The following Zach Bryan article originally appeared in Country Minute, the ongoing newsletter of country music content creator James Shotwell. Click here to subscribe for future updates.

Zach Bryan seemed surprised by his success when he was across from Joe Rogan at the podcast host’s Texas studio this past July. “I didn’t mean to fuckin’ do this,” he said with a laugh.

The full quote is even better:

“I never in my life envisioned being a musician, ever. Period. No. And I was thinkin’ about it yesterday, how crazy my reality is now.

Like coming back to Oklahoma and being around people, and people coming to get me in diners and being like, ‘Take a picture with me.’ I’m like, ‘What is going on, man?’

There’s like 700 people hating me online, and I’m like, bro, I didn’t mean to fuckin’ do this. I’m sorry. It’s crazy.”

Whether intentional or not, Bryan’s impact on the lives of countless music fans has never been more evident than when attending his sold-out Burn Burn Burn world tour. Clocking in with set time nearing two full hours, Bryan and his band of highway boys rip through twenty-three songs that leave them and the crowd exhausted from emotional catharsis.

Performing in the round, Bryan and his band stepped on stage at Van Andel Arena on August 7 with fire in their eyes. On the first night back in arenas since the start of summer, the band was surrounded by thousands of fans of all ages, genders, and orientations who were bubbling with even more excitement than those on stage. For them (and me), it was a night they’d waited for since tickets went on sale in February. For most, it was the culmination of an era of hyper-fixation where a boy from Oklahoma’s simple songs about honest truths was helping ease the worries of an increasingly complex world and its many turmoils.

To describe the set or the energy of the crowd in full would take volumes of text. Bryan’s performances fall somewhere between Southern Baptist tent revivals and whatever you call the late nights spent with close friends and the songs that confess what you can otherwise never admit. It’s a place people go to let it all out, and the unity in that action produces a feeling of belonging that is hard to deny.

After all, It all started with music, and I mean EVERYTHING. The earliest people gathered around the fire and shared in song, forging the first sense of community anywhere on Earth through rhythm alone. We were alone in a world of chaos until we were not, and what brought us together was this strange ability to transform noise into pleasing sounds that made us feel something within.

Each time we connect with a song, whether alone in our rooms or surrounded by strangers at a concert, we tap into that same primal feeling. That original sense of togetherness that stems from recognizing shared human experiences despite our differences remains one of the most powerful forces for good on the planet. Music is, if nothing else, the great unifier, reminding us we are all together yet still burdened by the unwavering feeling of being alone in an ever-expanding universe.

Quoting the man himself on “Burn, Burn, Burn”:

I’m a simple man / I don’t need much / some some simple songs and some human touch

To see Zach Bryan live is to experience one of the oldest human traditions in its purest form. It’s a gathering of open minds and fragile hearts that encourages people to push on because, honestly, what else will we do? Life is too short to lose yourself in regrets and what-ifs. Fall in love, take chances, fight for your beliefs, and above all else—strive to put more good into the world. To borrow from Henry David Thoreau, a writer whose message often evokes similar feelings and themes as Bryan’s music, “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”