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5 Ways Zach Bryan’s Career Exploded in 2022

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Zach Bryan’s distinct brand of red-dirt poetry and vivid, rich songcraft — as well as his earnest, no-frills delivery — has made him one of the hottest music newcomers of the year.

Though Bryan first caught some listeners’ attention with his self-released 2019 album DeAnn (named after his mother, who died in 2016), this Oklahoma native and Navy veteran has seen his career surge in 2022 through streaming and live performances.

This year, his RIAA platinum-certified hit “Something in the Orange” rose to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Rock and Alternative Songs and Hot Country Songs chart and is climbing the Country Airplay chart. In his nascent career, Bryan has already earned 2.45 billion on-demand U.S. streams, according to Luminate.

In 2022, he inked a deal with Warner Records (through his own Belting Bronco label), and released a double-punch of projects, with the massive, 34-track album American Heartbreak and then the EP Summertime Blues. He also headlined the American Heartbreak tour, and is already slated to headline several festivals in 2023 — including Kentucky’s Railbird Festival, Wisconsin’s Summerfest, and Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout.

Below, Billboard looks at five ways Zach Bryan’s career soared in 2022.

A Victory Lap on the Top Country Albums Chart

In June, Bryan’s American Heartbreak debuted at No. 1 on Top Country Albums and at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart—without the benefit of massive radio airplay (though his breakthrough single “Something in the Orange” has since been serviced to country radio, and currently ranks at No. 33 on Country Airplay after spending nine weeks atop Country Streaming Songs. In October, “Something in the Orange” was certified platinum by the RIAA, followed by “Heading South” reaching platinum status in November.

American Heartbreak lands at No. 8 on Billboard’s Year-End Top Country Albums chart, alongside sets from Morgan Wallen, Chris Stapleton and Luke Combs, while currently holding at No. 2 on the weekly chart, just behind Wallen’s dominant Dangerous: The Double Album.

Key Performances at Stagecoach and Red Rocks

In May, Bryan performed at California’s Stagecoach Festival, with a show on the secondary Palomino stage. Fans flocked to the performance, singing every word and filling the venue with an electric energy and artist-fan connection more than worthy of a mainstage performance.

A few months later, Bryan had a snowy (and fiery) performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater on Nov. 3, when diehard fans faced frigid temps at the famed outdoor Colorado venue to see Bryan’s final show on his American Heartbreak tour — making songs such as Bryan’s “November Air” all the more poignant.

Dominating Billboard’s Top Country Songwriters Chart

Bryan spent 25 weeks at the pinnacle of the Country Songwriters chart, a testament to his work as the sole writer on “Something in the Orange,” as well as heavy streamers “Heading South” and “Burn, Burn, Burn.”

That trajectory helped place Bryan’s own Zach Lane Bryan Publishing Designee at No. 8 on Billboard’s Year-End Hot Country Songs Publishers, not far behind powerhouses including Warner-Tamerlane, Sony Tree Publishing, Big Loud Mountain and Songs of Universal. Bryan also lands at No. 2 on the Year-End Hot Country Songwriters chart, behind songwriting kingpin Ashley Gorley.

“Songwriting is such a massive part of this,” Bryan told the New York Times earlier this year. “If you’re missing out on it, what the hell are you doing? You’re just performing. You’re an actor.”

His First Grammy Nomination

Bryan found himself among country heavyweights in November when he received his first Grammy nomination. At the Feb. 5 ceremony, “Something in the Orange” will vie for best country solo performance with tunes by Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert and Willie Nelson.

After learning of his nod from the Recording Academy, Bryan shared with his followers on social media, “thank you for the Grammy nomination. I’m truly thankful and didn’t deserve a sold-out tour or to be successful at all.”

The Grammy nod followed a controversial moment earlier this year, when Bryan was not among those nominated for this year’s CMA Awards, prompting Bryan to later comment that he “will never want to be considered at the CMAs.” He later clarified his comments, saying, “To be clear, I’m not trying to insult the validity of a CMA, I respect any artist who receives one and the existence of them; I’m just saying on a personal level it is not one of my priorities to have awards on a shelf in my home. There’s room for more important things there.”

A Strong Year-End Finish

Bryan ends 2022 on a career high note, landing on multiple genres’ year-end charts. He ranks at No. 2 on Billboard’s all-genre Year-End Top New Artists chart. He also tops the Top New Country Artists and Top New Rock & Alternative Artists charts.

He also lands at No. 5 on Billboard’s 2022 Top Country Artists chart, behind more established hitmakers Wallen, Combs, Walker Hayes and Stapleton. Three of Bryan’s songs — “Something in the Orange,” “Oklahoma Smoke Show,” and “From Austin” — land on the Year-End Hot Country Songs rankings, while Bryan himself ends up at No. 3 on the Year-End Top Rock & Alternative Songs Artists chart.

His multi-genre success is a testament to the range of music he admires. He told The New York Times that he listens to artists ranging from Turnpike Troubadours to Radiohead and Gregory Alan Isakov, and that his fans should understand that he can’t be pigeonholed: “I want to be in that Springsteen, Kings of Leon, Ed Sheeran-at-the-very-beginning space.”

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