Chase Bryant was barely out of his teens when he left Orange Grove, Texas for Nashville, and was signed to an imprint of Broken Bow Records, home to artists like Jason Aldean and the late Joe Diffie. By the time he was 22, he’d charted two hit singles and was opening for major artists like Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw. He seemed to be living the dream that thousands of singers flock to Nashville for, and he was barely old enough to drink.
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But then, the pressure of being in the spotlight became too intense for the young artist, and anxiety and depression led to a failed suicide attempt. Bryant left the industry to take a few years to find himself. Now 28, backed by drummer J.J. Johnson (Gary Clark, Jr., Tedeschi Trucks Band) and guitarist Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams), Bryant has returned with a new single, “Upbringing,” which drops February 26, featured on his upcoming album of the same name on Green Iris Records, a label imprint run by the sons of the late Roy Orbison. Bryant called American Songwriter to talk about getting another opportunity in an industry where even first chances are hard to come by.
“It’s crazy, but I’m probably the prime example of somebody who’s been given a second chance,” he said. “I’m somebody who’s dealt with all kinds of mental awareness and mental health issues, and that’s the way I look at it, we’re all given this one shot on Earth. That’s the motto I live by now, life is short, don’t make it any shorter, live every day like it’s your last. Love the people around you, and be thankful for the time we’re given here. We’re all here with some sort of destiny, and I think that, at the end of the day, there’s a reason that it’s worth living out.
“When you’re a kid and you’re given the keys to the vehicle to drive,” he continued, “and you don’t know how to drive, it’s like, ‘What do I do with this?’ I went from being a kid playing bars and in little bands around town, and all of a sudden I’m on an arena tour, plus headlining my own tour, plus having a top five song and a number one in Australia—nobody wanted to know my name growing up, and now everybody wanted to know. It didn’t make sense, and you don’t ask why when all that’s happening, you just do the best you can. At some point you want to feel some normalcy. I think I was trying so hard to be somebody else, and when it started happening I knew it wasn’t me I was doing it for. It was tough, it was really confusing.
“My grandfather [Jimmy Bryant] played with Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings,” he said, “and my mom’s brothers [Jeff and Junior Bryant] played in Ricochet. So I was a kid when this all started, and for a few years I was having success and I was asking myself if I should give all this up, which is sort of a backwards question. But now, when it came to writing this [new] material, it was a pretty simple answer. All I wanted to be was myself, to write a record that I really loved and be myself for the first time in my career.”
For his new material, Bryant called in writer/producer Jon Randall (Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley), and former AutoVaughn member Stephen Wilson (Trace Adkins, Sixpence None the Richer), to help pen “Upbringing.” Bryant said that, regardless of the past, he had to follow his muse and get back into the studio to make a statement.
“At some point you have to do it,” he said. “All I ever wanted was to play music, all I ever wanted was to be successful. My views have changed on that. The reason I did this now was because I have something to say, it couldn’t wait any longer. It’s not about the stadiums and the arenas. There is that part, but we all want to do that, we all want to be the biggest thing on Earth. I could give a shit less anymore about trying to do it the wrong way. I want the world to know that I’m still here. There’s been a lot of questions from certain people, and I was quite honestly getting myself right and ready to do this.
“Thankfully I’ve been given the opportunity to be a songwriter and artist and do the things that I love, and have a chance at doing that for a living,” he said. “And now I have a second chance. I refer to my buddy Tommy Lee James and the song he wrote for Gary Allan, ‘Life Ain’t Always Beautiful.’ I couldn’t explain it any better than that. Not all of us get the second chance. So I guess the first chance is still the best one you’ve got.”