Jacob Bryant on the UK release of ‘Practice What I Preach’, the struggles he faced growing up.
Jacob Bryant, the independent artist who released his ‘Practice What I Preach’ album in the US in 2019 which immediately hit the number one spot on the iTunes Country Chart, chatted to our writer Neil about the UK release coming out 5th February 2021, complete with five extra songs, working with Black Stone Cherry’s Jon Lawhon, how the pandemic has been a blessing and a curse as a new Father and how we can’t wait to return to UK soil to play…
Hi Jacob, thanks for taking the time to chat today.
Yeah man, thank you for having me.
It’s good to talk to you. You’re from North Georgia, are you a proud of where you’re from?
Oh yeah. Growing up in the mountains man, there’s nothing like it. I’ve travelled all over the country and for some reason I think North Georgia is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
You had a tough time growing up, is that fair to say?
Yeah, we weren’t necessarily the most…I guess, rich family or anything like that. We grew up struggling financially and I dealt with being in a split household. My parents divorced when I was young. I was home to home and things like that. Wasn’t the most ideal scenario but at the same time, I was always taken care of, had a roof over my head and food so I can’t complain about that.
Would you say it’s had a big influence on your music over the years?
Oh, for sure. It’s one of the biggest influences that has happened to me. My struggles and trials. I’m one of those guys who can’t not write the truth. I’m not the greatest at writing party anthems. I’m better at writing the darker, not down in the dumps to say, but real life experience tunes is what I gravitate towards writing more.
The thing I like about your music is that it’s got that country storytelling element to it but you’ve fused it with rock elements. You grew up on bluegrass and in church but where did the rock side of things come from?
Yeah, bluegrass was where I started playing music and learnt how to play guitar. Some of the rock side even came from the church side of things. I was in a praise and worship band at my church. We played more alternative rock Christian music. Most of the rock influence that is in my music today is from Greg Allman, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackberry Smoke, Black Stone Cherry. I really love the Southern rock infused country. Gives it a little bit of a heavier edge for sure.
I feel like its fair comment to say that you’re a bit of an underdog in the country world. An independent artist who has a hardcore fan base but one who does things his own way. How do you feel about your career so far?
It’s awesome and I’m super blessed. The fans we have are always diehard. They come out to every show, always buy merch and really get behind what I release. Like you said, releasing that album as an independent album and it going to number one on iTunes, charting on billboard with no radio play or anything was surreal. I had to step back and make sure I was looking at the stats correctly *laughs*. It’s pretty cool man, to have your hard work pay off. I’ve been touring and playing live for ten years now. When the fruits of your labour start coming back, it’s a good feeling.
What would you say it was about the ‘Practice What I Preach’ album that helped achieve its success?
I think a lot of it is always about, at least in my opinion, the songs. I think there’s some songs on there that really resonate with people. I think the music went viral on its own so to say, without me having to do a whole lot of marketing. There's some songs on there that I think will help people the same way they helped me, by getting through tough times or a loss in the family. There was really no rhyme or reason about it. We were passionate about it, recorded it and released it and luckily it did well.
‘Pour Whiskey On My Grave’ is the biggest success from it so far with 34 million streams/views. Cool video to go with it as well. Tell me a little behind this song?
That one, a friend of mine, Jami Grooms, actually wrote that song. I was playing at a writers round in Nashville and he started playing that song when his turn came. Immediately I was like why didn’t I write this because every year on my Mum’s birthday, I go to her grave, sit there and pour a beer and drink a beer with her y’know. Anyway, that song really resonated with me. I felt like I did write it even though I didn’t. I told my manager the first time I heard it, I fell in love with it and just had to have it. We ended up contacting Jami and seeing if he’d mind if we cut it. Me and Jami then became really good buddies. Hell, he’s helped me write probably twenty five tracks since then. He’s an incredible writer and I just felt like that song was laid in my lap for a reason and I had to take advantage of it *laughs*.
’25 In Jail’ is one of my personal favourites, I love the guitar riff from it and the chicken picking throughout. A play on ‘Mama Tried’ by Merle Haggard, was this a personal song to you as well?
Well, of course it’s fictional. Of course I didn’t actually turn 25 in jail *laughs*. This was just one of those fun, little ode to Merle Haggard kind of things. I’m a huge Haggard fan. Me and a friend of mine were sitting around writing songs one time and we couldn’t figure out what to write. I’d had that little hook line in my head for a while. We actually wrote that entire song in about five minutes which is probably the fastest co-write I’ve ever had. It turned out to be a really big fan favourite and a nice flipping a coin up to Merle saying man we love your music still, from down here.
You’ve got the rock ’n’ roll but also the emotive songs on this album. ‘Sometimes I Pray’ and ‘Bring You Back’ as examples. Was this a conscious decision to mix the feel up throughout the album or more of an organic collection material?
I really like being able to put a record in and listen to it from the front to the back. A lot of times I feel like some albums can get linear if there’s not some diversity there. I guess I did write some things specific to that as well when I was working on the album. Songs like ‘Sometimes I Pray’ was a song I wrote about my Mum with a guy named Josh Phillips over here in the States. That one has a really strong place in my heart. It’s one of those, you play it live and there’s a lot of dudes who are big rock guys, in biker jackets, you see them shed a tear over that one. It’s one of those songs where you can definitely feel the lyrics.
Heres something crazy too. You nearly lost the entire record when your producers house got robbed before release day in America and took everything, right?
*Laughs* yeah. It was tough man. My producer, Jesse Triplett who plays lead guitar in rock band Collective Soul, he called me and is like ‘are you sitting down’ and I said no and he said ‘well you better find somewhere’. He said he’d just got off the road and someone had vandalised his house, broken in, spray painted all of his guitars, broke the TV’s but the only thing they stole was all of his hard rives from his recording software and the stems with the album on. Luckily, he had bounced down where we were at that given point. We weren’t done mixing or adding parts to it then. I hadn’t even got done adding final vocals on some of them. We ended up having to use the first take on some of them but luckily he had sent the MP3’s to our mastering guy to be listening to them because we were getting closer to having the project wrapped up. But we ended up having to leave it more raw and real. Unfortunately we never got those hard drives back.
Did they ever find out who it was or why they did it?!
Nope! He still to this day thinks it was some kids in his neighbourhood because he didn’t really understand why they wouldn’t take a 20,000 dollar Gibson off the wall but they’d take hard drives.
I feel like that hurts the musician inside all of us, if somebody were to spray paint all your guitars too!
Oh yeah, I’d be sick…*laughs*.
You’re being kind to us UK folk. The album is coming out in a few days and you’ve got five extra tracks on the digital and physical release. Why have you chosen to do this?
Well, my whole thing with releasing material, is when you go through this music journey, is sometimes you release something and then you write something that you wish was on the project. Since we were ending up partnering with Universal Snakefarm Records, I just felt like it would be kind of cool to add some stuff that I wish I had added in the US release and also as far as worldwide streaming, it’ll give some fans over here some stuff to listen to whilst were working on this next record.
One of the songs ‘Save My Soul’ is written alongside Black Stone Cherry’s (who you mentioned earlier) Jon Lawhon which is funny because I was hearing a lot of Black Stone Cherry in the album when I revisited it the other day. How long have you guys been friends and worked together for?
I actually only wrote with him one time and that was the one we wrote. We stayed in touch and what not but I think that’s one of the favourites I’ve ever wrote. A really cool one to play live too because the guitars are really heavy, there’s some meat behind it.
You’ve released a few singles in 2020 as well, what’s the plan going forward with music, more on the way and a tour when the pandemic calms a little?
Yeah, we’re just writing. Trying to stay in the studio. We went in the studio yesterday and did some more things. We’re gonna record around thirty songs and go back and cut twelve or thirteen. Right now, our focus is to get through this whole pandemic thing so I can get over to the UK and do some touring on the ‘Practice What I Preach’ release over there. The focus is on a couple of different things. Maintain health throughout all this crap, stay productive in the studio and writing and try to find some sort of normalcy throughout all of this stuff *laughs*.
You’re an open book when it comes to your life as well, as we discussed, trials and tribulations along the way. During this pandemic, a lot of peoples physical and mental health has been struggling. What is it that gets you through your tougher spots?
Man, Covid has been a little bit of a blessing and a curse for me because we were set to tour 150 dates in 2020 and I had just had my little baby girl and I probably wasn’t going to get to see her all that much in the first year of her life but due to the pandemic I’ve actually got to play Daddy day care and watch grow up and see her walk y’know, start talking. That’s been really awesome.
I presume she’ll be the thing that you miss most when you go back on the road then?
Oh for sure, I’m definitely a big family guy.
What do you miss most about the road?
I just miss doing what I love everyday. Being able to get out there and seeing people smile because I’m doing something that makes them happy. It’s just a really cool trade to be in. Music is a lot of things, for a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons. It can be therapy to you. It can uplift your mood, whatever you know. I just miss being able to do that.
You’re obviously a fan of lots of different genres. If you could play alongside three other artists on a bill, who would they be?
Oh man *laughs*. Not only is he awesome because he’s my producer but I would love to play a show with Collective Soul. Definitely like to play a show with Lynyrd Skynyrd. As far as a harder rock band, I love Black Stone Cherry, Blackberry Smoke. Any one of those, I would definitely be stoked to get on stage with.
Is there anything else you’d like to get out to the readers of Lyric Magazine?
Nah man, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and getting behind the projects to support it! Thank you.