The Lesson Tim McGraw Taught Chase Bryant

The Work Ethic He Picked Up on Tour

In the summer of 2014, Chase Bryant released his debut single “Take It on Back.” And in the four years since, he’s learned a lot about who he is, who he isn’t, and how to stay true to the dream that brought him to Nashville.

But one of the most important lessons Bryant has learned along the way came from Tim McGraw, and he told me about it right before he took the stage at the packed Charleston Music Hall in South Carolina on Friday night (Aug. 31).

“We were on tour in Dallas, and he said something that I think about every morning when I wake up,” Bryant said. “Tim told me, ‘You know, Chase, you remind me of a young Bryan White and Vince Gill. And I was like, ‘That’s exactly what I’m going for.’

“But then he said, ‘You’re really talented, but it’s not the one who’s the most talented who succeeds. It’s the one who works the hardest to get the job.’ And I was like, ‘Shit. Did Tim just say I wasn’t talented,’” he laughed. “But all these years later, it has stuck with me, that hard work pays off. Even if you have to step back and rebuild.”

Bryant said that he doesn’t believe in A-list, B-list or even C-list artists, but he believes in leaders. And it’s guys like McGraw (and other influential tourmates Brad Paisley and Kip Moore) who he’s able to look up to as leaders; not just because of who they are on stage, but who they are when the show is over.

“Brad is the kindest, most genuine human being I’ve ever met in my life. He shoots you straight, never lies to you, and that’s what I need. I need to be told the truth,” he said. And Moore taught him to always be himself. “Kip is Kip is Kip is Kip. He is himself through and through, and I feel like he’s the true definition of an artist because he’s always himself. And he’s such a man’s man. How could you not want to be around him?”

While touring with McGraw, Paisley and Moore has kept Bryant on the right path, he admitted that he has spent the last year of his life devoted to taking a step back. “I got sidetracked by what radio wanted, what the labels wanted, what everybody else wanted. So I’ve been redefining my relationships with people, and it’s humbling trying to figure out who it is that I am,” he said.

“I traveled the whole pop-country route, but I didn’t like where I was headed. That’s not the country I grew up listening to,” he said, pointing to his turntable that was spinning an old Kris Kristofferson album. “Country music is always evolving — stylistically and sonically — but right now I feel like it’s at a place where it’s so hard to pinpoint just what it is.

“But I do know that you don’t have to live on a farm and wear a cowboy hat to make country music.”

Bryant’s next stop on his summer tour is on Saturday (Aug. 8) at The Stockyard in Holiday, Florida.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.