Chase Bryant’s new single, “Room To Breathe,” is many things. It is upbeat, sexy, bluesy, seductive, funky, sensual, and brooding. It is also another step in the inevitable development of country music. Singing the breathtaking tune, it’s clear that Chase Bryant has a voice that could just as easily find big success in pop, jazz or rock. But he’s a country boy and he’s bringing all that vocal flexibility and allure to country music. He was also a co-writer, a co-producer and played guitar on it (including a scorching solo). My guess is that country radio (who paid a lot of attention to Chase Bryant’s back-to-back hits “Take It On Back” and “Little Bit of You”) will fall in love with this one too. It is the sexiest country song of the summer, and it very likely will deliver Chase the biggest hit of his career so far.
Recently, I was lucky enough to chat with Chase about “Room To Breathe.” Here is some of our conversation…
Greg Victor: Last week you were the headliner for the Chicago White Sox’s “Country Music Night.” You performed on U.S. Cellular Field prior to the White Sox game against the Atlanta Braves. How did that go?
Chase Bryant: It was great.
GV: And did you perform “Room To Breathe,” for the baseball fans?
CB: Yeah, I played “Room To Breathe” second, after “A Little Bit Of You,” and I also played “Take It On Back.” I got to play my three singles for a few thousand people, so it was fun.
GV: “A Little Bit Of You” was written by the same team (yourself, Ashley Gorley and Derek George) that got together to create “Room To Breathe.” How was the experience any different this time?
CB: It was a lot shorter of a write, this time, for sure. We came in with this musical idea. I wanted to write something that was going to resonate with people, that would make them feel like getting up and dancing. Something that felt familiar, even though they may have never heard it before. Something that had more sex appeal than anything I’d written in the past. I’ve put out two sentimental love songs so far, but this time I just really wanted to write something that was gonna give people a chance to feel good, you know?
GV: Well, it’s definitely got “The-Feel-Good-Uptempo-Summer-Of-2016-Song” written all over it.
CB: Thanks, man. I think so too.
GV: It’s not like any other song on the charts. What makes you such a risk taker?
CB: I think there are people who are pioneers and there are people who are followers and settlers. I never wanted to settle. I wanted to strive for greatness. I wanted to strive for doing something that no one else had done before. I wanted to strive for success.
GV: I came across a quote from you that said, “I wanted to write things that I knew about and things that I had been through and things I’ve lived through…” So how does this apply to writing “Room To Breathe”?
CB: We’ve all been in a situation like it. I’m a single guy. I think we’ve all been single at some point. We’ve all been in a situation where close is never quite close enough. I think you meet that girl that, you know… or the girl meets that guy… We’ve all been at that place where you’re hoping for no room to breathe.
GV: Is there ever such a thing as too close?
CB: (smiling) Not in my world, there’s not.
GV: Now what about obsession? Is there anything you’re obsessed about, that we may not know about?
CB: I’m an obsessive neat freak. Everything’s gotta be organized. Beds made.
GV: You’re that guy on the touring bus, are you?
CB: (laughing) I’m that guy on the bus. Well, I pay for it, so there aren’t going to be any messes on that bus!
GV: Your full album comes out in the fall. So is “Room To Breathe” an indication of where your music is headed?
CB: Sort of. I think it’s one flavor of it. There’s definitely more rock ‘n’ roll, and there’s stuff that has a taste more of what “Room To Breathe” has. I just wanted to create a record that was honest, and talk about where I’m at now in life. Everybody’s been twenty-three years old once, or is coming up on in it. I think it’s something that will resonate with people.
GV: So you debuted “Room To Breathe” on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, correct?
CB: Yeah, that was really like the first time I’d played it. It was cool, because there’s a variety of ages in the audience there, so you’re playing in front of a ton of different people. I found out that it worked for a lot of different people.
GV: That was a brave move, to debut it on “Country’s Most Famous Stage.” Is there anything you would say to anyone who might suggest that it isn’t “country” enough”?
CB: Yeah—you know why you listen to country music—because you love honesty, because you want to hear something that feels good. That’s why you listen to country music. There are so many genres of music, you know? There are even some genres of music where not a damn thing makes sense. I’m a huge pop fan. I’m a huge rap fan. I’m a fan of all sorts of music, but I don’t think that anybody ever said, “Hey, you gotta wear a cowboy hat to play country music.” I mean, people give me shit for wearing tight pants all the time. But have you ever heard of Dwight Yoakam or Luke Bryan? Nobody ever said you had to wear a cowboy hat. Just tell the truth. Just be honest. And if you look back, Chet Atkins was a great fusion guitar player. Look at Glen Campbell. That was popular music, with string sections. There’s always been an evolution of country music. I think the ‘bro country’ term, and all that—Florida-Georgia Line was brilliant. I don’t give a damn what anybody says. They were great. They made great music.
GV: The success of country music—the way it’s crossed over onto so many people’s playlists—is freeing country music from the chains of strict definition. I just like good music. Just put my iPod on shuffle and you’ll hear a variety of country artists: Johnny Cash, Kristy Lee Cook, Hank Williams, Nanci Griffith, Jackie Lee, Bill Monroe, Joey + Rory, Chris LeDoux, Eric Church, Wynonna, Dustin Lynch, Keith Whitley, David Fanning…
CB: Right, right. It’s exactly like you said. If you look back at Hank Williams—that was called “hillbilly” music. Look ay Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson—that was “outlaw” music. Look at the kings of country: George Strait, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley—they’re all different, but they’re all the same, because they’re honest and they’re real.
GV: And constantly evolving… If you could push country music in any direction, with your music… what direction would you like to see it go?
CB: Successfully. I don’t really know the answer to that, but you’ve got to want to evolve the music. I mentioned Tim McGraw because I’ve been out on the road with him and I’ve listened to his sets. If you look back to “Indian Outlaw” and then to “Humble and Kind” or “Lookin’ For That Girl” or all his other hits, you’ll see it’s an evolution. Or look at the Doobie Brothers, for instance. They’re in a whole other genre, but they came out with a song like “China Grove” and then “What A Fool Believes,” or “Minute By Minute,” or “It Keeps You Runnin’.” If I can evolve with the times, and stay relevant… I don’t ever want to become self-indulgent. I want to be into what country radio wants to play and what the fans want to hear. That’s what’s important to me.
GV: There’s something bold about the way you claim “sexy” as the right of a country singer with “Room To Breathe.” There is just as much sexiness in this country song (and video) as any other top pop, rock, R&B song. There’s no holding back because you’re a country artist.
CB: I’ve always said with producing a record, writing a record, playing guitar on a record—if it was ever going to be anybody’s fault, it was going to be mine, because my name’s all over it. If it was good, it was my fault. If it was bad, it was my fault. If it was mediocre, it was my fault. I wanted to take the blame for it one hundred percent. I also love this record and I love where it’s going. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. I’m thankful we got a third single out and somebody’s believed in it this much. Country radio and fans have made it all possible.
GV: And next year when People magazine calls you to be on the cover of the “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, it will be your fault.
CB: God, I hope so.
GV: You heard it here first. So what’s the best thing about being Chase Bryant at this point in your evolution? What are you enjoying most about these days?
CB: Being at the bottom. I want to know what every step of the way feels like, wherever the future leads. I mean, to me that is the most solidifying part of this career is knowing what it’s like being at the bottom. I didn’t ever want an easy way in. I wanted to know what it was like to work and then to know what it is like to be successful. I just have to stay myself and not try to be somebody that I’m not. I’m here to work hard.
GV: And don’t forget to breathe.
Chase Bryant’s full album should be out by the end of the year. In the meantime, “Room to Breathe” is available for download on iTunes (click here).
For a full list of Chase Bryant’s tour dates, click here.