Tucked away in a closet in his Tennessee home, Chase Bryant has an old-school red Craftsman toolbox filled not with hammers and pliers, but computer hard drives. They’re the footprint of a prolific creator and each one contains scores of songs that represent a specific time and place in his life over the past few years. Now, he’s ready to debut the music and answer the question he’s heard regularly from fans since the release of 2021’s Upbringing: “What has Chase been doing?”
“I haven’t been sitting still, I promise,” Chase laughs. “I’ve got all this music I’ve been making and I want to let people into that room to open the toolbox and hear what’s on those hard drives. In the journey I’m on to always being honest, I think it’s vital to share all eras of your creativity.”
Over the course of a year, the singer-songwriter will release five distinct EPs, each one named after the town where it was conceived. Some feature Chase, already a renowned guitarist, playing every instrument; others find him fronting a live band. The first, Summerville, is a collection of six songs inspired by his relationship with his wife Selena — a native of Summerville, South Carolina.
“She’s Just Like That” is the most direct, a song written especially about his wife. Evoking Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” in its atmospheric intro, it quickly explodes into a breezy summer jam with Chase comparing his partner to the best song to ever get stuck in his head. “I told her I’m going to write her a song, and it’s going to be a blazing fast, up-tempo one,” Chase says. “And Springsteen, along with other music from that era, is what I had in mind.”
“I Still Do” is even more super-charged, barreling out of the gate with a yearning vocal, an unrelenting riff, and a sizable chip on the shoulder. It’s Chase at his most ferocious. “I just tried to dial in some anger. People often say to me, ‘Oh, so you play guitar?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, for the last 15 years — I’m glad you noticed!’ I wanted this song to feel like a high school rock & roll band,” he says. “It’s me plugging a guitar into a little five-watt amplifier and letting it rip. It’s kind of my homage to Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots.”
But it’s “Don’t Forget About Me,” a shadowy, rhythmic mid-tempo ballad, that Chase says carved a path for the entire EP. Written in Summerville with his frequent collaborator Tommy Lee James, it’s a plea to a lover to be seen as an individual and not grouped together with other similar suitors. A love song on the surface, Chase actually wrote it about his experiences in Nashville.
“There was a time, from 2015 to 2017 or so, where there were a lot of us! Every guy in town played guitar and had a pair of skinny jeans in their closet,” Chase says. “‘Don’t Forget About Me’ is me trying to show, ‘Here’s what I do, and it’s not just one thing.’ It’s the most mature piece of music that I’ve recorded yet. It started this EP and became the song that I wanted to center everything around.”
Since the release of Upbringing, Chase’s full-length album produced by fellow Texan Jon Randall, Chase has been brutally honest about his mental health and the personal struggles he’s courageously overcome. He returns to that topic to close out Summerville: The gentle ballad “I Hope You Do” is a letter to himself as a child that begins with a voice recording of him as a six-year-old. The cover art of the EP also nods to young Chase with a photo of a desk covered in artifacts from his youth. Like all of Summerville, it bears the subtle imprint of his wife.
“She told me, ‘When you get down on yourself, just understand that that kid is who you’re living for. You’re trying to make that kid proud,’” Chase says. “And that has stuck with me for so long.”
After the release of Summerville, Chase will unveil four more EPs. Ashland City was birthed in a house in the town northwest of Nashville, and features Chase’s co-write with Ray Wylie Hubbard and the late Keith Gattis, “Wild and Tame.”
The third EP, Cayo del Grullo, is named after a favorite Texas vacation spot from his childhood. “It’s the most country beach town you’ve ever been to,” he says. “My wife and I lived there for a bit. I bought my grandparents’ old house and I turned my granddad’s pool room into a full-blown recording studio. It was so cool to record in one of the rooms where I grew up learning how to play guitar and sing.”
Clio, the fourth in the series, was cut in a cabin in rural Alabama. Chase and his band arrived deep in the woods with a 26-foot U-Haul, a recording console he picked up in New Orleans, and a few song ideas. Somehow, word got around about the Nashville visitors. “We found this catfish place to get something to eat, miles and miles away. We walk in the door and the old lady at the counter says, ‘We heard you boys was in town,’” Chase laughs.
The fifth and final EP is titled Avery Park and alludes to his old house outside of Brentwood, Tennessee, where Chase would sit just off the open balcony in his bedroom and write songs late into the night.
He has plans to compile all five of the EPs into an album with new material sometime next year. But right now, he’s enjoying the deliberate roll-out of the project and hopes listeners pick up on details intrinsic to each. Some zero in on Chase the songwriter, others on Chase the guitar hero or producer. But each one is uniquely Chase Bryant.“I’ve always wanted to be an artist somewhere between Daniel Lanois and Pharrell. Someone who could produce a record, write a song, and perform their own work,” he says. “Each of these EPs represents an important time in my life. I want to be a good caretaker of music — and of memories.”