In just the past two years, multi-genre singer/songwriter BRELAND has emerged as a top artist to watch. He broke through in 2020 with his platinum single “My Truck,” which uniquely blended country music & hip-hop. Since then, he’s had several hits on the country charts and collaborated with such stars as Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Lady A, Ingrid Andress and Dierks Bentley.
This week (on Sept. 9), BRELAND is releasing his debut album, Cross Country (on Bad Realm Records/Atlantic Records/Warner Music Nashville). This 14-song collection is an excellent album that mainly showcases his songs as a solo artist, plus his duets with other top artists.
Cross Country impressively displays his unique musical style and sound. His primary focus is on country music, but he passionately adds pop, hip-hop and R&B to create a distinctive blend. On the album, he demonstates that he’s not only a talented country singer and rapper, but he’s a soulful R&B vocalist.
Among the album’s highlights are songs that display his individual personality and energy, such as “Natural,” “County Line,” “For What It’s Worth,” “Growing Pains” and “Thick.” Other key songs are his collaborations with Keith Urban (“Throw It Back”), Thomas Rhett (“Praise the Lord”), Ingrid Andress (“Here For It”), Lady A (“Told You I Could Drink”) and Mickey Guyton (“Cross Country”).
The artist (whose full name is Daniel Breland) grew up in a musical family in Burlington, New Jersey. His parents are both gospel singers, and he sang for years in the church choir. Then in high school, he started getting serious about writing songs.
For college, BRELAND attended Georgetown University in Washington DC, and after graduating he moved to Atlanta to pursue his music career. Notably, he began co-writing with R&B artist Trey Songz and singer/rapper YK Osiris, and he placed multiple songs on their albums.
Here’s the video of BRELAND’s song, “Natural.”
While he was writing songs for other artists, he began releasing his own songs and promoted them via social media. His big break came when he released his song, “My Truck.” This humorous, boisterous country & hip-hop song had a strong impact and launched Breland’s artist career. The single has now been certified platinum and its video has 69 million views on YouTube.
Following this success, BRELAND moved to Nashville, and he began collaborating with with many top artists, songwriters and producers and building friendships. Last year (2021), his duet with Keith Urban on “Throw It Back” reached Top 40 on the Billboard country chart, and then his duet singles with Thomas Rhett (“Praise the Lord”) and Lady A (“Told You I Could Drink”) also charted. Also, his solo single, “Natural,” reached Top 40 on the country chart.
In addition, he was a featured artist and co-writer on the #1 country hit, “Beers On Me.” by Dierks Bentley with Hardy. This record was recently nominated by the CMA for Musical Event of the Year.
Currently, he has been playing many live shows, as a headliner and opening for Russell Dickerson. He’s also performed at several festivals, and he’ll be touring in the United Kingdom in the coming months.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with him. He discusses the making of his new album, and he tells how he wrote his breakthrough hit, “My Truck.”
DK: I read that you’re from New Jersey, and you graduated from Georgetown University. How did you get started with music and songwriting?
BRELAND: I was writing songs pretty much throughout high school and college. I grew up in a musical family—my parents are both gospel singers. So I’ve always been singing in church and in choirs. I think it was in high school that I got serious about songwriting. By the time I got to college, I started to look at what I wanted to do after school, and nothing brought me more joy than writing songs. So it was something that I wanted to try build a career on, and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do that.
Here’s the video of BRELAND’s single “Told You I Could
Drink,” feat. Lady A.
DK: You can sing and perform all types of music, from country to hip-hop to pop and R&B. So how did you decide to focus more on country music?
BRELAND: I think sonically, while this project is definitely rooted in country, what makes it unique and why the album is called Cross Country, is that it’s a combination of country music and everything else. I didn’t feel that I had to choose between genres or which sound I was gonna go for…I was able to merge it all into one. Each of these songs seem country to me because they’re all narrative records…they sound country in a way but sonically they’re all different. There are certain songs that have more hip-hop orientations, some songs that are more gospel, some songs are pop leaning, and songs that are old school soul-blues. But the real thing that ties each of these songs back to country music is the lyric, and the fact that I’m making sure every song on the project is lyrically sound and is telling some type of story.
DK: Before you had success as an artist, you co-wrote songs with Trey Songz and YK Osiris. How did you start getting cuts as a songwriter?
BRELAND: I was leveraging my social media to see if I could reach artists. Initially, I was just posting snippets of demos that I was making, and I would ask fans and listeners on social media to tag whatever artists they could hear. And it was really dope because some artists would see those songs, and whether they ended up cutting the song that they got tagged in or not, it would open up a line of communication. So I’ve known a bunch of artists through doing that, leveraging my social media that way. And that’s the same process that allowed me to put “My Truck” out. It gave me the confidence to put out my debut singles. I posted a snippet of that demo, and people thought that I should put it out myself. So I’m really using social media, using the resources that we have, and I’m seeing a lot of people do that now through TikTok and Reels, and leveraging those gifts. For me, I was doing this just before TikTok became a thing, and I was able to build a following doing so. So it’s pretty cool to have gotten my start that way.
DK: Two years ago, you had a breakthrough with your song, “My Truck.” What inspired you to write this song and write about trucks?
Here’s the video of BRELAND’s single “Throw It Back” feat.
BRELAND: I think what got me going with that song, is I wanted to make something a little different. A lot of the music that I’d been making at the time was rooted primarily in the R&B hip-hop space. And as a fan of country music, it felt like the right time to try experimenting with something as a songwriter. If I know one thing (laughs), I know that people in country that own trucks and really everywhere, that they’re serious about their trucks. And I’m a truck owner myself, so I understand it now better than ever. But I just wanted to have a good time in the studio, and make something a little bit different. I didn’t know that it was gonna be something that I would put out. I was just being creative and having a good time in the studio.
DK: Did you already own a truck when you wrote this song? Or did you get a truck later?
BRELAND: I got the truck later (laughs). But I figured once I started to see what was happening with the response to the song, that the truck was coming.
DK: I like your new album, Cross Country. Can you talk about the making of this album?
BRELAND: This album was made with an air of creative curiousity. I love blending genres—it’s been my calling card over the past two years and it’s something I started experimenting with “My Truck” and my debut EP. Since then, I’ve moved to Nashville and I gotten more involved with the songwriting circuit here, and I’ve done a lot of cool collabs with different people. I feel this project is the culmination of a lot of the growth that I’ve experienced both as a person, as a songwriter, an artist and entertainer since moving to Nashville. So you’re gonna see elevated songwriting from previous works of mine. You’re gonna see me get a bit more bold with some of the choices that I’m making vocally, and wanting to showcase some of the vocals on this project. But really, the process of putting this album together was me just taking all the songs that I could really hear and find myself in the lyric of. And finding the 14 songs that ultimately became this album are the ones that I love the most and resonate the most with me. And I hope that people relate to them as well.
Here’s the video of BRELAND’s single “Praise The Lord,”
feat. Thomas Rhett.
DK: Currently, you have a new hit on the charts with Lady A, “Told You I Could Drink.” How did you connect with Lady A and write this song?
BRELAND: It started when I met Charles Kelley (of Lady A) at a CMA after party, and we were hangin’ out and having a good time. And I’m someone who likes to shoot my shot with people when I get into a room with them, and I’m a big Lady A fan. So I was like, “Hey man, we should write together at some point.” Charles actually hit me up the next day and we set up a time. We got in with a kid from my hometown whose name is Zachary Manno. He’s someone that I’ve known since I was 10 years old. He lives in Nashville, and we ended up writing this song that came out of a conversation we were having. And Charles said the phrase, “I Told You I Could Drink,” and we were like, “We need to write a song based around that” (laughs), and it came together really well. I ended up signing Zac to his first publishing deal with Reservoir Music, so this song has gotten him goin’ a little bit. And it was cool to get the rest of Lady A on the record, because they’re incredibly talented and they add a lot of good flavor and harmony to the record.
DK: You’ve also done collaborations with other top artists like Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban and Ingrid Andress. How did you reach out and connect with them for these songs?
BRELAND: I’m really proud of all the collabs I have on this project. I wanted to keep the project as limited in collabs as possible, because it’s my debut project and I wanted to make sure that my voice is heard. But each of these artists who are featured on this project bring such a great energy and they’re all incredibly versatile. And the songs that they’re on are all different. The song that Ingrid is on is one that we wrote together because we’re friends here in Nashville, and we’ve gotten to know each other since I moved here. With “Here For It,” it was initially a song that we were thinking about for her project, featuring me. But when it didn’t make her project, I was like, “I really love this song,” so we flipped the parts that we sang.
“Here For It” sounds totally different than “Praise The Lord” with Thomas Rhett or “Cross Country” with Mickey Guyton or “Throw It Back” with Keith Urban. So I think all of these features, it’s me in the different sonics that I feel comfortable in, but also giving some of these artists an opportunity to say and do things that they might not normally do on the songs that they’re usually on. Mickey Guyton has made a lot of incredible music, but a song like “Cross Country” gives her the opportunity to tell her story more autobiographically. And a song like “Throw It Back” gives Keith the opportunity to get on a song that has a real hip-hop undercurrent, and to be able to perform in a slightly different way than he normally would. For Thomas Rhett, we found a real down-home black gospel beat. I love being able to collaborate with an artist because I either get to do something different, or they get to do something different, or a combination of both. I think all the collabs we have on this project are special.
Here’s the video of BRELAND’s hit, “My Truck.”
DK: I like your title cut, “Cross Country,” where you collaborate with Mickey Guyton. Both of you are African-American artists who are breaking through in country music. What was it like to write and perform this song with Mickey?
BRELAND: Mickey has been a big inspiration for me, based on the obstacles she’s overcome as a black woman in country music. She someone who’s a friend to me, but also a mentor figure, because the amount of time and years that she’s put into this. So I love the idea of being able to get her on a song. And once I wrote “Cross Country” and put the original version out, she responded to it and said that she loved the song. So I was like, “Would you want to do a second verse and put out a different version?”
I love adding her on the song so much, that when I was trying to decide which version of the track I would put on the album, it made the most sense to put the version with her on it based on what she represents. And whatever areas we can help provide visibility for one another and for the rest of the black community and for the industry, we’ve all gone out of our way to do that. So it made sense to get her on the song, and it means a lot for me as a black artist in country music, to have artists of color featured on the project because it’s such a big part of the narrative. I know that I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if it wasn’t for some of the barriers broken by artists like Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton and obviously Charley Pride.
DK: Besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your favorite songs on your new album?
BRELAND: I really like “For What It’s Worth”—it’s probably the most straight-up country-sounding song on the project. I love the message of the song and the air of accountability it has in a break-up. I also love “Growing Pains“ because it’s a personal message. It’s a journey that I’m on…trying to be great and stay positive, trying not to allow the ups and downs of what’s happening in my career affect me on too deep of a level, and make sure I’m taking care of myself. It’s a song about mental health. I also like “Here For It” with Ingrid to open the record. The reason why I started with that song is because we’re all on this planet together. We’re all wanting to take care of one another. To make sure that our neighbor is good and that we’re showing up for the people that we care for. I think these songs have some of the strongest messages, and are some of my favorite lyrics on the project. I’m looking forward to people being able to hear them.
Here’s the video of Dierks Bentley’s hit “Beers On Me.”
feat. BRELAND & Hardy.
DK: I also like your recent hit “Beers On Me,” where you collaborated with Dierks Bentley and Hardy. How did this song come together?
BRELAND: Honestly, it was a text that I got from Dierks. He was like, “Hey, I’ve got this song and I’d love to see what you can do with it.” Then I came to the studio the next night—I wrote my lyrics, and I was excited to see that he made “Beers On Me” the name of his tour and he brought me out on the road. And that he took that song to country radio and it was successful there. I think with a new artist, country radio is kind of the final frontier. I’ve had a lot of success with streaming, but to be able to have a number one record with him at country radio was really cool, and my relationship with Dierks and Hardy has grown and they’re friends of mine. We’re all rooting for each other, so shout out to Dierks for opening that door.
DK: Currently, you’re on tour playing shows and festivals in the U.S. and then you’ll be touring in the UK. Can you talk about your live shows and tours?
BRELAND: I love playing live. It’s become one of my favorite parts of my career. I’m always gonna love songwriting…that’s my first love that got me into it. But there’s a different type of rush, of getting out onstage and being able to sing live and connect to an audience. I’ve grown a lot in that area over the past six months, especially playing shows every weekend this summer. And I’m looking forward to playing overseas again, because we played the UK last March and it was such a cool experience. So for us to go back this year, it means a lot. Those fans have been engaged, they’ve been interacting with me on social media.
I’ve had a great run doing shows with Russell Dickerson, and my BRELAND & Friends Tour is coming up. I’m looking forward to all the shows that we have coming up.