go back to Texas in order to make it. Why was that?
CB: I felt it was crucial to find a place that I can unwind and be free of everything else that I felt was tying me down. I think it’s important to find new areas to create – I’ve always wanted to build a studio but I knew I didn’t want to build one in Nashville, just because I was already kind of past that. Then, Jon Randall and I came down to cut the record Upbringing in Austin, and it was shortly after that that I pulled the trigger and moved down here.
CC: Seems like a lovely place! What was it like working on the record with Jon Randall?
CB: He is amazing, he’s such a class act, and he’s one of my best friends on Earth. I completely adore what he does and I think he’s a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music. He’s a freak of nature as a guitar player, a great producer, a great friend, but more importantly, he’s one of the greatest heroes I’ve ever had.
CC: Is Upbringing the kind of debut album you imagined releasing when you first started out in music?
CB: I don’t know. I probably envisioned different things when I first started out – when I first started I wanted everything to sound like George Strait, Brooks & Dunn; but as time went along and I got a little older, I think I connected the dots.
CC: One thing that I’ve noticed from hearing your music throughout the years is that you definitely veer more towards the rocky side of country – you’ve got these gritty vocals, love a good guitar solo, and your tracks themselves often have a bit of edge. What was it that led you to that kind of style?
CB: Probably Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers! I’m such a Tom Petty fan, and Mike Campbell too. I think it was just part of growing up and then starting to listen to a lot of rock n roll as a kid going through junior high and high school. I think those things really influenced me to make a record that was that way.
CC: Those influences definitely shine through on the album! There’s loads of variety on this album too – you’ve got a lot of fun songs like Cold Beer and Red Light, but there’s also quite a lot of vulnerability coming as a culmination of your life over the last few years. Was it cathartic or challenging to put something so personal out into the world?
CB: I think it was definitely a change of pace for me to do that. It was a challenge for sure to be so open – it took a lot of years to get to that point, but I think it was crucial, I think I needed to do that. You think about those things over and over before the record comes out, you’re worried, what’s going to happen? What’s it going to do? What are people going to think?
I think as it’s gone on, I’ve just started to care less about what people may think of me, and by that I mean their judgmental side – I just don’t care about somebody’s judgement anymore. I’ve started to let go of that and get out of my own way and out of my own head a little bit, just let things be what they’re going to be and let everybody have their own take on you. That’s just how this world goes round, so it was definitely a challenge but I’m so glad we did it, and I’m glad we did it the way we did it, too.
CC: Could you elaborate a bit more on what you mean by ‘the way we did it?’
CB: Yeah, I mean my story was so open, talking about my suicide attempt. I guess most people just wouldn’t say anything about it, and I think that I probably wouldn’t have said anything about it for so many years. I mean, I know I wouldn’t, because I didn’t! But I think it was very crucial to talk about it to be who I really was. There was a lot to that equation, but I don’t think about those things now, I just I go on with life, and I feel like I’m a better human today because of what happened to me then. I’m thankful for those moments of my life, that they changed my life, and now I just move forward.
CC: Is there one song on the album where you think ‘this is the song that people will really understand me from, this is the real me’?
CB: Well, I think Upbringing does a pretty good job of that, of stating the facts of how I grew up. You go into lines about backyard fights on Saturday nights, stuff like that – those things happened! I don’t consider myself a fighter in that regard anymore, but when I was a kid, that’s what we did, and those are the threads of the cloth that I wear today. It’s all a part of who I am – I had such a cool childhood, and I think it really reflects through that song and it shows what made me who I am.
CC: What was one of the biggest highlights from your childhood?
CB: Oh, man, it was a pretty cool one. I was thinking about it the other day – when I was a kid, we had an ice cream parlour in our hometown – it was this little knickknack shop down on Main Street, and this lady had some of the greatest ice cream – all homemade ice cream that they made. They had tonnes of flavours, pool tables, ping pong tables, books, record players, and they played different records.
It wasn’t open very long, but I remember on Friday or Thursday nights in the summer, they stayed open late for the kids in my hometown, and we would go down there and shoot pool. I got all my teeth broken out one night when I got hit with a pool stick in the face, totally by accident! But it was just a great time – it was a gritty little place and I love those old school things like that. You know, I wish there were more diners and parlours like that where you could go and relax and hang out. I’m more of a traditional type person. I love those kinds of things, so I was thinking about that. That was pretty good one.
CC: I’m totally jealous of having the idea of growing up with diners and parlours – that’s definitely not something that we have this side of the pond! I think they ought to bring them over.
CB: We had things like that growing up – we didn’t have cell phones that do all the things they do now, they just had an on button and a call button! I don’t even think you could store contacts at the time, you had to remember everybody’s phone number. I still remember all my parents’ old phone numbers, my old phone numbers. I’ve had the same phone number since I was 10 or 11 years old when I first got my first phone that my mom would let me take sparingly to school or if I needed it on a trip or whatever.
CC: Such a different time. I’m sure all of those phone numbers stored in your head will come in useful at some point – maybe a song on the next record?
CB: Who knows!
CC: I love the idea that you’ve got all of these stories from your past like that, and I was really intrigued by the imagery in one of your songs, Think About That. It’s so vivid – you’ve got Mellencamp shirts, wildflower tattoos, Mardi Gras beads, there’s a Pat Green CD in there as well. Is that all based on real memories?
CB: There’s parts of it for sure. Pat Green was a huge influence to me in high school – the Lucky Ones and Cannonball, all those records. I love his records and I think he’s one of the most understated country acts – him and Jack Ingram, Randy Rogers, some of those Texas guys, they all have some killer records.
The Mardi Gras beads, who doesn’t remember people having those! We’d never know what they meant, we didn’t ever get out of the state, but I’ve been to Louisiana, and I was like ‘man, those aren’t really a thing to be giving to kids!’ They’re all things that I remember of the past. That whole thing kind of came from listening to Tom Petty’s Wildflowers record and seeing the cover and then seeing a girl walk by at one point with a wildflower tattoo. I thought ‘I bet somebody is thinking about that’.
CC: So it’s all these various elements coming together.
CB: Yeah, that’s my thing. I’ve always loved these books that capture you by images, or movies that think in images. It’s a shame what he did, but I listened to the records that Ryan Adams made back in the day before all the stuff came out about him. Songs like New York, New York and When The Stars Go Blue, songs of that nature. I love that just paint an image from start to finish.
CC: From visual imagery to word magic, another of the songs that I really love on Upbringing is In The First Place, particularly because of that play on words about never loving someone in the first place, not in terms of never loving them at all, but not loving them in ‘first place, podium position number one’. What does it take to turn words into things that are clever, heartfelt, more than they seem?
CB: In The First Place was written by Ryan Beaver and Steven Wilson Jr. – those guys are so freakishly talented. We wrote a handful of songs together, we wrote a song that wasn’t on this record, that I heard the other day and was like, ‘why did we not put that on this record?’ That’s happened a tonne of times now, it just keeps happening! But on a song like that, I so connected to that. I think all of us have had relationships at points where we say things we don’t mean, we say we love the other person and we don’t.
I’m in a relationship now that I can say things I do mean, and if I tell somebody I love them, I mean it, but I looking back, I wouldn’t have gone to the ends of the earth for the other person realistically, you know? I think that that’s where things like that come from, and that’s the great part about country music and its history. There were so many of those songs that that were done that way, but how do you say it in a way that somebody else hasn’t said? In The First Place did, and it was a way that just knocked me off my feet. I was like, ‘oh my god, I have to have that song’.
CC: I’m glad you did! You’ve written so many songs yourself too – as a songwriter, how do you write songs that say things in a different way to how they’ve already been done so many times?
CB: For me, there were so many songs that didn’t make this record just because I didn’t want to give credit to something that didn’t need it. There were songs about days I felt like dying and so on and so forth, and there were days that I was heartbroken. I just wanted to be brutally honest, and that’s who I am naturally. I am 100% brutally honest, I don’t know how to change that, you know? For me, when you find a bit of honesty, you just dig, you dig that hole until it can’t go any deeper. I think that’s where some of the best songs come from. But then there’s other times, you’ve got to create the storyline and hope that you have enough knowledge to make it completely exist.
CC: That song that you mentioned you wished was on the album, will that ever see the light of day?
CB: There are two records that I made within this time frame that will probably never come out, but we’ve talked about different inclinations of how we can get them out there into the world. I will tell you, I just started working on another record again which I’m super excited about. There’s a lot of great stuff, so some of that will be around.
CC: Amazing! I’ve just got one album, Upbringing, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!
CB: Thanks so much!
CC: We touched on it slightly earlier when you mentioned some of the artists in country music who are not getting the credit they deserve. What artists out there do you think everyone needs to be listening to?
CB: To me, it’s guys like Parker McCollum. I think he’s incredibly talented, he’s a great songwriter. There are other ones, some classics that I still love what they do, like Randy Rogers from Texas – I love his records, I think they’re incredible. I think Jack Ingram is another one, Pat Green. But on the younger side of things, it’s hard. I’m listening to stuff these days, and I don’t feel like enough young people are turned on by the same music that I am, so it’s hard to find things that I really love.
Jon Randall has a new record out – you can’t go wrong with Jon, you just can’t. One of the other guys that I’m really waiting to see what he does is Steven Wilson Jr. He’s a good friend, we write a lot of stuff together. I think he’s one of most talented, incredible, artists there is, and I think he’s going to make a huge statement in our genre.
CC: I’m hoping that we’ll have some joint projects coming up between you and a lot of those guys then.
CB: That’d be great!
CC: My last question for you, Chase, is what is one question you’ve never been asked in an interview, but would love to be?
CB: Oh, god, that’s really good. Wow. Half the time I get off some interviews going ‘why do they ask me those questions?’ but I’ve never thought about what they should ask me… That is like the greatest question I’ve ever been asked in an interview! Holy cow. You know, I wonder why sometimes people don’t include me in political questions, but I’m glad they don’t.
I’m not trying to pick one side or the other or any of that stuff, but I think it’s just at a point where I feel like there are people that should focus on their jobs and being better at their craft and trying to be a better politician. That floors me sometimes. Some people don’t ask me current affair questions because they know I’ll just be brutally honest! More importantly, I just want to focus on my career and make sure that I’m putting out great music and allowing people to enjoy themselves, so that’s always been super important to me.
CC: I really appreciate your honesty there, and I hope that when the time comes, they do give you the opportunity to speak your mind! Chase, it has been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for answering all of my questions, and I really am already looking forward to that next record!
CB: Awesome, thank you so much!
Big thanks to Chase for taking the time to chat with me – you can check out his latest record Upbringing wherever you get your music, or tune in to Ciara’s Country 5-8pm every Friday on www.ukcountryradio