The Untold Truth Of BRELAND

Every country fan or social media enthusiast has heard of Daniel Breland, aka BRELAND, by now. The singer-songwriter catapulted onto the music scene in 2019 with a certain hit song (brownie points if you can name it right now), but he was far from an overnight success. In reality, the seed for his career in music was planted early in the young man's life, and the artist worked relentlessly for years to achieve the fame and recognition he enjoys today in both country music and the mainstream — all while mixing elements of R&B and hip-hop into country music.

"The defining thing about country music is the songwriting. It's about how effectively you can tell a story, which is also at hip-hop's core," BRELAND told Vice in 2020, noting that he doesn't "fit super cleanly" into any of these musical boxes. Of his self-titled EP, released that same year, he added, "['Breland'] was me giving people a sample of how many different directions this genre blend can go."

From his childhood to the curveballs life has thrown him along the way, we bet there is a lot you still don't know about BRELAND — and that knowledge might come in handy if he stays on the track he's on with his music these days. So, if you love BRELAND's songs and his message, and if you're even a little bit curious about who exactly he is, keep reading for everything you need to know about the musician.

BRELAND comes from a family of singers

BRELAND may be a country-meets-hip-hop singer these days, but his early experiences with music were actually in church with his family. "Both my parents are actually singers as is my older sister," he told The Tab in 2015. "I kind of grew up into this family of singers, mostly gospel music singing at church in the church choirs." 

This star always loved music, but it wasn't till later on that he realized it was more than just a hobby for him — he wanted to try his hand at it professionally, and he wasn't the only one. BRELAND's father, Gerard Breland, was confirmed as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge in 2014, all while pursuing his love of gospel music in his free time with wife Tonya Breland. "It's a little unique. ... I guess I'm going to be the singing judge," Gerard told The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time. As for Tonya, she is a doctor of education, who promotes equity tirelessly within the sector. Together, this husband-wife duo perform as One Flesh. "One Flesh is a marriage and music ministry team. They strengthen marriage and uplift Jesus w/song," reads their Twitter bio.

In a video they released on Facebook ahead of Christmas 2018, the four Brelands showed off just how musical a family they are with a special arrangement of "This Christmas." Joy to the world!

As a kid, BRELAND had other aspirations

It's safe to say BRELAND has made it as a musician, but that wasn't always the path he thought he'd follow. At various points in his childhood, he thought he might become alternately a pastor, a football team owner, or governor of New Jersey, according to People. Now obviously, it's never too late to change course, but we're sure glad he has at least pursued music up until now so that we get to enjoy his talent.

"I've always been obsessed with the butterfly effect and seeing what one small decision can turn into," BRELAND told People. "My career is largely the result of small decisions that turned into big outcomes. It's definitely all a part of how I got here."

One of BRELAND's early forays into performance came when he acted as his sister's background singer in the family's living room in New Jersey. "I was so embarrassed about it, but eventually I started to enjoy it, and we started to make songs together," he told The Hoya in 2014. Then he began writing songs — which his boarding school roommate produced — and uploading them to YouTube, where he eventually built up a pretty impressive following.

BRELAND was a student at Georgetown University

After boarding school, BRELAND declined an offer of admission from New York University's Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music, and instead decided to attend the no less prestigious Georgetown University in Washington D.C. There, he majored in marketing and management, according to Forbes, but he never lost sight of his musical dreams.

While in college, BRELAND was not only an active member of on-campus a cappella group the Georgetown Phantoms, but he also released an EP titled "Stop Everything" in 2014, and was already writing songs professionally in the hopes that they would get picked up by major artists. "A lot of times I won't hear back whether that artist is doing that song, for months," BRELAND told The Tab in 2016. "So I'll write 50 songs and all 50 will be in the process, I won't have the right to put that song out on my own, because there is a chance that that artist might still want to do it and put it out themselves." He recorded his own music, as well, so that the world could still benefit from his voice during that frustrating process.

It may seem unrelated, but BRELAND trusted he could leverage his major as an asset in the music industry. "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what program you come out of," he told Vice. "You're either going to make it in music, or you aren't. It's like that Jay Z quote: 'I'm not a businessman / I'm a business, man.'"

One of BRELAND's early collaborators was murdered

While BRELAND was in college, he spent time working with the rapper, Chinx, in Queens, New York. But one day in 2015, Chinx left to go perform in Brooklyn, and as he was driving home, was shot several times while stopped at a red light. The 31-year-old was taken to hospital, but died that night, as reported by The New York Times.

Two men were charged with Chinx's murder two years later, one of whom had a long-standing feud with Chinx dating back to their time in prison together. The man, Quincy Homere, attended one of Chinx' performances years after they were both released and got into an argument with him. "[Quincy] was blacklisted from the other rap stars [who were performing that night too]," Lt. Richard Rudolph of the NYPD told XXL. "Quincy's steaming since that concert ... I think that's when he started to feel a fire inside of him to take his revenge out on Chinx." For Lt. Rudolph, this was a clear motive.

BRELAND took Chinx's tragic death as a sign that he didn't want to be involved in the New York rap scene. "That let me know that hip-hop probably wasn't going to be for me," he told The New York Times in 2020. "I don't think that I'm really cut out to be in the trenches like that." Instead, BRELAND chose to move to Atlanta to pursue his songwriting career.

BRELAND is a songwriter first

Writing songs — to perform himself or sell to other artists — is a crucial part of BRELAND's work, and it's how he got himself onto music industry execs' radar. When he first started writing songs in boarding school, he notably took inspiration from '70s soul music. He continued to refine his style from there, eventually getting to write for big artists like Trey Songz.

When he moved to Atlanta, BRELAND was incredibly serious about songwriting — even though he already had a full-time day job, he basically made music as a second full-time gig, hoping for one of his tracks to get picked up by one of music's contemporary greats. "If I want to get a song with Beyoncé or Rihanna, I have to write a better song than Ne-Yo while working a whole job," he told Vice. "It can't be just as good, because he already has a relationship with them, so I went to the studio full time and put in at least eight hours a night."

BRELAND is a true poet and musician, and both his words and his melodies are loaded with meaning, whether personal or societal. "I try to draw inspiration from anything — I write a lot of love songs," he explained to The Tab. "I write a lot of pop and R&B music and a lot of that revolves around interpersonal relationships and a lot of that I draw from experience or from the experiences of people I know or care about."

This artist has no time for genre boundaries

BRELAND doesn't like to be limited in his music. As such, he takes inspiration from plenty of different sources and blends genres to create a unique sound — so unique, in fact, that he thought it deserved its own name, "cross-country." That's also the idea behind BRELAND's song "Cross Country," released in 2021. 

"Yeah, so 'Cross Country,' initially, was more of a concept for a movement or a genre or a sub-genre of country music, even before it was a song," he told Billboard. "I had this idea that it crossed countries. It's my classification for all of the music that intersects, country and other genres like R&B, hip-hop, dance, whatever."

BRELAND is on a mission to open up the limitations of what country music is and can be, and he knows for a fact there is a place for artists like him in country. "[There's] this underserved community of country listeners who also like hip-hop music and also like R&B and also like pop, who aren't really married to any of the conventions or conservatism of some of the, you know, country music staples," he explained to WBUR. Those are the people BRELAND's writing for.

BRELAND released My Truck on a dare

You've probably heard "My Truck," but did you know that it could have ended up being performed by someone else than BRELAND? "It came about just as me trying to challenge myself ... to see if I could come up with a song that was in a different lane," the singer-songwriter told SiriusXM's "Hip Hop Nation." "I'm really, you know, by trade, in my experience in the industry, more of an R&B songwriter. I just wanted to see if I could make a song like this and put it out there just as a writer." BRELAND loved the song when it was finished, but it didn't seem like a natural fit for any artist out there, so he released it as his own song instead, and it became a total phenomenon.

When he wrote "My Truck," BRELAND was experiencing a bout of writers' block in the studio, but his friends pushed him to think out of the box — which turned out to be all the encouragement he needed to come up with a hit song. "I took them up on that challenge and the song was born — it was a really quick creative process," BRELAND explained to American Songwriter. "I think we wrote the whole song in an hour and a half and it was just a great vibe in the studio." He was still set on giving the song to someone else, but his Instagram followers convinced him to release it himself, and here we are.

BRELAND owes his success to TikTok

When BRELAND was uploading his song "My Truck" to traditional streaming services, an option popped up to share it to TikTok. He decided to go for it, even though he didn't actually have an account on the social network himself. "I was like, 'Okay, yeah, I've heard of TikTok, I'll put it on there.' So, when it started to blow up on TikTok, I was like 'Okay, I need to figure out how this works and what this even is,'" the singer-songwriter explained to Billboard.

By "blow up," BRELAND means that the sound for "My Truck" was used hundreds of thousands of times by TikTok users. He is super grateful for the success TikTok has afforded him, especially because it meant he didn't have to jump through a lot of the hoops artists before him had to. "I didn't have to do the playing-at-all-the-bars-on-Broadway circuit like a lot of artists have to do," BRELAND told The Boot. "I didn't have to play a bunch of writers' rounds to get noticed. It gave me access to a lot of artists that I probably would not have had access to as quickly."

He wrote A Message in reaction to George Floyd's death

On Juneteenth 2020, BRELAND released the EP "Rage & Sorrow" in response to police violence, per Rolling Stone. On this EP is a one minute-long song named simply "A Message," which he wrote the day after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. "How many more murders 'til it really hits y'all? / What it means to be Black and American? / The fact that you could overlook the facts is embarassin' / It's twice the rate of police killings, no comparison," he raps on the track (via Genius).

As a prominent Black musician, BRELAND felt he needed to respond to the distressing racism we were seeing around America. "I just want people to be able to feel my pain, and I want people to be able to hear my passion," he told WBUR. "And hopefully that'll cause some people to take on new perspectives."

BRELAND knows how important it is to speak out within the still predominantly white country music industry, but he has been passionate about racial justice since long before he released "My Truck." Speaking to The Tab in 2016, the artist revealed that he was already writing lyrics about race in America, something which was very personal to him. "When I feel really passionately about a social issue I'll write a song or a poem about it," BRELAND said. "On my ['Stop Everything'] EP the last two songs were very pointed towards kind of the race-relations issue we are dealing with and police brutality."

BRELAND tackles toxic masculinity head-on

BRELAND doesn't subscribe to traditional expressions of masculinity, especially when it comes to emotions and self-care — which he addressed in the song "Real Men Don't Cry." "Men are socialized to bottle up their emotions," he told WBUR. "If they're going to have a negative emotion, it's almost never going to present itself as sadness. ... Instead, we turn to anger and violence and rage." For BRELAND, it's all-important to feel and express your emotions in a healthy way, regardless of gender.

For the artist, taking care of his mental health is non-negotiable — even though he sometimes lets it fall by the wayside. "Last week, I hit a low point emotionally and realized I was long overdue a reset," he wrote on Instagram in November 2021. As soon as BRELAND realized he really needed a break, he took a trip to Maine to engage in some more nurturing activities before going back to work. "For any of y'all out there who may be like me and feel like you have to check certain career boxes before you allow yourself to take a break, please rethink that philosophy," he continued. "Your well-being is more important than any professional accomplishment." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

This country music star calls himself a 'nerd'

When someone is in the public eye, it's sometimes easy to forget that they are a person with hobbies and interests beyond the high-profile work they do. Exhibit A with BRELAND, who is a musician, yes, but also has many other layers to him that we don't necessarily get to see. 

"I'm a real big nerd," he admitted to XXL in 2020. "I like to read. I watch a lot of sci-fi stuff. I'm into anime. When I was a kid rather, people would've been like, 'I don't know. Breland's kind of a nerd.' But I've always had musical talent. So, it's the kind of thing where there's some people who get on, but they still have their own personal things."

However BRELAND identifies, it's clear that he's a pretty darn smart guy — not least because he attended Georgetown University and turned down NYU (via Vice). He's also just seems to be really thoughtful and sensitive, qualities that naturally bleed into his music. "I have a real interest in poetry and actual writing and pinning and crafting of the words," the artist explained to The Tab. "I really like the way that words flow in rhythm so that's a thing I will do outside of melodies and then the other thing is melodies. I really like the way that notes fit and can create something that's catchy."

BRELAND has a great relationship with Keith Urban

BRELAND is officially a star — and if you needed further proof of his incredible success, perhaps his long-standing friendship and collaboration with country music legend Keith Urban might convince you. BRELAND identifies with Urban because he also plays around with different genres in his music. "Keith also similarly has a lot of fusion — maybe not as much from a hip-hop perspective, but with classic rock and his pop sensibilities," BRELAND explained to Billboard in 2021. "He knows so much music and really pays attention to sounds and how they evolve, which is why us working together was also such a natural fit."

The two singers co-wrote some of Urban's songs, and released the single "Throw It Back" together in 2021. "I got hip to him maybe the end of 2018, 2019, somewhere around there," Urban told the "Rob + Holly" podcast. "A friend of mine had told me about him a little bit, so I knew a bit of his music. ... I immediately thought, 'Oh, I've got to know this guy.' There's something about the way he approaches music and creativity that really speaks to me." 

Urban texted BRELAND, they talked on the phone, they met up, and the rest is history.

BRELAND has several 'friends in high places'

BRELAND can officially boast about some pretty high-profile collaborations, including a major one with country star Dierks Bentley. The two artists notably worked together on the song "Beers on Me" alongside Hardy. "The song 'Beers on Me' talks about, 'Hey, you've had a hard time, you're having a rough week, come on down to the bar, [the] beers are on me,'" Bentley told Rolling Stone. "It's not rocket science. It's something you'd tell a buddy."

In September 2021, BRELAND announced that he was also going on tour with Bentley. "I've gotten the amazing opportunity to join @dierksbentley #BeersOnMe tour," he wrote on Instagram. "I'll be rescheduling some of my previously announced dates to the spring, but I'm so excited to see all of y'all soon."

But Bentley — and Keith Urban, for that matter — aren't the only big stars BRELAND has gotten to hang out with since becoming a name himself in country music. He has also featured (with Lathan Warlick) on the song "Somebody" by Jimmie Allen, once asked his fans whether they would want him to collab with Kane Brown, and joked about having "friends in high places" with Garth Brooks (because of the latter's now-legendary song "Friends in Low Places," of course).