Cross-Country Musician Daniel Gerard Breland transforms tradition - 30A


Cross-Country Musician Daniel Gerard Breland transforms tradition

By: Gen Handley | Posted Oct 25, 2023

Breland is still buzzing from a show a couple of nights ago.

The country star is on a massive tour supporting Shania Twain, and they played Madison Square Garden. Growing up in New Jersey, it’s a major milestone to play this venue, but more importantly, he had friends and family in the crowd as well.

“It was a really great moment,” he said. “I had a lot of family and friends in town, and it was a pretty momentous occasion.”

“My family is full of singers, and when they’re in the crowd, I’m definitely paying closer attention to how I’m singing,” he added with a laugh. “But I think it energizes me more to have friends and family in the crowd because I know I got people out there who care about me, not just as an artist but as a person, and they are rooting for me on a deeper level.”

It’s their energy and support that has helped Breland become the musician he’s always wanted to be – an artist who’s challenging how one thinks about country music and musical genres in general.

“My family would perform at different churches and it was a lot of fun to watch. But growing up in our house, we definitely had to learn harmony and be able to play. We have some pretty complex musical IQs across the family.”

He would eventually leave the small community of Burlington Township for high school in New Jersey where his musical world opened up when he was exposed to different types of music he had never heard before in his gospel-rich upbringing. In a way, the mass mix of music he dramatically experienced was a sign of things to come – a sign of the hybrid music he would eventually create, such as his 2019 hit, “My Truck,” a catchy, smooth blend of country, rap, and trap melodies, rhythms, and cadence.

“It’s when I really discovered my personal love for music and started to explore other genres outside of just gospel,” he said. “I was really the only kid in my school that didn’t really know a lot of secular music. The type of music I make now, I can most closely link to that era – my time in high school – and discovering these genres and realizing some of these little threads that link all of them together.”

In a short period of time, Breland has worked with some pretty impressive people, including Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, Mickey Guyton, Lady A, and Dierks Bentley.

With his impressive debut record Cross Country, Breland coined the genre of “cross country,” which he created to help describe to people what he wants to achieve as an artist.

“I think early on, a lot of people were like, ‘This isn’t country!’ And I was like, ‘You’re right, it’s not – it’s this.’ That’s why I came up with a more inclusive term,” he explained. “But at the same time, I think music is interpretive, and they can decide what country is to them, however they want to.”

And nothing is exempt. Cross country creates endless possibilities that are rooted in the genre’s strong traditions of storytelling. Breland said cross country music can include “any music that bridges the gap between country and something else; so country and hip-hop, country and R&B, country and rock, country and dance, country and whatever.”

Credit: Evan Kauffman

“For me, the thing that makes country songs what they are has nothing to do with what instruments are being used or how something is being sung,” Breland said. “It’s about how the story is told and the way the lyrics move from line to line, the color and attention to detail. All of that, I think, really shapes a country song.”

His stories are mostly influenced by personal experiences, and like many, he is energized by the summer months and the positive energy it brings.

“I grew up in New Jersey, so I grew up going to the beach. I don’t mind it a little colder though,” he said. “I’m definitely inspired by my environment and the good times that come with it.”

Occasionally, Breland is inspired by external events such as George Floyd’s death, which led him to release Rage & Sorrow, a pensive three-song release that was “not about politics, but more about the human experience.”

He told me near the end of our interview, “I like making music and being able to use my voice in different ways, challenging what people would expect something to sound like and taking them on a different type of journey – a journey they might not go on by themselves, but one they probably will end up enjoying.”

To learn more about Breland, visit Check out more cool music features on





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Gen Handley is a music writer living in Vancouver, BC where he can be found running its wet streets or trying its many restaurants with his wife and son.