Breland Reveals His Secret for Getting A-List Collaborators [Interview]
There's a mistake on Breland's Wikipedia page: The online encyclopedia claims he wrote 2,000 songs in three years after graduating from Georgetown University, but that's not right.
It was more like five years, he tells Taste of Country as a kind of passover during a larger conversation about his new Cross Country album and journey to Nashville. We did the math for you — 2,000 songs in 1,825 days equals 1.1 song per day, every day, for half a decade. This is all to say, Breland definitely put in his time by the time "My Truck" went viral in 2019. Sam Hunt amplified the track with a hot remix, and it led to the young singer (Full name: Daniel Breland) signing his record deal with Atlantic Records.
"Yeah, there’s a little pressure from people, but I don’t feel that pressure," he says when asked about expectations to do it again. "I believe in my pen. I believe in the work that I’ve put in. I’m not just gonna be like a flash-in-the-pan, come with one record type of guy."
"I’m a Cancer, bro, so I love hard. I get heartbroken all the time. Even if I’m the one who breaks up with you, I’ll be the one that’s heartbroken in the end."
Cross Country is a place-setter of an album that will allow Breland to sprout in just about any direction he likes. Fans will find nods to '90s country, early 2000s country, pop, hip-hop, trap and soul. He sings about what he knows and what he loves with no boundaries. The infectious "Thick" name-checks a half-dozen pop stars between a chorus that goes:
"Everybody know I like 'em thick, thick, thick, thick / Thicker than some salt and pepper grits, grits, grits, grits."
A new collaboration with Ingrid Andress ("Here for It") joins tracks with Keith Urban ("Throw It back"), Lady A, ("Told You I Could Drink") Mickey Guyton ("Cross Country") and Thomas Rhett ("Praise the Lord") that were previously released. These weren't happy accidents or opportunistic pairings planned to sell records — Breland writes songs with certain artists in mind and then waits weeks, months or even years for the chance to make his pitch. Jack Harlow, Kane Brown, Dolly Parton and Drake are on his to-do list. And, he has a Drake folder on his computer that's full of songs to pitch to the international superstar.
"You have to be ready so you don't have to get ready," he says, talking to Taste of Country Nights' Evan Paul. "Praise the Lord" was in my Thomas Rhett folder before I ever met him. I didn't know him at the time, and it took us months to finally get it to him, but when the opportunity arose, I was like, 'I have the perfect song for us.'"
Taste of Country: "My Truck" is your biggest hit to date. When you finished it, did you know?
Breland: I didn’t know it was going to be that big, but I knew it was catchy. I know when you have something that’s that catchy, there’s a chance that it could go. I put it out independently and it started to just go viral, completely grassroots.
I didn’t anticipate it, but I’m incredibly grateful for it.
What constitutes a "hit" nowadays in country music?
I think it’s gotta chart in some capacity. I would say that one is a hit because it went Platinum. “Throw It Back” went Gold, “Beers on Me” (with Dierks Bentley and Hardy) went Gold and went No. 1. I would say those three are safely hits. “Praise the Lord” could get to hit status. I think we’re almost Gold or could be Gold right now. I think it has to have some kind of certification or something has to happen for it to be called a "hit."
"I believe in my pen. I believe in the work that I’ve put in. I’m not just gonna be like a flash-in-the-pan, come with one record type of guy."
Who was the first artist to go out of their way to welcome you to country music and Nashville?
We got Sam Hunt on the “My Truck” remix. That was a big cosign. But the one that was really running around singing my praises early on was Keith (Urban). We made a bunch of music together. He brought me out to Australia. We kicked it for a couple weeks, and like, that’s the homie. For me to move to Nashville — I wasn’t even living in Nashville at the time — for him to just be getting my name out there to people ... to feature my on his project, hop on one of my songs, that relationship is so important and so integral to why I’m even in town.
You have a song called "Happy Song" on this album but it’s, ironically, the saddest song on —
Probably the saddest song on the album. It’s the song that has the least redemption because “For What It’s Worth” and “Good for You” are sad, but they’re at least resolute.
Tell me about your worst heartbreak.
They know exactly who they are. They’re out there. I’m a Cancer, bro, so I love hard. I get heartbroken all the time. Even if I’m the one who breaks up with you, I’ll be the one that’s heartbroken in the end.
Which song from the album is so personal it almost didn’t make the album?
Honestly, maybe “Growing Pains,” even though it’s kind of a light, uptempo-type song. The message of it is real. I’ve been on this journey of trying to find balance, of trying to be intentional about what I say and what I believe and just be good energy. I feel like for awhile, I wasn’t able to really tap into that because I was so caught up in whether or not I was getting good news.
You can’t just be that person all the time at the mercy of whatever news you’re receiving. You have to set some boundaries around your career and your personal life, and you have to set the tone each day for what the day is going to look like regardless of what happens. That’s what “Growing Pains” is about.
Let’s talk about "Thick."
Let’s talk about it (laughs and sings the chorus).
We got Lizzo, Ashley Graham, Megan Thee Stallion and Kelly Clarkson?
It is (laughs). It is Kelly Clarkson. What’s up Kelly, how you feeling? Holla at me.
Serena, of course. It’s a good list.
How do you tell a girl she's thick without getting in trouble?
You gotta be really charming about it.
So tell Kelly Clarkson she's thick.
I would be like this: "Kelly, God spent extra time making you. And you make me love God."
Ooh, dang! That’s deep