Zach Bryan turns pain into beauty with “American Heartbreak”

Pain creates us. It flows through our veins, keeps us on our toes, leaves us weak and makes us strong. Some people choose to bury the pain deep inside of them, never to see the light of day. Others, like rustic singer-songwriter Zach Bryan, twist that deeply aching pain into something raw, real and beautiful.

Bryan, who released his latest full-length album “American Heartbreak” in late May, has been trending just about everywhere. The largely unpretentious Navy veteran weaves tales of love, loss, heartache and pain in every single track on the 34-song folk/rock/country album.

Previously, Bryan recorded two other full-length albums titled “DeAnn” and “Elisabeth,” both of which follow that same acoustic, singer-songwriter style of production. Bryan recorded and released these albums while in the Navy before being honorably discharged from serving.

“DeAnn,” his first studio album named after his mother’s middle name, was released three years after the death of his mother, Annette, who struggled with alcohol addiction causing strained relationships. The heart-wrenching songs off his first two albums bring a new life to his mother, keeping her close to him through the ragged words he belts over the shaggy sound of an old acoustic guitar.

Turning away from the ideology of performing for fame or an absurd amount of money, Bryan keeps a humble heart embedded within his career, keeping authenticity in his work and music. He is a songwriter at his core, yearning to write, record and play the words living inside his chest.

“Songwriting is such a massive part of this,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “If you’re missing out on it, what the hell are you doing? You’re just performing. You’re an actor.”

“American Heartbreak” is a no-skip album, flowing from track to track with an elegance that not many artists can accomplish. Songs such as “Late July,” “Cold Damn Vampires” and “Half-Grown” appeal to the unguarded heart, telling stories that feel more like a release of long-bottled emotions than anything else. The most popular song on the album with over 134 million streams on Spotify, “Something in the Orange,” redefines vulnerability, giving pain a way to inhabit the world in a kinder, softer light.

The opening of the song pulls listeners in with phrases such as “It’ll be fine by dusk light I’m telling you, baby. These things eat at your bones and drive your young mind crazy. When you place your head between my collar and jaw, I don’t know much but there’s no weight at all.” The descriptions in Bryan’s songs are what make them so relatable, sparking up memories and putting words to the feelings we develop during some of the most prominent moments of our lives.

Other songs on the album, such as “If She Wants a Cowboy” and “Younger Years” keep the album lively and upbeat, all-the-while keeping carrying on the heart-filled personality of the album. These scream-worthy songs keep boots tapping, bodies swaying and hearts swelling, especially in a live setting. Fans come to Zach Bryan concerts dressed in white tees, jeans and a well-loved pair of work boots to dance, cry and love their way through the rollercoaster of emotions that comes from Bryan’s work.

In the five months since “American Heartbreak” released, Bryan proceeded to release even more music on top of his 34-track masterpiece, including an EP titled “Summertime Blues” and two singles titled “Burn, Burn, Burn” and “Starved,” which include a studio version of the song, a demo and a version recorded live from Detroit.

Bryan can’t seem to put down the pen and paper, which is perfectly fine for his fans and the rest of the world as Bryan continues to grow in popularity for his authentic, pain-rooted music that sprouts something breathtakingly rare.