10 Questions with ... Chase Bryant
September 28, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Chase Bryant is a Texas native, born and raised in the tiny town of Orange Grove. His grandfather played piano for Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings; his uncles formed the 1990s Country group Ricochet. Bryant sites Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Tom Petty, Vince Gill, Bryan Adams, and many others as musical influences, drawing from multiple genres to create his unique sound. Songwriting is an integral part of Bryant's career path, and because of his Roy Orbison connection, it was suggested early in his career that he meet with Orbison's widow, the late Barbara Orbison. Barbara was a prominent Nashville publisher and signed Bryant on the spot, making him her final signing before she passed away. Bryant signed with Red Bow in August of 2013, and his debut single, "Take It On Back," is taking radio by storm.
1. Chase, thank you for taking time to talk with All Access Nashville today. You were born and raised in Orange Grove, Texas. As a small town guy, I imagine there wasn't a lot of access to studio time. I know you co-produced your own album, so can you tell us a bit about how you learned to produce music?
I remember, I went to Guitar Center one Saturday with my dad. I was looking at guitars, and I had a yearning to go find a recording system so I could record at the house. All these guys were making these little multi-track recorders. I bought a Q Base, and I bought a cheap pure microphone, and I started recording at my house. That's the first time I got in to producing stuff. I had a little keyboard, and I'd do some synth stuff, add in fake base, and the whole nine yards. I would record that, and then I started getting addicted to sounds. Now I'm a gear freak.
2. Your grandfather played piano for Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings; your uncles co-founded the group Ricochet. Music seems to be in your bloodline! Most kids grow up playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians instead of guitar riffs. Was there ever a time you considered another career path?
No. Never. I did play drums when I was a kid, and my first insight into being a musician was that I wanted to be a lead singer and a B-3 organ player. I wanted to be the first Country guy to really play hard on like a Michael McDonald B-3. That would have been the only change. I always wanted to be a Country music singer.
3. There was a photo on your Instagram recently of you and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. I also read that you dream of dueting with Tom Petty, and thought you were Jerry Lee Lewis as a child, yet your music is very clearly mainstream Country. How have other genres influenced you as a writer, producer, and artist?
I grew up listening to more Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Radney Foster, Jack Ingram type stuff, and that was where I began learning to be a songwriter. That was all from the Country world; from Lyle Lovett and different artists who were songwriters in the Country music world. However, when I heard Rock guitar that was like where it was at for me - the distorted guitar sounds. So when you listen to "Take It On Back," there are a lot of those influences from Mike Campbell and Lindsey Buckingham, the older guitar with the messier guitar sounds. As far as the blues, I watched Jerry Lee Lewis perform, and that's why I wanted to be a performer. I'd watch him just go nuts on stage. It was like a circus. The songwriting came from Country music, the performance came from blues, and the guitar playing came from rock. But Country music is where it all came back to, as a songwriter and a singer, that's where I wanted to live.
4. You just made your Opry debut (8/22)! Congratulations! How would you sum up the experience?
I don't even know how to explain it. It's like when you walk in the backstage doors that is when you realize it's real. People told me that. AT&T Uverse shot footage of us going in backstage, and that should have told me it was real, but it didn't. It wasn't real until I walked in backstage and there were people going on a tour of the Opry as I was going in to my dressing room. You're never a real Country musician until you're baptized in the Opry. Stepping in The Circle is like being washed in water. That's what did it for me. I could not force myself to step in it until I sang a note. So when I was putting my gear up, I'd walk around it. I wouldn't go near it, because I knew I was standing in the footsteps of my fathers. I think it's just like being baptized again. I wasn't nervous until I saw Vince Gill watching beside the stage, and somebody said he was playing guitar and singing along with the second chorus. They shouldn't have told me that! That made me nervous. But then I had to sit on a stool by myself and sing to 4,000 people. I never get nervous, but I do remember shaking a little in the beginning of "Change Your Name." I lost the nerves quickly, though, because this is what I've been waiting to do my whole life.
5. Every good writer has a pool of knowledge and life experience working in their favor to help them write great Country songs with mass appeal. You're a pretty young guy, Chase. Where has the inspiration come for you on your debut record?
HaHa! Getting your heart broken a couple of times will do it for you. I spend a lot of time at a coffee shop, just sitting and looking and observing. When I moved to town, I had a girlfriend I was dating in Texas, and not to get mushy, but I was thinking things were going to last long distance, but it didn't. So a lot of these songs came out of that. A lot of it, too, is when I moved to town, I stopped trying to think about what was going to be a hit and started trying to think about what would be my voice and my identity. I don't think you have to wear a cowboy hat to do Country music, I think you just have to tell the truth. For me, it's just about living life, being happy, and taking everything day by day. That can be me writing about being out hunting or fishing, or getting my heart broken, or being in a coffee shop and having someone tell you their best stories about life. I'm always writing things down. Someone asked me one time what my greatest inspiration for writing is, and it's a pen and paper. I always write on paper, I've never written a lyric on a computer or anything else. Sometimes, you just open a pad of paper, and find inspiration there. I live in the moment, and I write it all down. Heartbreaks, coffee shops, and real life.
6. After graduating high school early, you headed to LA to write and play music. I'm quoting you directly here when I say, "I probably wrote 400 lousy songs before I wrote my first good one." Can you tell us about the first song you wrote was that made you say, "Yeah. This is it. I've really got something here!"
It was a song called "In Heaven's Time." I was sitting in an airport, and I was really mad at myself, because I had written a lot of bad songs. I was ready to get home, relax, and stop thinking about what everyone else was doing and start focusing on what I was doing. I remember telling my song plugger that day that I was leaving town, and he told me, "Don't try to do what everyone else is doing. Try to write something that people would want to hear from you, from your point of view." So, I was in the airport, headed home to Texas, and there was a lady who had just found out that she was terminally ill with cancer. Her daughter had no clue, but she told her daughter it would all be fine in Heaven's time. And I just started writing these things down and trying to think about what I would say if it were me in that situation. I just wrote it down on paper, and that was the first really good song I wrote. Now, when I'm writing, I just step back and open up my ears. Just live a little bit and write down what comes to my mind and my heart and write what I need to say about everything.
7. You collect guitars. How many do you have, do you have a favorite, and is there a prized piece that you hope to someday own? How old is your oldest guitar?
Oh, yeah, I'm a collector. I probably own around twenty now. But I own a lot of amplifiers and pedals and old gear, too. My favorite is my pink Telecaster that I play the most. I used to draw the Guitar Center catalogue on the back of all of my math tests. I would draw this Chase Bryant signature guitar - I thought it would be a Fender back then, but it's a Telecaster - and my math teacher came up to me and pointed at the back of my math test and said, "THAT is not going to get you anywhere." But, that guitar, my Chase Bryant Pink Telecaster, has gotten me everywhere. I play it the most, and it's absolutely my favorite. The color is based around Elvis Presley's pink Cadillac. I'm a huge Elvis fan. My oldest guitar is a 1930s Kay Acoustic. I haven't set it up yet, because I'm afraid to ruin it, but it's hanging up on my wall. I've got some old 1970s Fender Stratocasters and stuff like that, too. I'm hoping to start buying some older guitars soon, too. I think one of the pieces I'd really like to own is a really great Gibson SG. There are people's gear I'd like to own, too, like Billy Gibbons' personal stuff.
8. "Take It On Back" is your debut single, and it is earning you a lot of praise and a buzz about town. Where were you the first time you heard "Take It On Back" on the radio? How did you feel in that moment?
I was in Phoenix, and I was sitting back texting my girlfriend and wasn't even really paying attention, but the song caught my attention on the radio, and I said, "Hey, that's a cool song. This is really cool, man! Who is this?" And a buddy of mine was like, "Dude! Wake up!" I said, "Oh my God! That's it! That's my song!" So, it was crazy. I didn't even really recognize it, because I wasn't paying attention, but it was a cool moment. I keep trying to catch it on the Clear Channel On The Verge segment, but I haven't heard it yet. Everyone keeps telling me they're hearing it all the time, but I have only caught the end!
9. We've talked a bit about your influences and the people you are a fan of in multiple genres. You're heading out on tour with Brantley Gilbert and Aaron Lewis, but, in regards to today's artists, who else would you most like to go out on tour with in the future, and which of their songs would you want to be called up on stage to duet?
I'd love to go out with Keith Urban at some point, for sure. He's been a huge influence of mine, and I would love that opportunity. I'm such a fan. I'd probably want to go up and play and sing with him on "Stupid Boy," but he would just rip me to shreds playing guitar on that! I would also enjoy going out with Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. Or Eric Church. There are a lot of great artists out there that I'd love to play with!
10. At 21, you're a young man with an old soul, where music is concerned. Twenty-one is a milestone year! Look in to the future for a moment. Where do you hope to be in your career on your 30th birthday?
That's a great question! I'd want to just be on a lake somewhere bass fishing after a great tour. I'd want to be able to afford to take some downtime hunting or fishing with my dad. We've been trying to catch a really great trophy bass for my dad to mount and hang. So I'd want to be at a place in my career where I could afford to take the time and money to devote to spending that time on a lake bass fishing with my dad to celebrate.
1. You have called Texas, California, and Tennessee home. Talk about a culture shock from one place to the next! If I were taking a Chase Bryant whirlwind tour, tell me the #1 spot I'd need to visit in Orange Grove, LA, and Nashville to see where you draw your musical inspirations.
In Orange Grove, you definitely would need to head down to Lake Corpus Christi. We had a ski boat in high school that me and my buddies used to take out and meet girls and just hang out. And you'd need to grab dinner at Las Milpas Mexican Restaurant in Orange Grove, because they have The Chase Plate, which is three cheese enchiladas, carne asada, rice, beans, guacamole, and two flour tortillas.
In Los Angeles, there's a place called Bobby's Coffee Shop in the Woodland Hill area. I spent a lot of time there, and I got a lot of inspiration and great ideas from spending time there watching and listening to people. I lived right behind there.
In Nashville, I'd have to say that you'd need to start in Franklin and drive I-65 all the way to downtown. If you could get on I-65 and just drive up and down, I've spent a lot of time on that road just driving back and forth. That's probably where I've spent the most time, either by myself or with friends, just driving. And that's where I first found out that I loved this city.
2. You've traveled a lot lately on radio tour and are now embarking on the Let It Ride Tour with Brantley Gilbert. Give me the five best road trip songs currently on your iPod.
"I'm Gonna Getcha Good" by Shania Twain, "Run To You" by Bryan Adams, "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, "Chocolate" by The 1975, and "Stars Go Blue" by Ryan Adams.
3. You are a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Can you say one nice thing about the Washington Redskins?
My mom went to school with Darrell Green...? That's positive, right?