As a photojournalist, I fuel my soul with music. It evokes feelings, transports me back in time and recharges me almost as though it’s a battery pack. Music for Nashville’s newest sensation, Chase Bryant, is the same. It’s in his blood. Coming from a musical family in small town Texas, Chase heard Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Lewis Boogie” and that was all it took. From that point on, his course was set. Learning to play the guitar at a very early age, he jokes that there were 20 guitars in his hometown, and he owned all of them. After seeing Chase perform recently at The Taste of Country Music Festival, his hard work and dedication to learning his skill showed as I was floored by his shredding ability and how he made his guitar sing.
As Chase and the Shotgun Rider Tour comes to town Thursday, July 3o to Darien Lake, Chase will open for Nashville favorites Billy Currington and Tim McGraw. He graciously agreed to speak with our readers and share some details to what makes him tick.
Kathy Stockbridge (KS): Hi Chase, thank you so much for agreeing to speak with NYSMusic. You have taken Nashville by storm since your arrival and your fans and our readers just love you.
Chase Bryant (CB): Why thank you.
KS: Music seems to be something that has always been in your blood. For those that aren’t aware you grew up in a family of musicians. Share a little about what that was like for you growing up.
CB: Well it was definitely a loud household. My grandfather was a keyboard player for Roy Orbison, and he played along side him throughout high school and right up until the summer my grandfather bowed out of the band because his mom said he couldn’t play rock and roll music any more. After that he went on to college and played with Waylon Jennings, and then on the Glen Campbell television show in Lubbock Texas, and then my two uncles played in a band called Ricochet and had the hit “Daddy’s Money” back in 1996.
KS: I remember that song! So it was in your blood, you were destined. You were born to do this.
CB: Yep, there was nothing I could do about it, and I’m glad there was nothing I could do about it, because I love it.
KS: Share with our readers a little about your relationship with Barbara and Alex Orbison and how that relationship played a role in your career in Nashville.
CB: Alex I used to say was one of my best friends, but I think he’s now more like a second brother to me. He’s been great to me and we’ve built a really great relationship when it comes to music and life in general. He’s been so supportive of my music and his mother Barbara as well has been one of my biggest fans. I couldn’t thank her enough for signing me. She was a great lady and I was her last signing at her company before she passed away. So that was a pretty awesome experience.
KS: When you came to Nashville, Benny Brown — founder of BBR Music Group — was so taken back by your talent as a producer of your demo tapes, he allowed you to co-produce your album with Derek George, which I must add is not something he does often. Share with us a little about how you taught yourself the production end of recording and how you have grown since those early days as a producer.
CB: I was on a panel the other day and I was asked how do you teach someone producing, and you really can’t. If your ears aren’t there and you can’t hear the music then it might not be for you. There are some great artists that never produced their own records or played on their own records, or maybe even wrote the songs. But they were great records and ones I definitely looked up to. I got lucky and sometimes I think that maybe what I do isn’t always right, but Benny sure has given me an opportunity to expand on it. Whatever my name is or the sound that goes along with it, Benny Brown and Broken Bow and Red Bow Records have really let me carve that path and let me become who I really want to be. I’m thankful for that. I was able to write all the songs on this record, co-produce the record, and I played all the guitars. I didn’t produce it by myself either. I co-produced with my best friend Derek George. We had a blast making that record.
KS: Well the finished piece was amazing and you have a great ear for it.
CB: Well thank you.
KS: In addition to producing, you also write your own music. You say that you wrote 400 lousy songs before you wrote your first good one…what was that one song that caught the attention of Nashville manager, pluggers, and publishers? Did you know when writing that one, it as the one?
CB: I think “Take It On Back” was the first really organic, not left of center or anything that had never been done, but it was one of those songs that defined who I was and that sound that people know me by now. I think it was that, and a song called “Change Your Name,” and probably another one that did it, called “Wish I Was A Plane” was another one that set the radar for the label and set the tone for the record. Now “Wish I Was A Plane” is one we play live (isn’t on record). You have those couple of songs that lead to other songs, and those three definitely lead to probably 15 or 16 songs to be on this record that I would like to say are collectively my best pieces of music I could make at the moment.
KS: Yeah, “Change Your Name” is my fav.
CB: Well thank you. I’m hoping that’s a single in the near future. We’ll see what happens.
KS: It will definitely be a hit. You also are an amazing guitarist. You are a left hand guitarist that plays a right handed guitar upside down. It’s not something you notice either. I shot your set at Taste of Country Festival this past June, which by the way you killed it, and after I read that you had this unique talent…I went back to study the photos and sure enough…you rock that guitar left handed, upside-down! Wow…how did you manage to learn that skill?
CB: I don’t know, I’m still learning. Everybody always says “how do you do that, how do you do that?” There’s times I look at and go “why am I doing it this?” But it just happened. I think a lot of people told me no, and a lot of people thought that I would never play it like that, so I was a stubborn kid growing up and therefore I had to do it. It also saved my mom and dad a lot of money buying me my first right handed guitar because left handed ones are way too expensive. I know my mom thinks I have way too many guitars but in the end it ended up saving us a ton of money.
KS: You recently had the opportunity to do a project with Kia Motors and Michael McDonald in their ground breaking digital series Rediscovered. Share with my readers a little about that project and what that experience was like for you.
CB: Oh gosh! Ya know, I listened to the 70’s records a lot, whether it be Fleetwood Mac Rumours, or The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute or Takin It To The Streets, any of those records defined who I wanted to be as a singer. Musically I thought Michael was just an absolute genius. The sounds that he had coming as a keyboard player and the tone of his voice; there is no way you could ever hear that voice and undoubtedly not think that was Michael. Nobody else you could think of, could it be. With modern technology today people hit their phone and ask Siri “who is this on the radio?,” and I think that is the quickest response from Siri is Michael McDonald because it’s one of the most recognizable voices of all time.
KS: I have to say when I watched that four part series (which I strongly urge my readers to watch the entire series) you nailed it. I could tell he was genuinely impressed as well. Now in that series you talk about your experience of playing at the Opry. Share with me what it was like for you the first time you performed at The Grand Ole Opry.
CB: Playing the Opry is one of those things that every time I play there I quote “there is no bigger religious experience for a country musician…than standing in that circle”. It’s just one of those things as a country artist, when you step in that circle you don’t know what to expect. I took a friend out to my last performance and the first time they toured the Opry they don’t know what to expect. It’s the same when you are standing in that circle; you don’t know what to expect. It’s one of those venues that are full of people who love country music. It’s not a crowd that’s going to walk into the show and scream and yell your whole entire set. They are there to listen to great music, and I’m just a proud part of that and I’m very glad that they asked me to come back again and again.
KS: Your first EP Chase Bryant charged out of the gate with its hit “Take It On Back.” We love that song and I love that video. How did the setting at the Tennessee Railway Museum for the video come about?
CB: I’m a huge train fan. My grandfather, who was a big influence of course, a huge huge huge influence musically but he and I were both obsessed with trains. When Wes Edwards threw out the idea, I didn’t know who was shooting the video, I just knew that “BAM” that was the one. Especially for my first single.
KS: Your newest release Little Bit of You is racing up the charts right now and grabbed the attention of Rolling Stone Magazine as they labeled you as one of it’s “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know.” That must have been awesome to see your name in Rolling Stone Magazine. Do you find yourself pinching yourself at moments saying…can this be really happening?
CB: There are some great names in that article and some of them I moved to town with, people I’m really really rooting for, and people somewhere down the road we’re still together in this. I grew up reading Rolling Stone and was a big fan, and once again it’s one of those things to know I’m a part of it is an honor to be included.
KS: Your music is what I consider feel good, toe tapping, smile making music. Your live show is amazing and full of the same energy. I get the impression that you are a very positive person from your music. Do you find that when create music, your wanting to send a message with each song or do you want your audiences to find their own meaning in the songs?
CB: My message in my music is who I am and who I’ll always be. I don’t know if there’s another way of saying it. I just know that whoever Chase Bryant is, and whatever you see live, and whatever you hear on the radio; that’s me and who I am.
KS: I love your philosophy on music. You said that “I’m just the guy with the guitar. If I wasn’t, I’d be the guy on the front row with his arm around his girl raising a glass to the guy onstage. No questions, it’s just who I am. Music is everything.” I think this philosophy truly defines you and why we adore you. You are in it for the music and sharing that passion with your fans, thank you. One final comment and question — you hands down win for best hair in country music!!! What’s your secret for keeping it perfectly in place as you are moving around on stage. That’s difficult…I know…my son struggles to keep his hair styled like that!
CB: Well that’s actually funny, as I went through a few different hair cuts when I came to town, and thankfully I had a label that was very good and very patient with me getting my image correct. Who knows if it’s correct now but it’s nothing more than blow drying the thing up in the air and putting some paste in it. It’s a pretty simple process. It’s nothing tough or too hard to happen; and sometimes it happens when I wake up on the right side of the bed.
KS: Well you have that image down pat. Thanks again Chase for taking the time to speak with us and we can’t wait to see you at Darien Lake July 30th!!
As I ended the interview I could not help think what a nice young man he was and how well his music fits his personality. He is an upbeat, positive, fun loving young man who loves what he does, and it shows. He’s the next generation of country. With so many critics out there today picking apart country criticizing the new sound, I find Chase Bryant the perfect example of how the next generation is taking the roots of country, that he was whole heartedly immersed in as a child, and giving it the spin to generate new fans from this generation. As a role model, he’s definitely my choice, and again, hands down he wins my “Best Hair” award.
I’m truly looking forward to seeing his set again, and I strongly urge all of you to not miss this show as Chase, along with Billy Currington, and Tim McGraw will blow your socks off for a fun filled evening of country entertainment.