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Country Musician Chase Bryant Releases 'Upbringing' After A Mental Health Crisis


CHASE BRYANT: (Singing) It all comes down to my upbringing.


In 2018, on the outside, Chase Bryant seemed to have it all - an amazing career with best-selling songs, topping country music charts and touring with huge stars like Tim McGraw. But that's not what he felt like on the inside. His new album, "Upbringing," is his first since that tumultuous time. And a warning to our listeners - this conversation will discuss an attempted suicide. Chase Bryant joins me now. Thank you so much.

BRYANT: Oh, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is important to talk about these things - right? - because it can help others. And so I want to say I've asked your permission before asking you about your experience. Can you just take us back to that day in the gas station parking lot? What was going on?

BRYANT: You know, I was suffering from massive amounts of anxiety, for sure. You know, I felt like I had hit a wall creatively. But more importantly, more than anything, I just felt like I'd hit a wall as a human. And I really didn't want anybody knowing what was going on. I've always lived my life pretty privately - had just gotten to the point that I didn't really know that there was a way out of that. And it's kind of like you dig a hole so deep that when you get to the bottom, you know, you realize you didn't take the ladder. All you have is a shovel. And it just keeps getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And so in my mind, you know, suicide was about the only logical approach at the time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you actually went through with it. I mean, you actually...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Tried to do it.

BRYANT: Thankfully, the gun had a mishap, and it didn't fire. I remember there being six bullets there. And when I opened it, there were five. You know, there could have been five the whole time. I'll never know the answer to that question. But thank God there was one empty chamber for me. And I realized that I wanted to be that empty chamber for somebody. I wanted to be that helping hand for somebody, something that I didn't necessarily know existed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What made you decide to come back to music?

BRYANT: There was a part of me that I didn't know if I really had the desire to play anymore, you know, because I was so exhausted. But it was the only place I ever knew how to find happiness. Like a medicine, music was what healed me. You know, the music I love that I grew up on, and also just the things that I was writing and the emotions that I was getting to portray into songs that - I had never got to do that before.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's a lot of joy in this album. I want to listen to "Cold Beer."

BRYANT: (Laughter).


BRYANT: (Singing) I need a cold beer, need a weekend. This Friday night's got me thinking. I'll hit the quick stop for a six pack. Once I peel those labels, I ain't looking back. Because I'll find a girl from around here, help me get my mind clear, watch the sun disappear, yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So fun. So fun.

BRYANT: Yeah, that's Chase in his bedroom as a kid, learning how to play rock 'n' roll guitar.


BRYANT: Is it the most brilliant song ever written? Absolutely not. But it's one of those things where I listen to it and go, oh, boy, I've been here before. Who hasn't? And that was a really big part for me on this record, was to, you know - look; I have heroes like Glen Campbell and so on and so forth. I mean, it's not every day you're going to write a "Gentle On My Mind" or, you know, "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" or, you know, "Wichita Lineman," unless you're Jim Webb, and I am no Jim Webb. So that was a fun moment for me on this record to just branch out and be able to play guitar and get a little wacky.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about one of the songs on this album that sort of is the most personal for you.

BRYANT: It's really hard to get down to one song, per se. You know, I think songs like "Think About That," you know, that was pretty personal just because that started this record for me. That's when I went, oh, man, I think I'm on something.


BRYANT: (Singing) Everybody remembers the Friday nights, six pack bars, neon lights, football games and tailgates down by the river.

BRYANT: But then there's, like, a "High, Drunk, And Heartbroke."


BRYANT: (Singing) Well, I've been smoking that California smoke.

You know, it means a lot to me because for years I was - I wanted to be that artist, to be able to just have a voice and to be able to use my voice. I mean, for years I felt like people were saying, well, don't do that because - you know, stick on the melody. Don't get off the melody. Don't sing some pop - you know, don't sing some blues thing over a pop song. Sing the pop song. When we cut "High, Drunk, And Heartbroke," that song is completely live.


BRYANT: (Singing) This pain ain't no joke since that's all she wrote. I'm getting high, drunk, and heartbroke. Take it, J. Huck (ph).

And that was sort of my middle finger to everybody else, saying, you know what? No, I'm going to do what I believe I can do best. So something like "High, Drunk, And Heartbroke" was an immediate, you know, weight off my shoulders and felt like, wow, I'm here. I've arrived. I'm doing what I really want to do. I'm using my voice in a way, and I'm using my God-given ability in a way that I've always wanted to.


BRYANT: (Singing) Well, I'm getting high, drunk, and heartbroke.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you entered this career really early in life, right? By 21, you already had two top hit singles. You were touring, as we mentioned, with huge country stars. What do you want people to know sort of about your journey and the struggles that you've had? Because you are speaking out about it, you have found your voice, as you say, what would you want people who maybe might be feeling something similar or might be surprised that someone who seemed to have it all was feeling that way?

BRYANT: I want people to understand that there are a lot of tough days. There are a lot of hard days. But if you can compete with those days and not give in and not fall to them - it's just kind of like people you surround yourself with. There's good people, and there's bad people. But when it comes to things like I've been through, it's just realize it's got to rain every now and then. And sometimes you're caught in the biggest [expletive] storm that you could ever imagine. But somewhere, those clouds are going to break. Somewhere, the sun is going to come out, and you're going to have another chance.

And I begged and begged and begged and begged and begged and pleaded for a second chance and to get things figured out. And when that gun didn't fire, I realized that was my second chance. And I realized then it wasn't just about being a rock star or playing this show or playing that show. It was - I just wanted to be honest, and I just wanted to come out about something that meant a lot to me and hope that there were other people out there that might seek a light in the darkest days of their life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Chase Bryant's new album is "Upbringing." Thank you very much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please get help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.


BRYANT: (Singing) Even now, I still dream about your kiss. Girl, it's only you I miss. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.