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HITS LIST, YUP
IMAX version available (8/12a)
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Music City
SPOTLIGHT ON BRELAND
7/19/22

BRELAND is moving through security at Boston’s Logan Airport. A songwriter who brings genres, stories and people together, he’s trying to get home and do an interview. “I’d have made it work at 3am if I had to,” he says before putting the phone in the security bin, “but we had this window, so let’s go for it.”

He’s gone for it with, among other endeavors, a handful of high-profile collaborations. Keith Urban tapped BRELAND’s songwriting chops on two tracks for 2020’s THE SPEED OF NOW Part 1, one of which, “Out the Cage,” features a vocal from the so-called country-trap artist. Last year, he famously teamed with HARDY on Dierks Bentley’s #1 “Beers on Me” and with Nelly on “High Horse,” also featuring Blanco Brown.

Then there’s the Why&How-repped artist’s own EP, Rage & Sorrow (2020), which addressed racism and police brutality, “My Truck”—the remix of which, featuring Sam Hunt, went to #1, achieved platinum status and became a New York Times, Rolling Stone and NPR Best of 2020 inclusion—and 2022 single “Praise the Lord,” featuring Thomas Rhett.

Having undertaken a Georgetown University double major in marketing and management, BRELAND is about doing the work, i.e., making the music, a decidedly deeper hip-hop/pop integration for today’s country. His debut full-length, Cross Country, is due this summer.

In August, the bespectacled songwriter will play TidalWave, one of many upcoming gigs (he performed at Stagecoach and Tortuga in April and Hangout in May).

You’re a Jersey kid with a foothold in Atlanta and a record deal with Atlantic who graduated from Georgetown. Knowing that, your hybrid music make so much more sense.
What country music had… the pop/hip-hop cadences were missing. For fans who like those things, the appeal was obvious. And to me, the best songwriting structurally has been in country music. I’ve studied country music. 

You’re signed to a pop label, though.
What was important was understanding the vision of what I was doing. It falls into a space that’s genre-less, so I needed to have people who got what that was, how I was trying to bring these elements together. Atlantic understands pop music—and music that’s not necessarily cookie-cutter pop. For me to have the freedom to come forward with a pop- or hip-hop-leaning song, that made sense. And Warner Nashville, obviously, knows the country stuff.

Can you break it down?
Hip-hop is more the vibe and the melody—pop too. But in country, you can’t win if you don’t have the lyrical piece in place. The time that goes into crafting a clever lyric? People have no idea.

But it is country. “My Truck” is certified platinum. It’s also an anthem I hear blowing out of, well, trucks.
I was excited by the response. I knew there was something special about that song. I wasn’t driving a truck at the time, but there are Black people, Asian people, white people who drive trucks—and I know how passionate everyone is about their trucks. I knew if I could tap into that, I’d have something. 

Talk about working with Keith Urban.
Keith definitely knows how to think outside genre, so that progression of how music can come forward is so natural to him. He’s such a musical archivist; he can pull from Pink Floyd or Stevie Wonder—it’s never about boundaries or labels but making the best music possible. It’s the same way with Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett. And all the collaborations come from an organic place. Keith and I wrote together so easily. Those songs are entirely from one session. 

What makes for a strong collaboration?
Trying to understand where each person is coming from and where we’re trying to take the music. It’s a mutual desire for more. But there’s no pressure to make something new as much as “We are people blending all our music together.”

Who are your influences?
Glen Campbell, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie… They’ve always been a couple beats away from what I’m trying to do with pop music and country. Earth, Wind & Fire, Kendrick Lamar, Kacey Musgraves, Drake 

Your music’s a different way of finding common ground.
People are from different backgrounds and have different ideals. People look different. What does that have to do with music? Coming together over how a song makes you feel has nothing to do with those things. Sports and music are the two things that really do that. 

Crazy, isn’t it?
A Black kid from New Jersey making country music, right? If I can inspire whomever to do what they’re doing in a way that isn’t the way our culture says we should do it—according to how you look, where you’re from, however society pigeonholes you—then this music is doing everything I want it to do.