Religiously. The Album.
The early part of the 2020s has seen a rise in country musicians finding success through TikTok, a fan-driven phenomenon that lets up-and-comers skip the Music Row middleman and allows for fresh, sometimes unexpected voices to break into the mainstream. Bailey Zimmerman is one such artist, first finding viral fame on the app before releasing his debut single, “Never Comin’ Home,” in 2021. Following his 2022 EP Leave the Light On, Zimmerman’s full-length debut boasts a handful of hit singles and an all-killer, no-filler (and notably featureless) tracklist, which at 16 songs feels taut in comparison to the double-album format so popular among his peers. Appropriately, social media is baked into Zimmerman’s creative process, as he tells Apple Music that he initially discovered several songs for the LP on other songwriters’ profiles. He also appreciates that such finds don’t benefit just him, but the writer, too. “One cut is going to get them started in Nashville, to where they can get into rooms and [meet] people,” Zimmerman tells Apple Music. “It only takes one thing, and it's a great song. It's going to help my business as well. It's going to help my music. I've always been the first guy to help whoever I can help.” One such song is the massive, multi-week No. 1 single “Rock and a Hard Place,” a wrenching ballad that really gives Zimmerman space to show off his rough-hewn, soulful voice. Zimmerman first heard the song, written by Heath Warren, Jacob Hackworth, and Jet Harvey, on Warren’s Instagram page. Other highlights on Religiously. The Album. include “You Don’t Want That Smoke,” an especially melodic cut with a clever metaphor driving its narrative, and Zimmerman’s cover of Johnny Cash’s recording of the folk song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” which producer Austin Shawn outfits with a foot-stomping arrangement and barn-burning guitar solo. Below, Zimmerman shares insight into several key tracks. “Forget About You” “When we came up with that [lyric], it was the funniest thing. Because I'm like, ‘Is there a song that talks about this?’ And we looked it up and looked it up and we were just like, no, what the heck? ‘Forgive, but I can't forget about you.’ That's a simple hook. And when we wrote it with Drew [Baldridge] and Gavin [Lucas] and the producer, I had the chorus first. And then we were like, ‘Let's make this real swampy for the people that really loved me back [during] that phase.’ It’s just sick, and live it's going to crush.” “Chase Her” “I really love that song, and I think it's something for people to look forward to and what I'm going to write in the future a lot more. Because I do love pop music and I love the influences, and I love how fun it is. It’s really bass-filled, and it's just a really good vibe. It is a lot different than what I've done before.” “Fall in Love” “I see in the crowd, when I'm singing ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ and ‘Fall in Love,’ people are bawling their eyes out and crying and letting go of a lot of stuff in that moment. [It’s expressing] vulnerability in front of 20, 30,000 people. They're crying, because they're going through something. And if you don't understand it, that's kind of on you. But the tears, a lot of people will relate to that.” “You Don’t Want That Smoke” “That song came to me in a text from a random number. I didn't have the number saved. I'd never texted them before. They had never texted me. And it was just a song. I clicked on it one day right before [I took a] shower and put it on. I went to go get in the shower and then I stopped. I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is this?’ The chair's scooting up before he starts the guitar on the demo. The demo is awesome. Then [I realized] it was Jimi Bell who sent it to me and said, ‘Hey, me and Tucker [Beathard] wrote this. What do you think of it?’ And I'm like, ‘Dude, smash. I love this song. Holy cow.’ I'm about to get in the shower, man, so I put it on hold and they said I could cut it. And it took me a whole day and whole night to cut that song, just getting the texture right, because it's such a quiet song. I just cut it and cut it and cut it.”