Keeping Up With BRELAND

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Videos by American Songwriter

When the 26-year-old, New Jersey-born alternative-country artist BRELAND unveiled his hit song “My Truck,” he had no idea it was going to become a hit… in fact, he didn’t really see it as anything more than just a fun demo. But within just a few months, it began to blow up on the internet, kickstarting BRELAND’s plunge into the world of being a recording artist.

At the time, he was not without experience—for years, he had been cutting his teeth and building up a name as a talented and eclectic songwriter with a knack for understanding the ebbs and flows of internet culture. So, when he got enough steam to step into the spotlight in his own right after “My Truck,” he quickly capitalized. Now, just under two years later, he has a vibrant body of work featuring genre-bending bops, cool collaborations, and world-class hooks. He’s dubbed the country-meets-pop-meets-R&B style “Cross Country” (and even wrote a song in honor of it).

Catching up with American Songwriter recently on Zoom, BRELAND opened up about his storybook rise and all the projects he’s been working on. From his excellence-driven approach to songwriting to his articulate way of describing his processes and experiences, it’s clear that BRELAND has a bright creative vision and he’s skillfully executing it. Read about his story and his work below:

American Songwriter: You began posting videos of yourself singing online at a very early age—how did that (or your experience with the internet in general) impact your artistry during those developmental years?

BRELAND: Yeah, I mean, I’m a hustler, you know? I’m someone who likes to create opportunities for myself—network and connect with people. If I hadn’t grown up in the internet era, I would’ve found another way to do it… but because I did, the internet was the easiest and most accessible asset I had. 

In high school, in particular, I was making a lot of YouTube videos—doing covers, doing little arrangements where I’d insert an original verse in lieu of the actual song just to see if I could catch some kind of moment. I knew that that was the future of how artists were going to be discovered. I watched the Justin Bieber thing happen from day one… I was really one of his earliest subscribers on YouTube. I was literally watching him back when he only had 5,000 subscribers. 

So, I think that because I saw what was happening so early, I was like, “Wow, this is something I think that I could do.” All throughout high school, I was just trying to catch that type of moment online, and I’ve always used the internet since then to promote my music and get it out there. More recently—like when I was focusing on songwriting in Atlanta—I used social media as a way to pitch my songs. I’d post snippets and demos and tag artists who I thought would be a good fit, stuff like that.

AS: On that note, you also started recording yourself at a pretty early age—do you feel like learning about the foundations of how to technically make a good track was pivotal in forming your approach to songwriting now? As in, someone who learns how to write a song in GarageBand might approach it differently than someone who only knows how to write on an acoustic guitar.

B:  Yeah, the versatility of being able to make a song in a bunch of different ways is definitely integral to being able to make songs from across different genres. The way that a lot of country songs are written is very different from how R&B is written, which is different from pop, which is definitely different from something like hip-hop. So, knowing how to do all of that is kinda just a byproduct of how I got my start, but it’s something that I am super grateful for.

AS: Well, you finally got a big “internet moment” when “My Truck” took off on TikTok—what’s the story behind that tune?

B: That song honestly started as a demo I was working on just to do something a little different. It was a long day in the studio and I wasn’t feeling too productive, but my friends kind of challenged me to make something different. I took them up on that challenge and the song was born—it was a really quick creative process. I think we wrote the whole song in an hour and a half and it was just a great vibe in the studio.

But even then, it wasn’t like I was like, “Oh wow, this is gonna be my debut single.” I was posting it on my Instagram with the idea that I would pitch to someone else—in the original post, I tagged Blanco Brown. 

But then, people on Instagram were like “Dude, you should do this yourself!” I think a lot of people had seen me play the “Who should sing this song?” game for long enough. So, I was like, “Okay, cool—I’ll put it out if I get 500 comments.” A few days later, I got the comments and the song was out.

AS: What was it like when it went viral on TikTok? 

B: It was surreal. It took about two months or so—it came out in September and didn’t start getting big until December. Honestly, I had kinda forgotten about the song because I was working on other things. I wasn’t even super married to the idea of being an artist, it was basically just a demo I put out. So, it really surprised me when it went viral. I was like, “Oh wow, this is a real moment in culture now.” It was just a demo I made on a dare, you know? It was definitely surreal.

AS: Appropriately, the song is popular on certain segments of truck TikTok… are you a big truck fan? Do you drive one? 

B: I do now! At the time the song was written, it was kinda just a song that I was making with the idea that someone else would end up singing it… and I guess I was thinking that whoever that person was would drive a truck. But, man, it turned into something so much bigger… we have a big partnership with Chevy. It’s brought a lot of people joy. That’s been the cool thing about being on the road the past few months—you’re able to see how these songs actually impact people, beyond just making videos on TikTok and seeing how people respond to those.

AS: You’ve had some exciting collaborations recently—how did “Throw It Back” with Keith Urban come together?

B: Me and my co-writers had worked up the chorus at some point early on in the pandemic. I never imagined that we’d get someone like Keith on the song, but when I met up with him for the first time, I just went over to his house and he wanted to hear where I was at, creatively—what kinds of things I was working on, what was inspiring me. I played him a few songs and one of them was the chorus idea for “Throw It Back.” He really liked it and was like, “We should work on this!” It was so cool… I really didn’t see it coming. I’m still surprised.

But, obviously, the song’s been doing pretty well, and it’s so cool to hear what Keith was able to add to it—he’s got a banjo solo in there, he added a bunch of guitars. Just having his voice on it alone brings a lot of energy to the song.

AS: Another great collab you did recently was “High Horse” with Nelly and Blanco Brown—what was that like?

B: That was really fun. It was my first time working with Nelly—we actually wrote “High Horse” and “Grits & Glamour” on the same day, so it was a really, really good day. I didn’t even know I was going to be in with Nelly until the day of, when my buddy Rocky reached out and said, “Hey, I’m going in with Nelly later tonight—do you want to pull up?” We ended up getting two Nelly cuts and a BRELAND feature on a Nelly song.

“High Horse” itself was a lot of fun—there were a bunch of people in the studio. Usually, I don’t like that, but this song just had so much energy, it came together really fast. It was one of those nights where everything we threw outworked, which doesn’t always happen. So, it was a really good, creative vibe. And, obviously, a really fun sample and overall track to paint on.

AS: You’re on your first headlining tour now—how do you feel? What’s the future look like for you?

B: Next, I’m just looking forward to playing more shows and getting more comfortable as an artist putting music out. One of my favorite things to do is collaborate with other artists and writers—that’s kinda the crux of “Cross Country,” being able to blend different sounds together. Everybody has their own version of country or their own version of R&B or their own version of pop. The more ways I can bring them together, the more flavors we have to choose from—I think that helps bring people together. So, I’m excited to be able to do that with the music and the performances.

Check out BRELAND’s upcoming tour dates HERE and watch a live performance of “Praise The Lord” below:

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