Even as Breland’s star rises, he doesn’t always feel accepted in country music

‘My Truck’ singer credits Chicago and its ‘diverse music tastes’ for taking the lead in embracing his sound.

SHARE Even as Breland’s star rises, he doesn’t always feel accepted in country music
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“There are times where it feels like it’s a little tougher for me than it might be for some other people,” says country music singer-songwriter Breland.

Jimmy Fontaine

As a bevy of white artists walked down the red carpet of the 58th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Thursday, there was a Black artist waiting anxiously to interview them.

And his name was Breland.

“When I look at the best new artist category, both male and female, I think there’s some work that we can do,” the platinum-selling singer-songwriter said mere hours before taking his place as a co-host of the ACM Awards red carpet show. “I think there are some more faces of color and some more people who have more diverse perspectives than are currently being recognized in that capacity. It’s a lot of people that look very similar to one another.”

Breland

Breland
With Matt Jordan

When: 7 p.m. May 17

Where: Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed St.

Tickets: $10

Info: joesbar.com

The rising country music star lets out a slight laugh, making it seem that the truth doesn’t hurt. But as a forever forward thinker, Breland soon pivots to the positive.

“I’m seeing the diversification of country music and seeing some people being recognized,” he continued. “[Country duo] War and Treaty is the first Black group nominated in the duo category, so hopefully we’ll see some more of that. They can become a staple and pave the way for some more artists.”

Someday Breland may find his name listed in multiple categories of one of country music’s biggest award shows, having built up an impressive body of work off his 2022 debut album “Cross Country.” But there still seems to be doubt in his voice whether that day will ever come.

“I don’t know,” the “My Truck” singer said quietly. “I have days where I feel very accepted and embraced by country music, and then I have some days where it doesn’t necessarily feel that way. There are times where it feels like it’s a little tougher for me than it might be for some other people.”

Breland’s talents long have been recognized by some of country music’s biggest power players, with everyone from Sam Hunt to Dierks Bentley to Keith Urban lining up to collaborate with the vocal powerhouse with the ever-present glasses.

“One of the biggest things about country music is that we all have these mentors and people that support us who have been in these positions before,” reflected Breland, who recently held his second annual fundraiser Breland & Friends” at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. “That’s such an integral part of country music developing from generation to generation. But I think also for me in particular, to be able to collab with all these people is particularly special.”

One particular city also seemed to have supported Breland from the start.

“Chicago just keeps raising its hand,” said Breland, a New Jersey native whose mom was born in Elgin, Illinois. “I just think that the Midwest in general tends to understand what it is that I do in ways that certain American markets aren’t as readily accepting. Chicago’s such a diverse city with diverse music tastes. I think it just makes the country listeners out there a lot more receptive.”

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Breland arrives Thursday at the 58th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Frisco, Texas, where he interviewed artists on the red carpet.

Jeffrey McWhorter/AP

And receptive is what Breland hopes the audience will be as he heads to the Windy City for a headlining show at Joe’s Bar, where his new single “For What It’s Worth” certainly will make its way to the set list.

“It’s an important song for me I think when it comes to country radio, though it’s going be a longer journey for me in terms of continuing to break that barrier,” Breland explained of his first song officially taken to country radio. “I understand that this is going to be somewhat of an uphill battle, but we take the wins where we can get ’em. And seeing the success we seem to be having in Chicago is definitely important.”

And in a way, almost unbelievable.

“There was this version of my career trajectory in my head where the establishment wouldn’t end up supporting what I do,” he admitted. “I’m really grateful that wasn’t the case. Whenever I do finally get to that point where I’m headlining arenas and winning awards, I will know that it was a hard-fought battle and people will hopefully be able to appreciate the fact that I earned it.”

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