This week, it’s almost more difficult to find a music chart that doesn’t lead with Zach Bryan. The Oklahoma native’s new self-titled album exploded out of the gate, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 200,000 equivalent album units, while its focus single, “I Remember Everything” featuring Kacey Musgraves, simultaneously debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, his first No. 1 on each chart.
But that’s just scratching the surface. The album — which qualifies for both the country charts and the rock charts — is the first rock album to hit No. 1 in over a year; had the biggest week for a rock album in four years; and accumulated the biggest streaming week for a rock album in history. Meanwhile, “I Remember Everything” becomes the first song in history to hit No. 1 on all of the Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts, while all 16 of the album’s tracks are in the top 50 of the Hot 100, resulting in 20 of the top 40 songs on the chart being country songs for the first time… ever. If that’s not enough, “I Remember Everything” is the fourth straight country song to reach the top of the chart (following Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night,” Jason Aldean’s “Try That In a Small Town” and Oliver Anthony Music’s “Rich Men North of Richmond”) — also for the first time in history.
Any of which would be notable achievements on their own. But to set each mark all at once is, frankly, a little overwhelming. It’s been a long time coming for Bryan, whose last album, his major-label debut American Heartbreak, hasn’t fallen out of the top 40 on the Billboard 200 in the 67 weeks since it first debuted in the top 10 in June 2022. And the success of the project helps earn Warner Records vp of A&R Miles Gersh the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Gersh helps to break down the success of the album and its big single, the recent run of success for country songs and where the label can help take the project from here. “I think the surge is really due to the quality of the songwriting attracting fans that want something that they feel they can relate to.”
This week, Zach Bryan’s self-titled album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 200,000 equivalent album units, his first to top the chart. What key decisions did you make to help make that happen?
This album was all about Zach. Coming off the great success of American Heartbreak and his sold-out tour, I think naturally the label wanted to pull out all of the stops to make this the biggest album possible. But the best decision that we — alongside [Warner Records co-chairman/CEO] Aaron Bay-Schuck — made was to give Zach the artistic freedom to create the album he wanted. We went against some industry norms with no advance singles or videos, but it turned out to be the exact right way to roll it all out.
At the same time, Zach and Kacey Musgraves’ duet “I Remember Everything” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100, the first chart-topper for each artist and Warner’s first Hot 100 No. 1 in a decade. How did the track come together and what was behind its big debut?
This was actually the last song on the album to come together about a week before release. Zach always wanted this song to be a duet with a female vocalist and there was some back and forth about who made the most sense. For a moment it looked like it could just be Zach on the song, but when Zach’s manager Stefan Max played me Kacey’s verse, it was a no-brainer. We knew it was the moment the album was missing, and I’m glad it’s resonated with fans. I’m honored to be a part of not only a No. 1 song for Zach but a big hit for Warner as well.
The album is the latest in a line of projects that qualify for both the country and rock charts — and “I Remember Everything” is the first song in history to hit No. 1 on the Hot 100, Hot Country Songs and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs charts. What do you think is behind this surge in these types of projects, and how does Zach’s album fit into that?
Zach’s music has always been genre-less in my mind. I understand where both the country and rock designations come from, but he’s always just seemed like a singer/songwriter. By producing and writing 100% of this album he was able to experiment with the sounds that inspire him. I think the surge is really due to the quality of the songwriting attracting fans that want something that they feel they can relate to.
The album also now has the biggest streaming week for a rock album in history and becomes the first rock album in over a year to top the Billboard 200. For a genre that doesn’t often over-index in streaming, how did this album break through?
Although you hear some rock production on this album, I wouldn’t say it caters to the traditional rock fan. This album was able to break through because of the authenticity and relatability of Zach’s music, and really just him as a person.
“I Remember Everything” also marks the fourth straight country song at No. 1 on the Hot 100, something that has never happened before in the entire history of the chart. Why do you think country music is resonating in the U.S. right now?
I think there’s a couple reasons for this. First, growing up in L.A. in the ’90s and 2000s there was a stigma around country music that it just wasn’t cool. That’s completely disappeared with artists like Zach, Tyler Childers and others. Second, as streaming has grown throughout the country, places where people typically listened to the radio and bought songs on iTunes have transitioned into streaming, and they’re streaming a lot. So while I think there are a ton of new country music fans, it’s also the way that they’re consuming music that has changed.
After such a scorching-hot debut, how do you continue to boost this album and its singles moving forward?
While we’re all so excited about the success of this album out of the gate, I think it will continue to grow on people as they decipher and discover the meanings of each song. Zach’s team — Danny Kang and Stefan Max — is fantastic and with them we will find tasteful and authentic ways to expose the music to more people. That may be through music videos that Zach also writes himself, through moments like the Grammys and great work on the digital side.