Nashville newcomer Breland is making waves with his music, which he calls “cross country.” His introduction into the industry was his debut single “My Truck,” which combines the genres of country and hip-hop. When it comes to country music, the line is no longer drawn at the southern twang song that features the small-town-life story. Breland has had quite an impact on the changes in the genre as he tries to build more bridges and welcome everyone and anyone to listen to his music.
He sat down with co-hosts Kelly Sutton and Amber Anderson as a guest on Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast to discuss the influence of gospel music in his life and his intentions when it comes to creating new music and breaking down the norms.
“Gospel music is is so soulful,” Breland began. “And I would say it’s probably the closest connected to the source of a lot of modern music in that way, like, feel like negro spirituals are the source of like, blues country, rock, when you got to go back far enough. Even a lot of jazz music in America is rooted in that and gospel is only one step removed and lies other genres have evolved out over time. So it’s kind of like when you see a crocodile. And you’re like, that’s a real dinosaur. You know what I mean? That’s how I feel about gospel music: crocodiles are real dinosaurs.”
Many country artists have started to fuse their music with pop, hip-hop, rock and more, creating a fluid, undefined sound. Instead of putting himself in a limited box, and only creating music to specific standards, Breland has chosen to label his musical creations as “cross country.” He also turned this unique term into a single, featuring fellow country music powerhouse Mickey Guyton.
“Cross country, to me, is an amalgamation of all the genres of music that I love. And in that way it is not a genre of music at all. It’s just music,” he explained. “I’m trying to create music without borders. And so there obviously is a country element to it that I think is really important, and pivotal to the sound and the audience that I’m trying to reach primarily. But I also think that country music is such a segmented genre, and that there are a lot of people that feel like they can’t listen to country music or that country music doesn’t include them or that country music isn’t marketed to them or whatever their thing is. There are a lot of barriers, but I’m like, there’s some incredible music in here that people need to feel like they can be a part of.
Using hip-hip and r&b music as an example of genres that intermix often, Breland hopes to do the same with country music, which he feels has been isolated on its own for far too long.
“I want to make music that solves that problem. You know, and I want to be a unifier between cultures, to be able to have music that has a diverse audience of people from all different backgrounds and different music interests. You know, me being a black person in country speaks to that but also the actual sonics of what I’m doing I think do that even more.”
As a featured singer on Dierks Bentley’s single “Beers On Me,” Breland was invited to join the lineup on the first leg of Bentley’s Beers On Me Tour, with Riley Green and Parker McCollum. Stepping out of his comfort zone for this tour, he may not have fallen into the same category of country music as these artists, but he did bring the energy and the positive mindset to the stage.
“I feel like I was received pretty well given the difference in sound…I also think that people regardless of what type of music you typically listen to respond to energy,” he shared. “So I figured out very quickly that it doesn’t really matter whether they know any of my music, or whether they even like any of my music, I want them to leave there liking Breland the artist and Breland the person. And the rest of it will shake itself out.”
This week, Breland received the exciting news that he was named Breakthrough Artist for Amazon Music. This means he will gain some extra support through marketing campaigns, increased playlist visibility, high-profile Amazon Original tracks and more.
“I’m a big fan of Amazon. My music streams really well on Amazon. I’ve been on prime for some years. I was on Prime even when I was broke! I may not eat a meal on Thursday but I will pay for prime,” he joked. “To be recognized by a company that I already rock with. I rock with Amazon as a company and as a streaming platform. So to have that stamp of approval from them yeah it means a lot.”
The Breakthrough Artist will perform on March 7 during the upcoming Academy of Country Music’s 57th Award show for the first time. Other performers of the night include Kelsea Ballerina, Thomas Rhett, Walker Hayes, and more.