Born in ranching town Oologah, Oklahoma and spending time in Tulsa, singer-songwriter Zach Bryan began working on his craft at the age of 14 when he received his first guitar. At 18, he enlisted in the Navy, military service being a common choice for many who grow up in rural America. During his breaks while serving, he’d post his originals to YouTube and slowly began growing a fan base.
Marketing was never at the forefront of his mind. Instead, he was just hoping to find a few fellow souls who understood his own. Flashforward years later to multiple number one hits, chart climbing albums, and sold out tours, all the while striking a precise balance between his newfound fame as a major label artist, and staying true to his craft.
Bryan is often a naturalist in an aesthetic sense. He presents listeners with the world as it is, raw, unedited, and unfiltered. Among a society addicted to escapism, this is a revolutionary act. And millions of listeners love him for it. A veteran, diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan (he once planned a music release around one of their playoff games), and a rising star in country music, check out Zach Bryan’s soul-stirring, haunting songs below.
11. Holy Roller (feat. Sierra Ferrell)
An intimate story about finding salvation through the love of a soul mate, Bryan’s vulnerability and honesty create a stirring weight throughout ‘Holy Roller.’ The poetic lyrics alone, describing the quiet shared moments between a couple, are enough to stand on their own. But Zach’s gentle, thumbing rhythm along with country and gypsy-jazz musician Sierra Ferrell’s angelic harmonies paint an enveloping heavenly scene.
Recommended: Our pick of the best Sierra Ferrell songs.
10. Burn, Burn, Burn
Bryan is no stranger to introspection, so his originals tend to take on a philosophical theme. With his folksy ‘Burn, Burn, Burn,’ he fills listeners in on his deepest thoughts about what it means to live a good life and leave this world honorably. Told in several separate verses that read more like poetry rather than a traditional song format, nature, tranquility, and the occasional visit to Paris all make the cut. Part transcendental, part Epicurean, this inspirational number is a definite fan-favorite, and was released after his breakout record, American Heartbreak.
“You bled your whole soul into things you can’t control, in a world you’ll never satisfy.” Early Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Bryan’s songwriting embodies this principle. Many times, his music sounds like a prayer, and that’s why it’s so impactful. For ‘Tourniquet,’ he does lay down a fuller production, but it’s done in service to the lyrics, not to their sacrifice, highlighting his production finesse is just as strong as his writing abilities. While tourniquets have historically been used to stymie the bleeding of physical wounds, with this powerful track, he offers one up for a wounded soul.
8. East Side of Sorrow
Finding optimism after tragedy is hard work, and Bryan lays out how he found it again after a series of battles in ‘East Side of Sorrow.’ The song begins in his eloquent and signature bare bones fashion but soon breaks into a rolling beat that evokes a feeling of running as his story unfolds. War, death, losing oneself, all of these realities hit home for the troubadour, but spirituality, though it waxes and wanes, eventually carries him forward. As the sun rises on “the east side of sorrow,” this imagery creates a powerful metaphor for moving on and starting again.
7. Spotless (feat. The Lumineers)
“I don’t want love lover I want the truth.” A melancholy outlook on human existence turns empowering as Bryan demands something better of people than others think they are capable of offering. With a philosopher’s mind and an artist’s soul, the songwriter uses this harmony in tandem to take this highly abstract concept and break it down into concretes. Amidst technology and a changing world that Bryan feels leaves his world “ruined,” he’s had a taste of love and connection that’s left him hopeful (the last line offers up definitive evidence of this, but I won’t spoil it for you, listen for yourself). Folksy, pop group The Lumineers make a spirited appearance on the track. Right off the bat, their trademark acoustic percussion creates a solid foundation for the flowing composition.
6. Sun to Me
This love song rivals even the most romantic sonnets written by Browning or Shakespeare. While the classic good girl meets bad boy storyline plays out in ‘Sun to Me,’ the rawness in Bryan’s voice and the specificity in his lyrics create something truly special. And as far as love songs go, why reinvent the wheel if the wheel is working the way it is supposed to? Taking heed of the advice his mother gave him as a child, he searched for a lover who could see past his shortcomings and foster growth. While this seems simple enough, anyone knows this is quite possibly one of the hardest things in life to do, find someone who will love you properly. Listeners soon realize his lover offers him so much light, she’s like the sun to him. Somehow, amidst a sea of impossibilities he lists, he’s managed to make possible the one thing he thought he’d never find, true love.
5. Hey Driver (feat. The War and Treaty)
Appearing on his wildly popular self-titled album, the duet featured on ‘Hey Driver’ was born from a chance encounter at the ACM awards. Bryan was blown away by The War and Treaty’s sound, a husband and wife duo based in Michigan. When he passed them on his way back to his hotel he quickly exchanged numbers with them, but they didn’t think much would come of it because the random exchange was so quick. Bryan surprised them when he sent over a demo of ‘Hey Driver’ days later. Before they knew it, they were on a plane to Philly to record the song with Bryan. Fans love the track so much, they’re hoping for a followup collaboration between the artists.
4. Dawns (feat. Maggie Rogers)
For the first minute and a half of this heartbreaker, Bryan howls and singer Maggie Rogers offers backup as the two vocalists lament on love gone wrong. But as soon as the ear gets used to their near- a cappella performance, shuffling strings roll in with welcomed drama and ‘Dawns’ kicks into high gear. While Zach has been an independent artist most of his career, he began having a significant amount of chart success after he signed a deal with Warner Records in 2021. This emotional tune climbed all the way to #41 on American charts, signifying his commercial appeal was growing.
3. Heading South
This autobiographical tune was a game changer for Bryan. After writing ‘Heading South’ while serving in the Navy, he put the song online just for kicks. He never imagined it would go viral on Youtube. It was the first taste of success he had with his originals, and he released a more polished version on albums DeAnn and Elisabeth. His fan base loved the track’s double meaning. “Heading south” could mean heading into trouble. It also takes on a more literal meaning, with Bryan heading to southern states because they “let you play your music real damn loud.” The viral song was eventually certified Gold after climbing into the top 30 on Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart.
2. I Remember Everything (feat. Kacey Musgraves)
Never afraid to tackle hard conversations in his music, ‘I Remember Everything’ encompasses battles with alcoholism, depression and anxiety, PTSD, and the effects it has on the one suffering and their loved ones around them. The song plays out like a back and forth conversation between guest vocalist, country star Kacey Musgraves, and Bryan. Musgraves helped write the tune, and their collective efforts paid off. The poignant, haunting ballad charted at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
1. Something in the Orange
Bryan gained his first #1 country hit with ‘Something in the Orange.’ As it made social media rounds, the acoustic tune slowly ascended Billboard’s Hot 100, and it finally peaked on the chart at an astonishing #10. With a story of lost love at its center, many listeners assumed the melancholy tune came from the ocean-like depths of the songwriter’s soul. However, like any true artist, Bryan offered up a contrarian take to this crowd-pleaser. He came up with the concept while staying at a cabin in Wisconsin and taking in a particularly fiery sunset.