Country newcomer BRELAND (real name Daniel Breland) showcases his unique brand of music with his debut album, Cross country, available today. The project mixes country, hip-hop, R&B, gospel and pop for a memorable sound that the singer describes as “cross country”.
“I want people to feel like there’s something out there for them, no matter what kind of music you grew up listening to or generally listen to,” BRELAND tells me. “We have something here for everyone and I think being able to do that while rooting it in country music is really powerful and lends itself to some of the compositions that I’ve been able to lay out on the project.
“The goal is for everyone to have something they can vibe on, but I also wanted it to be a joyful project and one that feels lighthearted and hopefully energizes people and inspires them.”
Cross country contains 14 tracks, all co-written by BRELAND. Five of the songs are collaborations, with Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, Lady A, Mickey Guyton and Ingrid Andress. The singer has built his career on collaboration, including the breakthrough 2019 hit “My Truck” with Sam Hunt and his first CMA nomination “Beers On Me” with Dierks Bentley and HARDY.
BRELAND says he didn’t want his first project to be heavy on collaboration because it’s his first real opportunity to share his stories and express himself through songs.
“There are a few collaborations I’ve done that didn’t make it into the project, not that I don’t like those songs, they just didn’t fit as clearly with my overall sonic and creative vision of the album,” he said. Explain. “I’m really grateful for each of the feature films that are on the project and all the other feature films that I have coming up and the people whose songs I’ve pitched. … All of these songs have been great opportunities for me to tell other stories and express myself in different ways as well.
Originally from New Jersey, BRELAND grew up writing songs. He remembers creating jingles from the age of four, but says it wasn’t until his early teens that he wrote his first song. While attending Georgetown University, BRELAND began to take music more seriously. He wrote one song a day and estimates it took 1,000 songs before another artist recorded his music.
In 2018, BRELAND moved to Atlanta, where a few other artists recorded his songs. As of 2019, he had 12 releases on major labels, prompting the songwriter to give his artistry a chance. He released “My Truck” later that year and the song quickly went viral and became his first record certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 2020 he moved to Nashville. Over the next two years, the singer performed at nearly every country music award show and earned his first No. 1 radio single with “Beers On Me.” While his first year at Music City was a whirlwind, BRELAND says he now makes sure to take the time to process and appreciate every success and failure along the way.
“In November of last year things slowed down a bit,” he says. “I hadn’t really had time to process anything and I was like, ‘OK, there’s gotta be a better way for me to go through life.’ I want to be more present. I want to be more actively grateful and I want to be more intentional with the words I use to describe what is happening. At the beginning of this year, this was a very high priority for me.
These lessons can be heard throughout Cross country. On the “Growing Pains” reflection, BRELAND sings, “I’ve been working on the words I choose and the way I see myself / ‘Cause if you can’t see the good in you, then how can someone could anyone else do it?”
“It’s very pop,” he says of the song. “It’s funny, but it has a real message. I talk about all the things I tell myself, just recognizing that growth isn’t always a linear process.
The opening track “Here For It” with Andress also evokes these achievements. A song about being a good friend and an active participant in someone’s life, “Here For It” is a song of friendship BRELAND says the details are more present for the people in his life and the moments that matter.
Previously released “Natural” takes its hat off to “Man!” by Shania Twain. I feel like a woman!” While not a straight interpolation, BRELAND credits original songwriters Twain and Robert John “Mutt” Lange with writing credit on the track.
“What she’s accomplished and where she’s come from and the doors she’s opened to country music and women in country music around the world, it’s just a great story,” BRELAND says of Twains. “Having the chance to watch the documentary about her was also an eye opener for me.”
BRELAND is no stranger to championing women and the need for greater inclusion in the country genre. He discussed the overthrow of Roe V. Wade earlier this year on social media and shared a thoughtful op-ed about Morgan Wallen’s cancellation for CMT.
“I talk about things because I have a platform to be able to do it and I think I have a unique perspective to be able to do it,” he explains. “I’ve certainly used my platform to talk about a lot of the issues that have come up and I’ve done that in my music as well.
“This project is not necessarily political, but it is political in the sense that I am me. I’m a black guy in country music, and I’m combining a lot of different genres and doing a project that’s not traditionally country and I know how that might be received by some more traditional country listeners. I hope I build bridges…and provide a doorway for people. I think when you do that and give some common ground musically, it opens the door to some of those kinds of conversations that I helped initiate, whether it’s on social media or in real life.
by BRELAND Cross country the album is out now.