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When the lineup for the 2024 Stagecoach Pageant was introduced earlier this month, Bailey Zimmerman’s title was up there on the second line, proper beneath Morgan Wallen’s. It represented a heady transfer up into the massive leagues (and large fonts) for a 23-year-old who had solely probably the most scant consciousness that there was such a factor as a rustic music trade a number of brief years in the past. Now, he’s had among the largest songs of the previous yr, not simply within the nation realm however on the all-genre charts, together with the still-rising “Religiously,” the title tune of his debut album.

When “Religiously: The Album” got here out in Might, its first week received Zimmerman credit score for having the largest streaming debut album of the yr in any style as much as that time in 2023, together with, not by the way, the perfect streaming bow for any debut nation album, ever. For sure, he had quite a bit going for him already to reach at that place: “Fall in Love” and “Rock and a Arduous Place” had already each gone No 1 at nation, and the latter entered the Billboard Sizzling 100’s high 10 whereas spending six weeks atop the nation airplay rankings. “Religiously” (the tune) is about to provide him a three-peat, from all indications. He’ll be remembered as one in every of 2023’s breakout, whether or not or not he turns into the uncommon nation performer to attain a greatest new artist Grammy nomination.

Additionally uncommon is the best way Zimmerman has been an exception, not the rule, in parlaying being a smash on TikTok into turning into a smash by the usual measures of radio and streaming. He had a head begin: The agricultural Illinois native had a big social following as a viral truck man earlier than he ever thought to make use of the medium to sing. Warner leaped in to ensure the remainder was historical past.

When Selection caught up with Zimmerman, he was rejoining the Morgan Wallen tour, the place he’s opening exhibits for a lot of the yr earlier than beginning his personal headlining trek subsequent yr at L.A.’s Novo on Feb. 1. However April 28, 2024 is the date most SoCal followers could have circled on their calendars, as he joins tourmates Wallen and Hardy out at Stagecoach to recreate their touring chemistry on the ultimate evening of the fest. (Passes have simply gone on sale.)

In studying about your historical past, we all know you weren’t all that steeped within the methods of nation music or the trade till even a few years in the past. Was one thing like Stagecoach out right here in California even in your radar very way back?

No, and that’s the craziest factor. I grew up in a small city of 800 those that was principally three hours from wherever, so I by no means bought to go to festivals. I by no means bought to go to live shows — I solely went to love one, after I was like 8, and it was a Tesla present. So after I bought into music, I knew nothing. Then after I began touring, that’s after I began to study like how essential these exhibits that I’m getting on are. I bought to go to Stagecoach final yr and play at, I feel, 4:30. There was not an enormous crowd within the entrance, however I didn’t understand within the again, behind the fence [separating the VIP area from a general area], had been, like, 20,000 individuals. After I noticed that they weren’t simply standing on the market however singing with me and screaming, I used to be like, “Holy cow, so that is what Stagecoach is. I get the hype now.” … After I heard that I get to play it subsequent yr with Morgan and Hardy, I used to be like, Stagecoach is about to be lit.

You’re identified in your heartbreak songs. On the tour you’re on, you’re going on the market earlier than Morgan Wallen and Hardy, who’ve much more rowdy celebration anthems. Does it work to go on the market and break individuals’s hearts a bit of bit first, or is the tone of your set extra of a pure good-time factor than the album would counsel?

I’ve solely been an artist since December of 2020. So I jumped into music so quick that after I began touring, that’s when it began getting on the mind: I like these heartbreak songs, and everyone loves them, however do I would like rowdy songs? And after I first bought out on Morgan (Wallen’s tour), I shortly realized, no, you simply have to maintain doing what you’re doing. As a result of the heartbreak anthems we’ve are upbeat — so as an alternative of being unhappy, you’re nearly mad. It’s not essentially “Let’s go drink beer,” but it surely’s “I nonetheless can drink beer to his songs due to how rocking they’re and the way a lot enjoyable he’s on stage.” I make up for the dearth of celebration anthems with my loopy dance strikes and moving into the music quite a bit. I’ve bought a pair songs on this 25-minute Morgan set which can be pissed-off anthems, nearly, like a tune known as “The place It Ends,” the place you’re mad at her for losing your time and making you suppose that she cherished you. I actually need to begin writing extra of these songs which can be pissed off as an alternative of unhappy, as a result of I really feel like that is my celebration anthem, in a way.

The album is fairly near being an idea album, so far as like your dedication to sticking with the theme. In doing a depend, out of 16 tracks, 14 are breakup songs. Then within the center there, you’ve bought “Discovered Your Love,” which is a cheerful love tune, however that’s the outlier, with “God’s Going to Lower You Down” being the opposite exception. In any other case you stick with the theme. Is that simply the place your mind goes as a author, or is it solely as a result of that’s what you had been going by way of at a sure time?

That’s type of my vibe. I’ve by no means been like, “Man, I need to make all of it sound the identical.” It simply got here out that manner: That is what I do know. After I began, I didn’t know the way to write a tune. So how I’ve finished it the final three years is simply get in a room and begin spitting out what the chords make you are feeling. Each single time, it comes out to be upset a couple of breakup,  as a result of that’s principally all I do know, man. I’ve been in love earlier than, and the breakup of that love was what made all these songs. I actually thought she cherished me and I actually needed to marry this woman. Then abruptly it was like, flip the script. It was simply terrible — a horrible time in my life. So, “Religiously: The Album” is de facto these songs that I wrote and that is how I felt after I wrote them. After I would hear a observe, it wasn’t like, “Celebration!” It was all the time like, “No, I’m fairly unhappy, man.” That also will get to me daily, and I nonetheless give it some thought on a regular basis. And it appears like persons are actually regarding this, and I’m speaking to lots of people, and I feel I’m simply going to stay on this vibe till my thoughts doesn’t need to. As a result of I nonetheless do not know what I’m doing and the way to write songs.

Bailey Zimmerman performs onstage at Nation Thunder Wisconsin – Day 4 on July 23, 2023 in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. (Picture by Joshua Applegate/Getty Photos)
Getty Photos

So was “Discovered Your Love” written so as to add a bit of respite from the ache in the course of the album?

There’s a deeper that means to that tune. “Discovered Your Love” was cool as a result of I wrote it not about me, however about my grandpa and my grandma’s love. I wrote it by way of the eyes of my grandpa. He raised hell, he was drunk on a regular basis, he partied his ass off, and my grandma nonetheless cherished him by way of all of it. After which, earlier than he died, he discovered God and actually modified his complete life. He give up smoking, give up ingesting and began specializing in household extra and God extra, and going to church with my grandma and making that relationship higher. And that’s what “I by no means thought that I’d ever hold it up till I discovered your love” was about. I’m not speaking about simply my grandma’s love in that state of affairs. I’m speaking about God’s love as properly, as a result of I really feel like my grandpa wouldn’t have gotten heading in the right direction to know Jesus if he wouldn’t have given all of it up and hung it up.

After I got here to Nashville, I had one tune out, known as “By no means Coming Residence.” I wanted a brand new producer, and I bought with this man named Austin Shawn, and I’d by no means met him earlier than. The primary day that I bought with him to jot down songs down in Nashville with my buddy Gavin (Lucas), we wrote three songs in at some point — “Discovered Your Love,” “Change” and “Ready” — and people three tracks are all launched now. However “Discovered Your Love,” I performed it at my grandpa’s funeral. My grandma has all the time cherished that tune as a result of I defined to her that I wrote it by way of grandpa’s eyes. I didn’t know on the time that I’d ever get to place out a full-length album or how my profession was going to go. After my grandpa’s funeral, my grandma mentioned, “I would like you to place that tune in your first album so I can take heed to it on a regular basis.”

I remembered her saying that on the funeral, and after we went to go make the album, I mentioned, “This would be the solely love tune on the album, and it’s for my grandma and grandpa.” However all of the heartbreak stuff on “Religiously: The Album” is actually all me, man. It’s all of my feelings, all of the issues I’ve thought of in relationships, or issues I had, or issues I needed to convey up in a relationship that I couldn’t, so I wrote a tune about it. And I in all probability will keep on with the heartbreak stuff till I fall in love.

The title tune, “Religiously,” is No. 2 on Mediabase’s nation chart proper now. It’s wanting like it could be teed up so that you can go three-for-three at No. 1.

Let’s go! It’s loopy, man.

The sentiment is common, however though lots of people have written songs likening earthly romance to one thing non secular, the title is novel.

That tune has a loopy story, too. After I first began writing and recording, and met my producer and signed with my administration, I used to be possibly two months into being a singer. I used to be very confused, making an attempt to determine all of it out — similar to I’m now. I bought again within the automotive after assembly my managers, and one in every of them despatched me a tune, and it was the primary tune I’d ever bought despatched to me. I truly mentioned, “What is that this? What am I alleged to do with this?” They had been like, “We wish you to file this tune. It’s been by way of seven or 10 totally different artists. No one likes it. No one needs to chop it. However we consider on this tune and actually suppose it might contact lots of people.” It was known as “Religiously,” and I listened to it, and the tune was bizarre, the manufacturing was bizarre, and the melodies had been a bit of off too. And I went by way of all these things I needed to vary, and at first they got here again and had been like, “No, we wish it to remain the identical,” however then like 20 minutes later, they bought me again they usually’re like, “Hey, we wish you to file this tune. Do no matter you need with it. …  Are you able to go within the studio tomorrow?” This was February or March of 2021.

I am going in and I file it with a man named Joel Bruyere, the bass participant for Thousand Foot Krutch (the Canadian Christian exhausting rock band]. I mentioned, “Hey, man, I actually need this tune to be extra acoustic-driven, reside drums,” as a result of on the time it had entice beat drums on it. In the future I’ll put out that model of this tune and the way it began out. I mentioned, “I would like Dobro” and all these things. We got here up with the primary demo of “Religiously” in 2021, and I believed in it from day one. I simply cherished the tune. I used to be listening to it religiously, severely, each single day. …. One in all my supervisor’s title is Chief. I known as him and I mentioned, “Chief, did you hear ‘Religiously’?” And he was like, “It’s a smash. What you probably did with that is what it’s wanted the entire time.” I’m like, “Sure, dude, however I don’t need to launch it (now). If I ever get to place out an album, this will likely be my title observe, and it’s going to be known as ‘Religiously: The Album.’”

And he was like, “That could be a very long time.” And I’m like, “I do know it’s going to be a very long time. However the motive I need to wait is as a result of, in a part of the tune, it says ‘And recently life’s been good to me / Mama’s wholesome, and I’m serving to out the entire household / Lots of people know my title / I made a bit of change, but it surely don’t imply nothing.’” On the time, that didn’t relate to me as a result of I wasn’t a giant artist. So I mentioned, “No, I’m going to attend till this tune extra pertains to me and I can actually really feel this tune higher.” … So this tune that’s at No. 3 proper now went from a entice beat, rapped model of the tune all the best way to an acoustic-driven nation tune — if you wish to name it nation; no matter you name it.

You’ve set streaming information for a rustic artist with the discharge of this album. There’s artists who’re throughout radio, however can’t get streaming numbers to save lots of their lives. Then you definitely’ve bought any person like Zach Bryan, who’s a streaming monster, however nonetheless hasn’t actually gotten the radio play. After which you’ve got the streaming and the radio clearly taking place in an enormous manner now. Nevertheless it looks like you began out by eliminating the intermediary, constructing that viewers on-line and digitally, and radio needed to get in on it.

Yeah, and I’d say, as soon as we signed with the label, they’ve their techniques on the way to push stuff extra and do their enterprise factor. However I feel within the grand scheme of all of it, it was simply me in entrance of a digital camera making an attempt to get individuals to take heed to my songs. And earlier than that I used to be placing lifted vehicles on social media. It’s type of humorous — my lifted truck was well-known earlier than I used to be well-known for music.

I used to be driving round this black lifted truck that I constructed to placed on TikTok. This was my dream truck and I began filming it and getting a variety of followers simply from my persona and me being part of the truck scene on TikTok, driving my truck all around the nation to satisfy up with the followers on the exhibits. So after I was going round doing all of the truck stuff, touring with 100 bucks in my pocket simply to go to Orange Seashore, Alabama for a truck present… I simply love vehicles. And that’s what constructed me, my truck followers. Then after I first put out my first-ever video of me singing, which was simply in my grandpa’s store again residence, with my buddy Gavin Lucas enjoying a guitar whereas I used to be simply singing… That video was by no means meant for TikTok. I used to be simply recording it to recollect my melodies and stuff that we had written that evening. However after I bought residence, I posted it, and it blew up in a single day. I bear in mind studying all of the feedback like, “Hey man, I didn’t know you had been a singer. I believed you probably did lifted vehicles. Like, are you gonna be an artist?” They had been all so confused, too.

And I feel that’s what actually type of gave me that step up was like, I had already constructed a fan base by way of the truck scene, and now I’m gonna do music. And I simply stored placing movies up daily, doing the issues that I believed I ought to do. I by no means give up doing social media. I in all probability by no means will. I’m on there two or thrice a day, on each platform. I simply love the lifetime of it a lot, having followers on social media and with the ability to put your songs out earlier than they really come out simply to see what individuals consider them.

I bear in mind after I first had the tune come out, man, I sat on my sofa and stayed up all evening three nights in a row, simply replying again to DMs, saying thanks a lot for supporting me, and listening to individuals’s tales and the way it’s helped them. And that’s what I consider actually made my fan base so badass like it’s, is that I used to be so engaged to start with. And I’m nonetheless engaged now.

(L-R) Bailey Zimmerman and Nelly attend the sixteenth Annual Academy of Nation Music Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 23, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Picture by John Shearer/Getty Photos for ACM)
Getty Photos for ACM

The extra you place your self into it, the extra end result you’re gonna have. You wanna be sure you’re nonetheless desirous about your loved ones. Out on the highway, I simply consider my followers as my household, and I would like to ensure they know I’m nonetheless right here and I nonetheless love them a lot and I’m so grateful for this life. I’m so blessed to only get up daily and never fear about my fuel invoice or about my truck getting repo-ed. … A very powerful piece of this all for me is the followers and ensuring they’re taken care of and ensuring they’re glad and loving what’s occurring.

You talked about Tesla being your first live performance, and also you’e mentioned you didn’t actually develop up on nation a lot, however a variety of Foo Fighters and Hinder, and your mother was into that melodic exhausting rock factor. So, though that’s not precisely what you’re doing now, does it filter into what you’re doing?

Yeah. After I first began till now, they’re all the time like, “Your music is totally different, man. It’s a bit of rock too. It’s bought this edge to it.” And I’d actually give that each one to Nickelback and Tesla and Hinder and Three Doorways Down and Three Days Grace and, I imply, severely, each rock band I’ve in all probability listened to. My mother is a rocker from day one, dude. She’s bought spiky hair, smokes cigarettes, wears Harley Davidson (gear). She’s bought bling throughout — she is a rocker mother. In order that’s what I grew up on. I additionally grew up listening to nation simply because that’s what was on the radio, however when me and mother had been within the truck, it was nothing however rock.

Like I mentioned, Tesla was the one present I’ve ever been to in my life. Properly, , I’ve been to extra now. However earlier than I used to be an artist, it was a Tesla present after I was possibly 12 years previous. I bear in mind watching (lead singer) Jeff Keith’s stage presence and the way he all the time bumped into the entrance, proper in the beginning of the present, and he was energetic and simply lit. Then after I would watch Foo Fighters on YouTube, Dave Grohl would all the time dash to the tip of the catwalk. So, after I bought into the reside music a part of it, I nonetheless relied on my rock mind — like, how do I make this sick and never simply stand right here?

So actually in all facets of my music, it’s bought a variety of rock affect, simply because that’s what me and mother listened to. And it was loopy how everyone’s like, “Man, your songs are like tremendous rock and your songs are tremendous edgy” – yeah, due to Nickelback! That’s all I jammed after I was little. So after I’m writing these songs I’ve bought a bit of little bit of nation in me, and I even have a variety of rock in me, so I’m simply writing proper down the center of what I need to hear.

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