Throughout Zach Bryan's 90-minute set on the rooftop of Pier 17 in New York City on Tuesday night (Sept. 27), he embodied two different emotions: Gratitude and disbelief.

Gratitude as he stood in front of a few thousand fans, each singing every single word to every song he and his band played for them.

And disbelief for, well, the same thing. It wasn't long ago that Bryan was in the Navy and music was a hobby. Now, just a few months after releasing his massive, 34-track album, American Heartbreak — his third record in less than three years — Bryan is selling out venues across the country.

But there seems to be no desire on his part to pursue or achieve "mainstream success."

Sure, he's had a couple of tracks placed on Yellowstone, but his songs aren't regularly spinning on the radio. Yeah, the New York Times recently profiled him, but other than that, Bryan isn't doing many interviews, and he seems to have no interest in promoting his shows or music in any other way than the way he wants to.

Bryan is making his own path in the genre and industry, and clearly, it's working.

Zach Bryan - New York City 2022
Chuck Armstrong

He has nearly a quarter million followers on Twitter, almost 850,000 on Instagram and more than 1 million on TikTok. His most-played song on Spotify, American Heartbreak's "Something in the Orange," is getting close to cracking 100 million spins.

Though it might be easy for the uninitiated to say Bryan is relatively unknown simply because he doesn't have the same name recognition as his peers in the country music world, it's clear he's far from it. He's received very high billing (first row underneath the headliners) for this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival, and he's playing Red Rocks Amphiteatre in Colorado on Nov. 3. American Heartbreak hit No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart and claimed the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Folk, Country and Rock albums charts.

Oh, and American Heartbreak was recorded and mixed at Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village — a bucket list studio for many musicians — where artists like Steve Earle, the Clash, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix have all recorded.

And in New York City, just steps away from Electric Lady, he held the attention of 3,500 people from the second he walked onto the stage. If he told the crowd to jump into the East River, they likely would've done it while belting out the lyrics to "God Speed" until they splashed in the icy cold water.

Zach Bryan - New York City 2022
Chuck Armstrong

Bryan played plenty of new music and he even performed "Deep Satin," a song about New York City — "I think I tricked some friends who thought this was about Manhattan, Kansas" — and one that has yet to have an official release. Several fans screamed as the song concluded, "Release it!", but Bryan didn't give any acknowledgment to the requests.

The night didn't involve much chatter from the singer other than the regular pause to thank the crowd or remind them, and himself, that it was Tuesday night in New York City and thousands of people decided to spend it with him.

Gratitude and disbelief.

"I hate to depress anyone on a Tuesday night," Bryan said as he got ready to play "Oklahoma Smokeshow" from Summertime Blues, the nine-track EP released a couple of months after American Heartbreak, "but we're here and we're doing it anyway."

Listen to Zach Bryan's "Oklahoma Smokeshow" From Summertime Blues

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