Today we’re excited to introduce you to Aaron Bryan. Aaron is a singer, songwriter and is also a content partner. Content partners help Voyage in so many ways from spreading the word about the work that we do, sponsoring our mission and collaborating with us on content like this. Check out our conversation with Aaron below.
Aaron, thank you so much for joining us again. We’d love to dive into your story, your work and more but maybe you can start by briefly introducing yourself to our readers.
My name is Aaron Bryan and I’m a country music singer-songwriter, I just released my work tape album “Southern Comfort”. It’s available on any and all streaming services, internationally as well! And on this album you’ll find 12 songs written by me, about my life and of course about boys.
In the singer/songwriter world, these songs are called “work tapes”, no fancy studio gimmicks, no expensive studio time, no sound engineers or producers of any kind. These songs are just me and my guitar, up against the world.
These are songs are about love, falling in love, heartbreak, knowing you were the best someone ever had, saying goodbye as painful as it is, realizing that family is who you choose, rediscovering who you are, meeting someone that smittens you right on the spot, thanking your dad for being there for you, a school boy crush, breaking up and then finding love again.
I hope you see yourselves in my songs and tie them back to people in your life, because I think that’s magical and can tell you that every song is tied to someone in my life. Some of these people aren’t in my life anymore, but that’s okay, because songs were written about them and that’s all I really know how to do.
If you decide to listen to my music, thank you. It really does mean the world to me. If we ever see each other in person, I want to personally thank you. And be sure to check out my social media pages which I’ll be sharing at the end of the interview, so we can get to connecting.
Now that you’ve come this far in your musical journey, what advice would you give to singer/songwriters that are starting out?
There’s so many things I can say, so I’ll try to cover the most important ones that I learned along the way.
For sure, learn to play a leading instrument like the guitar or piano. Because that ensures that you’ll be able to carry the lead and rhythm. I’d say get into music lessons if you’re able to, if not, you can always teach yourself like I did! I started with a chord book and it brought me here.
Learn to write your own material, I’m not saying you need to write a hit right out the gate. But if you’re wondering “well I’ve never written a song before and I don’t know where to start”, I thought the same thing too. So just write something down everyday, it doesn’t need to take any proper form or rhyme scheme. Just write it down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written down song ideas and over time kept adding lyrics. Eventually, when you get to the arrangement and editing, you’ll be able to rearrange everything and make it flow with a solid cadence. Like for instance, I’ve sometimes thought I had the first verse down for a song and it ended up becoming the bridge. So really anything is possible. I learned a lot by studying song structure on ultimate-guitar.com and by reading lyrics of my favorite artist, so you can try that!
Be ready for a slow build, unless you happen to go rival at some point in time or have the financial means and connections in the industry. If you look at my SoundCloud profile, I’ve racked up thousands of plays. But it wasn’t something that happened over night, it definitely took it’s time. I had to learn what listeners did and didn’t respond to and I’m very thankful for the plays and downloads, because there was a time when nobody cared about what I had to say. Also don’t check your stats everyday, it’ll drive you crazy. I used to do that and it was driving me mad, so check it every few weeks or at whatever periodical interval you feel is good for you.
Last, but not least and the most important of them all. You need to know that you’re a good musician, that you’re unstoppable and that you have exactly what it takes to succeed in the music industry. I know this won’t be an immediate confidence that you’ll have right away, because for myself it took quite some time.
You need to know that you’re talented, because that knowingness will carry you through your toughest times. The rejections, the losses, the scrapped projects and the times you did your best, but you didn’t make it past the preliminary round. If you’re questioning, “do I have what it takes?”, that’s when you embrace whatever is that makes you different from other musicians in the industry that are competing for the same spot. For me, it’s a few things. The first one being that it’s my songwriting, my storytelling. Secondly, my personality and charisma. And thirdly, my aesthetic. I know that I look different from most, if not all, country music recording artists, but that’s what sets me apart. I 100% intend on using all of these traits to my advantage. So think about what those differential traits are for you, embrace them and let them be your path to success.
For singers out there that want to start writing their own songs, what could you tell them about your experience?
I could tell them that I wasn’t born a songwriter, it was something I had to become. You can’t expect yourself to know everything right away and just start to write songs that are radio ready on your first 100 tries. It takes a while, but it’s the best journey you’ll take yourself on. So keep trying and never give up, I promise that you’ll get exactly where you want to be and you’ll be proud of how far you’ve come.
When it comes to the labor of the songwriting, you’ll eventually realize that there are two ways ideas come to you, some will strike you like lighting and you’ll have a song written in several minutes. That’s how I wrote “I Can’t”, it just flowed out of me like water. When the time came to record it, I barely made any changes and it turned out exactly as I wanted it to. The other way an idea comes, is when that creative spark doesn’t show up and it becomes disciplinary work that makes you sit down with your instrument for several hours to pull a song out of that songwriting session. But regardless of which way the idea comes, the end result is always something to be proud of and is always worth it in the end. And I know that you’ll eventually see that writing your own songs is a really good way to connect to your fans, because it’s the one place that singers (that aren’t songwriters) can’t touch.
Lastly, if you’ve been struggling to finish a song. Please for the love of all things songwriting, don’t scrap it. Just hold on to the idea and let your mind be free of it, then like magic the rest of the song will come to you on a random day when you’re not even remotely thinking about it. That’s how “You, Me & New Orleans” and “Old Texas” were written, they both took a really long time. I kept revisiting each one trying to figure out where I wanted the songs to go. Eventually, I just left them on the drawing board and forgot about the creative block I had been feeling. Then on a random day, the melodies came flowing into my mind. I wasn’t in any particular place or really doing anything special, just living my everyday life when that moment came. So I went back to the drawing board, picked up the songs and finished them.
We know the music industry can be tough, what would you say to someone that is trying to get to where you are and is facing setbacks?
I would say that setbacks are a part of the journey and try your best to think of them as the Universe redirecting you and pushing in the right direction. Take on the thought process that the setbacks are happening for you, not against you. It’ll really change your perspective.
I had met with a producer when I was younger, he really knew his stuff and had worked with a lot of artists. When I played one of my songs for him, he then showed me his take on it and it was completely different from what I had imagined and it wasn’t in the direction that I was planning to go. So I told him I wasn’t going to work with him, because we clearly had different visions for my music. It was hard for me to walk away, but I had to, for the sake of my music and my future. At the time that this was all happening, I took it really hard and it broke my heart a little bit. But looking back now, it was the right decision. I’m really happy that it happened the way it did and that I was strong enough to walk away from it.
So one thing that singer/songwriters think about, or some worry about, is their play count, the number of followers/fans they do or don’t have, the position their song could take on a chart, do you worry about those kinds of things and how do you address them yourself?
What’s funny about this question is that for a while it felt like that was all I used to worry about, I was driving myself crazy. I was gaining plays, song downloads, profile visits, new followers/fans, but not the way I had been wanting it to happen. I wanted it to happen faster, because I needed that visual affirmation that my numbers were growing. I meditated on it for a really long time, because I knew my music was good, I knew I was a great songwriter. I knew my music was sonically cohesive, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint how to get the numbers I wanted. So I asked the Universe to give me something to go off of, because at that point it felt like I didn’t have much else.
Then the moment came, the moment I had been waiting for. It came several months after I relocated back to Dallas, after living in New Orleans for a few years (there’s an album written about that *wink wink*). I had taken up an invite to go out for drinks and bumped into a friend that I hadn’t seen in a really long time. We caught up on the usual stuff, he asked if I was dating anybody. I said that I wasn’t, but asked him why he was asking? He said that he had always seen my social media profiles with a boy or tied to a boy somehow, it stung a little bit, but I couldn’t get those thoughts out of my mind.
I realized that if he thought that of me, a million other people probably did too. I didn’t care what people thought of me, but rather how they thought of me. He might have thought of me as the psycho serial dater that can’t be alone or can’t be in a world where I wasn’t in love, but how? Because that was how I was portrayed on social media or at least that was how people perceived me, it was a part of my reputation that somehow birthed itself. I didn’t want to be known as the guy that who dated around with none of the relationships ever working out, I wanted to be known as the singer/songwriter that took the things that happened to him and made them into something special.
So as much as his comment stung, it woke me up. After that, I told myself if people wanted to talk about me and whisper behind my back, I was going to give them something to talk about and I was going to make sure it worked to my advantage. So when I got home, I knew I had to kill the person that people thought I was, I had to put away my late night dreams of turning back time and vengeance. I also knew that if I hadn’t gone through everything I had gone through, the songs on my album would’ve never been written.
So I took down everything from social media that told you where I lived, who I dated, where I had been, removed all tagged photos of me and took down photos that were with people that I didn’t associate myself with anymore. Once it was all said and done, the only online presence I really had was me and my music. When that became all I had to offer to the public, it became the only part of me they had access to and that’s when the numbers really started coming in and growing in the way I had always imagined that they would. If they wanted to know where I had lived? There’s a song about that. They want to know why I left New Orleans, and came back to Dallas? There’s a song about that. They want to know if I met somebody new and/or am dating someone? There’s a song about that.
My music really took a life of its own and became the only way the public could learn about me, ever since then my numbers started growing on their own. I finally let my music tell my story and really put it at the forefront of my image. I stopped checking my numbers daily and now I check them every 1-2 weeks for my own sanity, and I’ve stopped worrying all together. Does the feeling of obscurity get to me? Of course it does, I’m only human. But then I look in the mirror and remind myself, “you the baddest MF out there, ain’t nobody can stop you.” Which helps a lot honestly
Have you experienced trolling at this point in your career, any advice for any one with aspiring dreams on dealing with the haters?
That experience only started several months ago, which is a really strange thing honestly. Someone said something really mean to me after I thanked them for listening to my music, only for them to come back and listen to my album several more times. For a week it really had me in a funk, I had to repeat to myself “you’re a talented songwriter, you’re a good singer, you have exactly what it takes. you deserve a seat at the table, because you’re good at what you do and nobody can take that from you.” Eventually, I was able to get out of that funk. But I didn’t go on without telling this person that there’ll be a day when they won’t be able to go anywhere or do anything without seeing my face and hearing my music and that when I’m holding a Grammy in my hands, they’ll eat those words that they said to me.
I used that pain and turned it into fuel to make my art better, to out do everything I had done prior to that and I allowed it to drive my ambition. Because when you can take something bad that someone did or said to you and make it into art, you’ll always have the upper hand.
So I guess that would be my advice exactly, take what you’re feeling and let it push you, because you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control what you create. And you’ll see that the love that people will have for your art is much greater than the trolls that seem to come out from under their bridges when they see someone doing well for themselves. Whether the hate is coming from bad press, someone you know, an online troll, a family member, someone you’ve dated or whatever else it may be, you have the advantage of being an artist and they’ll never have that. So use that to your advantage.
If you could tell your younger music making self, what would it be and why?
It would be that the most heartbreaking experience in your life will be the catalyst to release music into the world, it’ll scare you but you’re gonna do it anyway. You’re going to spend a million nights staying up in your tiny apartment writing songs to no end, because you’re determined to get the right ones out of you. You probably aren’t even imagining what I’m about to tell you, but your music will transcend space and time, it’ll be played around the world. I know you’re wondering how the hell is that gonna happen? Launching the rocket that is your soundcloud is the answer, but you don’t know that yet.
The dreams you have are very much alive and possible, but you’re so stuck on chasing them. Eventually you’ll realize that instead of chasing them, you’ll be able to run right beside them as they come true moment by moment. From being asked for your autograph and pictures to being recognized in public, both will eventually happen and they’ll be exactly as you imagined they would.
People will start to recognize the star power you hold within you, because it’s a part of your talent, shine, charisma, and personality. And they’ll all come with the undeterrable confidence that no one will be able to shake. But that confidence will take time to develop, much like your craft of songwriting. As you become more and more confident in yourself, people will see that and most will uplift it, while others will try to tear it down. Some of them will hurt you on your journey, make you question the decisions you’ve made for yourself, some of those friendships will end and you will cut people out of your life, but you will never fold.
Going through all of that will show you who the real ones are and that they’ll be there for you no matter what. I wish I could tell you who the real ones are, how you’ll meet them, all the loving support that they’ll have for you and so much more, but I’ll leave that for you to find out.
I am sharing this with you, because I know that you’re the wide eyed pioneer exploring the old frontier and that you’re taking the path less traveled by. Not because you want to, but because you need to. I know you will feel lost at times, but truthfully you’re walking in the same footsteps of your heroes and heroines that came before you. Just keep following the path they cleared for you. You will wonder if you know where you’re going, but that doesn’t matter, because you’re gonna go anyway. People will think you’re crazy, but it’s because they’ve never seen the type of bravery that you carry and it’ll carry you places you never imagined yourself going. Keep it up, don’t let it trouble your heart. You got this.
Finally, please let us know how our readers can connect with you and learn more.
I’d love to connect! You can find me on any and all streaming services by searching my name “Aaron Bryan” and/or my album “Southern Comfort”, you can also use “Aaron Bryan” to find me on Facebook. My twitter is @bryan_aaron and my instagram is @bryanaaron. I’m looking forward to meeting each and everyone of you, I hope you become a fan of my music, an AB Baddie!!