The Unapologetically Prolific Zach Bryan’s Top 5 Must-Listen-to Songs

If this list of Zach Bryan’s must-listen-to songs tempts you into a YouTube rabbit hole of his work, do yourself a favor and give in to the impulse. 

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His debut album, DeAnn, was recorded at an Airbnb in Florida. Bryan was still in the Navy at the time, and the bare-bones recording is just a man and an acoustic guitar. He and his friends placed mattresses against the wall for “sound treatment.” And his second album, Elisabeth, is equally stripped down. 

Bryan went viral on YouTube, and only a few years later he’d make his debut at the Grand Ole Opry. His third breakthrough album, American Heartbreak, was released by Warner Bros. Records in 2022. 

An Oklahoma native, Bryan became known for writing an intense version of red dirt country, but ultimately his music is not so easily defined. His songs are deceptively simple; everything is right down the middle—until he decides to blindside the listener with a targeted, and poetic, turn of phrase. 

Bryan is clearly working on his own terms, and that work is translating to audiences. He releases music in Prince-like fashion—on his schedule. The must-hear songs below are a good introduction to a still-young catalog that’s nonetheless already sprawling with greatness. 

1. “I Remember Everything” (feat. Kacey Musgraves) from Zach Bryan (2023)

On “I Remember Everything,” two lovers look back on an old affair from very different perspectives. Zach Bryan sees the alcohol in their relationship as an elixir. Kacey Musgraves remembers his drinking as a dark and empty masking of pain. “I Remember Everything” was the first time both artists reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. 

A cold shoulder at closing time
You were begging me to stay till the sun rose
Strange words come on out
Of a grown man’s mouth when his mind’s broke
Pictures and passin’ time
You only smile like that when you’re drinking
I wish I didn’t, but I do
Remember every moment on the nights with you

2. “Something in the Orange” – Single Version (2022)

“Something in the Orange” is sonically bare. It’s reminiscent of an open desert road, with nothing but lonely miles up ahead. Bryan confronts the permanent reality of a doomed relationship; it’s the permanency of loss that stings the most. The sun still rises, though, and people move on. “Something in the Orange” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs, doing something Bryan does consistently—erasing the boundaries of genre. 

A different version of the song appears on Bryan’s album American Heartbreak. The slick production on this version loses some of the original desperation in its studio sheen.

If you leave today, I’ll just stare at the way
The orange touches all things around
The grass, trees, and dew, how I just hate you
Please turn those headlights around

3. “Sarah’s Place” (feat. Noah Kahan) from Boys of Faith EP (2023)

A month after releasing his self-titled fourth album, Zach Bryan released Boys of Faith. The EP features collaborations with Bon Iver and Noah Kahan, underscoring how impressively prolific Bryan is. “Sarah’s Place” is a little gem of indie nostalgia. 

I love your mother’s stories ’bout you as a kid
I heard you scored a job in the East Village
Well, workin’ for some folks who don’t know your name
Well, ain’t you gonna miss all of them wasted days?
We’d sit around, drinkin’ out at Sarah’s place

[RELATED: Who Is Zach Bryan, and How Did He Shoot to Fame?]

4. “Sun to Me” from American Heartbreak (2022)

American Heartbreak is Zach Bryan’s third studio album. Released in 2022, it’s an ambitious triple album, rare for a major label debut. “Sun to Me” is Track 16 on the 34-track record. The lyrics read like a parable on how love can heal the dark corners of the soul: 

And I remember being younger and my mother told me the truth
Find someone who grows flowers in the darkest parts of you
Take heed when things get hard and don’t you ever turn around
You’ll find someone, someday, somewhere that grows you to the clouds

5. “Dawns” feat. Maggie Rogers – Single (2023)

“Dawns” is the kind of break-up song that would make Carole King proud. Zach Bryan and Maggie Rogers co-wrote the song together, and play, lyrically, with both the noun and verb versions of ‘dawn.’ The emotion here is so visceral, it sounds as if Bryan and Rogers still hadn’t called it quits before tracking the vocal. 

And by the time he wakes, I’ll be halfway to my best friend’s home
It just dawned on me; life is as fleeting as the passin’ dawn
And I shoulda told him twice, I believe in something bigger than both of us
I miss goin’ out to bars, shootin’ stars, not worryin’ ’bout what’s left of us

Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images

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