After 'American Heartbreak,' new Oklahoma country star Zach Bryan has 'Summertime Blues'

Less than two months after unleashing his "American Heartbreak," Zach Bryan has the "Summertime Blues."

Oklahoma's latest breakout country music star is releasing a new nine-track EP titled "Summertime Blues" Friday, closely following his record-breaking, critically-acclaimed May 20 Warner Records debut with the epic album "American Heartbreak."

The industrious singer-songwriter - who in the past two years has morphed from a DIY viral standout into a genuine country music sensation - has already given his burgeoning, enthusiastic fan base a look and listen to the EP's wistful title track. If the familiar neon signage is any indication, the "Summertime Blues" video was apparently filmed in part at the Tumbleweed Dance Hall in Stillwater, where Bryan was among the headliners earlier this year at iconic venue's 30th annual Calf Fry.  

Warner Records promises the new EP will have Bryan singing about the working-class life on "Quittin' Time," about the one who got away on "Oklahoma Smoke Show" and about a relationship gone wrong on "All the Time."

"Summertime Blues" is the follow-up to "American Heartbreak," Bryan’s first official studio album and first for Warner Records. Upon its spring release, it became the second-highest streaming country music album debut in history, breaking the 2022 record for single album streams in a 24-hour period and pushing Bryan well past 1 billion global streams.

Here's what else you need to know about the 26-year-old Oklahoma singer-songwriter with the poetic pen and raspy voice who is emerging as a country music powerhouse:

1. Where is Zach Bryan from?

Bryan hails from Oologah, which means he shares his hometown with the late, great humorist, movie star and trick roper Will Rogers (1870–1935), whose birthplace is just outside the Rogers County town

Ahead of his 2021 debut on the Grand Ole Opry, the iconic show's producers sent a crew to Oologah to film Bryan. Along the way, he pointed out the first bar he ever played a show at: Tulsa's Rabbit Hole Bar and Grill.

"When I was 14, we started making these dumb songs up, me and my buddies sitting around, and I just never really expected to be a musician, ever. But I always wanted to write songs. That's what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a songwriter," he said.

Fun fact: His new album features two songs named for Sooner State towns in the acoustic odes "Oklahoma City" and "Tishomingo." (The latter includes one of my favorite instances of Bryan's canny wordplay, as he rhymes the name of the Johnston County seat with the line "wonder where good men's dreams go.")  

2. Zach Bryan is a veteran whose family has a long history of military service

Although the prolific singer-songwriter is proud of his small-town roots in Oologah, Bryan was actually born in Okinawa, Japan. That's because he comes from a long line of U.S. Navy servicemen and women.

Both his parents, his grandfather, his uncles and his great-grandfather have all served, he told the Opry film crew.

"It was really cool being able to grow up like that. They say 'Navy brat' ... but I learned a lot," he said. 

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Bryan joined the Navy when he was 17 and served for eight years. He posted on Instagram last fall that he had been honorably discharged "to go play some music."

"Can’t tell if I’m a coward or if I’m chasing a dream but regardless, the best eight years of my life were spent serving the best country in the whole damn world," he wrote at the time.  

"It made a man out of me, truly." 

Zach Bryan performs onstage April 30 during Day 2 of the 2022 Stagecoach Festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California.
Zach Bryan performs onstage April 30 during Day 2 of the 2022 Stagecoach Festival at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California.

3. His meteoric rise started with a YouTube breakout  

Even when he was on active duty, music was a big part of Bryan's life. In 2017, he started uploading his music to YouTube in the form of unedited performance videos his friends filmed on his phone.

In 2019, Bryan and his buddies recorded his debut album, "DeAnn," in a Florida Airbrb using equipment from Guitar Center. He named the self-funded and self-released collection for his late mother.

Shortly after he released "DeAnn," Bryan posted a sweaty one-take performance clip for "Heading South," the first single from his sophomore album. The acoustic anthem went viral: The original video — recorded behind his Navy barracks on a humid 95-degree day — has been viewed more than 15.5 million times since its September 2019 release, while a studio version dropped on YouTube by Warner Records has earned more than 10.5 million views since December 2020.

By the time he made his Opry debut, the studio version of "Heading South" had surpassed 30 million Spotify plays. The song, featured on his 2020 album "Elisabeth," was certified gold last fall by the Recording Industry Association of America.

"I feel incredibly blessed. I can't believe it happened so quick. It's been an incredible ride," Bryan told The Tennessean ahead of his Opry bow.  

Breakout country music star Zach Bryan, who hails from Oklahoma, released his major-label debut, the sprawling triple album "American Heartbreak," May 20 on Warner Records.
Breakout country music star Zach Bryan, who hails from Oklahoma, released his major-label debut, the sprawling triple album "American Heartbreak," May 20 on Warner Records.

4. Zach Bryan's 'American Heartbreak' boasts more than 30 tracks 

Bryan's loyal and growing fan base had already been treated to six singles from his Warner Records debut — “Whiskey Fever,” along with “Open The Gate,” “Something in the Orange,” “Highway Boys,” “From Austin” and “Late July”— when it bowed May 20.

But that was just a fraction of the music his "American Heartbreak" has to offer: Bryan's major-label debut is a triple album boasting a whopping 34 tracks — and he had a hand in writing all of them.

Listening to the 33 songs and one poem on "American Heartbreak" is a two-hour commitment, but the album shows off his distinctive sound, a blend of Americana, folk, outlaw country and Heartland rock that should appeal to fans of Oklahoma's Red Dirt music scene. (Bryan wore a Turnpike Troubadours T-shirt when he made his Grand Ole Opry debut and has paid homage to the beloved Oklahoma band's frontman and songwriter Evan Felker in song.)  

"I feel like it's a songwriter's job to analyze everything in his head and put that out in the world how he interpreted it," Bryan told The Tennessean last year. "And maybe somebody else can interpret it the same way. There's so much stuff ... going on around you all the time that's so hard to explain. By writing songs you can try your best and hope people relate."  

He recorded the new album in New York at the famed Electric Lady Studios.

"I didn't want it to sound like anything I'd heard, so I wanted to go somewhere ... country artists or Americana/folk artists don't usually go," Bryan said in new interview for Spotify.

The album includes 33 originals and his arrangement of the iconic song "You Are My Sunshine," which Bryan has acknowledged was "too many."

"At one point, I had like written, like, the saddest album of all time, so I just kept writing and kept writing," he said. "Touring's cool, but I'm more into the writing and making of good music."  

5. 'Something in the Orange' helped earn Bryan 1 billion streams 

With its May 20 bow, "American Heartbreak" became the most-streamed single-day country release of 2022 on Spotify and Apple Music.

The epic debuted at No. 5 on Billboard’s all-genre Top 200 Albums chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums list. "American Heartbreak" marked Bryan's Billboard 200 bow, entering with 71,500 equivalent album units earned — the biggest week for a country album in 2022.

He recently hit No. 1 on the Country Songwriters list, and his vivid ballad "Something in the Orange” peaked just outside the Top 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart at No. 11.

On the day of his album’s release, Bryan hit No. 14 on the U.S. trends on TikTok and in the Top 30 on Twitter. Plus, 24 of the album's 34 tracks charted that day among Billboard's Hot Country Songs.

His fervent single “From Austin” topped the country songs roster on Apple Music upon its release, debuted at No. 4 on Spotify’s Global Country chart and has racked up more than 37 million global streams.

Along with the Turnpike Troubadours, Lainey Wilson, Ryan Bingham and more, Bryan's music also has been featured on the smash series "Yellowstone."

Zach Bryan headlines the Miller Lite Oasis at Summerfest on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Zach Bryan headlines the Miller Lite Oasis at Summerfest on Saturday, June 25, 2022.

6. Where are Zach Bryan's next tour, concerts in 2022?

Bryan is already gaining a reputation for his raucous live performances, including attention-grabbing festival sets this year at Stagecoach in Indio, California, Lollapalooza in Chicago and Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee.

He's been selling out tour dates as fast as he's been scaling the charts, and he's just added a few more shows to his itinerary.

For Oklahoma fans, it looks like the best bet to catch the singer-songwriter live still will be when he plays a home-state show at the second Born & Raised Music Festival, set for Sept. 16-18 in Pryor.

Bryan was on the original lineup for the music and camping fest, which was initially planned for 2020 but had to be delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time the inaugural Born & Raised Music Festival actually took place last year, he had moved up significantly on the event's roster. Now, he's headlining the Friday night lineup. 

For tickets and information, go to https://www.bornandraisedfestival.com.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Where is Zach Bryan from? What to know about the Oklahoma country star