Bailey Zimmerman Reflects On His Rapid Rise To Fame: ‘This Is Not Supposed To Be Real’

Zimmerman admits to feeling like he’s “awake in a dream” as his career continues to flourish.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

April 4, 2024


10:48 am

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Bailey Zimmerman; Photo Provided

Bailey Zimmerman became a viral sensation overnight after he started sharing snippets of himself singing on social media in 2020, which then prompted him to quit his blue-collar job and move to Nashville. Considering how quickly he rose to fame within the country music industry, Zimmerman admits he still finds it difficult to comprehend that this is his reality.  

“There’s this thing, it’s called awake in a dream… This is not supposed to be real,” he told CBS Mornings’ Jan Crawford during an interview that took place backstage at his recent show at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

Bailey Zimmerman; Photo by Isaac Mason, AJ Astle
Bailey Zimmerman; Photo by Isaac Mason, AJ Astle

From Blue Collar Worker To Chart-Topping Star

He went from laying gas pipelines in West Virginia to racking up three consecutive Multi-Platinum, No. 1 country radio singles with “Religiously,” “Fall in Love” and “Rock And A Hard Place.” On top of that, the 24-year-old has performed with some of the biggest names in the business and earned the biggest streaming country debut of all time with his first project, Religiously. The Album.

Fans quickly took a liking to his unique sound and authentic presence, but the “Where It Ends” singer says he didn’t even realize he had true talent until his viral moment. 

“I was like, I can keep a tune with the radio, but I didn’t think it was good. I just was like, yeah, I guess I can sing. I don’t know.”

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Zimmerman’s Approach To Making Music Is Simple

When asked why he believes his music is resonating so well with country fans, Zimmerman humbly said, “I ask that every day. I don’t know.”

He went on to explain that his approach is to simply write songs that fuel his passion or cut songs written by other artists that “send chills up my back,” because he knows that his fans will likely have the same reaction. The Illinois native felt that excitement when he first heard his chart-dominating track, “Rock And A Hard Place.” 

“I was like, that’s it. Holy cow.”

The song written by Heath Warren, Jacob Hackworth, and Jet Hervey spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1 and became his first Top 10 hit on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart. On top of all that, it also went No. 1 on the Country Aircheck/Mediabase chart, making it the most-played record across the country in one single week since the Mediabase chart’s inception.

Bialey Zimmerman; Photo by AJ Astle
Bialey Zimmerman; Photo by AJ Astle

Staying True To Himself

Zimmerman may seem like he’s unlocked the secret recipe to making it big in the business, however, he was quick to admit, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“You have to take advice, but you also have to know where you’re at inside and know who you are and go, ‘this is who I am,’” he added. 

On the outside, the breakout star doesn’t have the typical country star appearance as he chooses to wear baseball caps instead of cowboy hats and sneakers instead of boots. That doesn’t mean that his country roots don’t run deep though. 

“I have more country in my pinky than almost I’d say 90% of the world,” Zimmerman declared. “I’m in the top 10. I can do some country stuff… I don’t dress country and I guess my guitars aren’t that country sometimes. My music isn’t always country…It feels like country music is like embracing me and accepting me and it’s cool and now I’ve got a CMT nom and big songs and sold-out stuff. It’s such a blessing. It’s so cool.”

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CMT Award Nominee

This weekend, Bailey Zimmerman will take a break from his sold-out headlining tour to visit in Austin, Texas for the 2024 CMT Music Awards.

He is going into this year’s awards show as a nominee in the category of Male Video of the Year for “Religiously.” In addition to his nomination, he has been tapped to perform his current single, “Where It Ends” on the Moody Center stage. 

The 2024 CMT Music Awards will be hosted by Kelsea Ballerini and will air live from the Moody Center in Austin, Texas on Sunday, April 7 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS. The show will also be available to stream live and on-demand on Paramount+.  

On Tour In 2024

Zimmerman will return to his headline run on April 12 and April 13 for back-to-back shows in Texas and continue through May 20. In the midst of RELIGIOUSLY. THE TOUR., Zimmerman will also serve as an opener on multiple stadium tours including Morgan Wallen’s One Night At A Time World Tour and select dates of Luke Bryan’s Mind Of A Country Boy Tour.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.