BRELAND: Pioneer of the ‘Cross Country’ Genre

Country star BRELAND talks about his newest hit with Keith Urban, “Throw It Back,” on Michael Franti’s Stay Human podcast. The pair also chat about the “cross country” genre, BRELAND’s musical influences growing up, and more.

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Growing up around gospel music almost exclusively, BRELAND didn’t gain his true “musical exploration” until he went to high school. There he was exposed to what his peers were listening to.

“I had never really had the freedom or even really the desire to just dive in to understand the history of some of these other genres and styles and music that I hadn’t been exposed to,” BRELAND begins. “I’m like, ‘Wow, there’s an incredible amount of music out there that exists in the general consciousness of the American public that I don’t know, I need to first educate myself on this before I can start trying to make it.’ So throughout high school I was just listening to stuff and trying to see how certain things were related.”

He believes this time of “musical discovery” was a catalyst for his genre-bending music, which he refers to as “cross country.”

“I want to be able to identify cross country songs that exist in the ether that we didn’t have a name for yet. To me, Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain‘ or ‘Higher‘ or even ‘Stay‘ could all be considered cross country songs based on the way that they’re written. But we don’t recognize them as such, because we don’t think of Rihanna as a country artist,” he says.

“Cross country is just about the way a song is written, and the way a song feels and is interpreted,” BRELAND continues. “So, I started getting really into identifying cross country songs that I’d heard before and didn’t know exactly how to classify. Then I started thinking about my own music and figuring out what different intersections I could play with.”

His willingness to be playful and take risks is what makes him the next wave of country. Not only that, but he shares how he grew to take pride in the way that Black people have influenced the genres he loves and how important that is to consider as a Black creator himself.  

“At the time that I put “My Truck” out, it was just something that felt good to put out into the world. But I quickly became aware of this history and some of the contributions that Black people had made to the genre and then some of the ways that the genre has shifted over the years and who had been successful within the genre. I just became aware of a lot of this history, and started having people message me on both sides. People who would message me and be like, ‘I’m really inspired by you doing this because XYZ’ and people on the opposite side of it, who were like, ‘I hate that you’re doing this, you’re ruining this thing that I like.’ What I realized is that on both sides, people were responding to me doing something differently,” he states.

Adding later, “I have the opportunity here to be a cultural bridge between two cultures that have been segmented historically, by systems that want to keep people apart.”

In this way, his music serves a broader purpose.

BRELAND digs into all of this and more throughout the rest of the episode. Check it out on Stay Human

Photo by Nolan Knight.

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