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Country’s Jacob Bryant emerges stronger from ‘dark place’

Singer/songwriter Jacob Bryant to perform at Tifton’s The Gin Thursday

TIFTON — Where many fall victim to the darker side of life and end up losing their soul in the process, rising country singer Jacob Bryant is one of those who faced the darkness and managed to fight his way out the other side.

The 26-year-old singer-songwriter, whose autobiographical works like “Save My Soul,” “This Side of Sober,” “Too Late to Turn Around,” “Country Went to Hell” and “Holdin’ on to Home” are being favorably compared to Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert, fell into a spin in the wake of his mother’s death. He passed out many nights, in the throes of alcohol and cocaine addiction, wondering if he’d wake up the next morning.

But through force of will, Bryant is sober again and creating some of modern country music’s most stirring works.

“I don’t want to hide who I am from my fans and friends,” Bryant, whose current tour will bring him to The Gin in Tifton for this week’s Thirsty Thursday, said in a phone interview. “I got to the point where I was drinking 30 beers a day and mixing it with liquor and other stuff. It definitely wasn’t a good time.

“I had trouble dealing with my mother’s death, and it took me looking in the mirror and realizing I wasn’t happy with the person looking back at me to turn things around. I was able, with help, to completely quit drinking for a long time and to get control of my life.”

With the woman who had inspired him to pursue a career in music no longer a part of his life, Bryant found it within himself to turn his mother’s dream into his own.

“I was always just singing and playing because it was fun, I had zero intentions of becoming rich and famous doing this,” the Jasper, Ga., native said. “It was my mom who believed I could do more. And when she passed away in 2010, well, after I went through a very dark time, I kind of made her dream my dream.”

Given a guitar by his dad at the age of 8, Bryant got his start in music playing the bluegrass of artists like the legendary Ralph Stanley on the front porch of his Jasper home and later singing in church. He fell in love with the songs of another tragic country music legend, Keith Whitley, who battled alcohol issues and died too young in 1989, and soon started writing the kind of personal songs that were the hallmark of his hero.

“One of the things about me is that I don’t try to sound like anybody else,” Bryant said. “But as I evolved as a singer and songwriter, I pretty much 150 percent emulated Keith Whitley. He and Travis Tritt are the artists whose music inspires me. When you hear one of their songs, you know it’s their song.”

Like most modern country singers, Bryant has allowed for the fact that pop and other genres of music — even hip-hop — have filtered their way into today’s Nashville sound. And even though he’s influenced more by traditional country artists, he’s not above showing off his love for rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Journey.

“There’s a place for everybody in music, man,” Bryant said. “Music should be about what makes you feel good, not about what somebody says is OK for this kind of music or that. For those folks who complain that certain songs ‘ain’t country music,’ I say if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. But I believe there’s room for everybody, for all kinds of music.

“I’ve always told myself that I’d do whatever I had to do to get a chance to play a show with Skynyrd. And Journey … I know that sounds a little odd, but ‘Wheel in the Sky,’ its structure is just like a country song. So if those folks at ‘Crossroads’ are listening …”

Bryant has done his share of bar gigs, and while Tifton is not exactly a hotbed of music, he said playing at a place like The Gin is the kind of opportunity he looks forward to.

“Hey, I played a couple of shows at Big Rax there in Albany, bars like that,” he said. “But playing at iconic places like The Gin, even though it’s in a smaller town, is the kind of show I honestly love. Playing before a young crowd that’s there to have a good time, that kind of show never gets old.”

And what kind of show can ABAC students and other country fans expect Thursday?

“Where a lot of folks will come in and play 80 percent covers and 20 percent originals, we’re going to flip that,” Bryant said. “We’re going to be balls-to-the-wall rocking out, playing 80 percent originals and only 20 percent covers. This is the kind of show I just tell everyone, ‘Y’all don’t puke, we’re going to have a good time.’ We’re going to get passionate.”

And maybe play “Wheel in the Sky?”

“Oh, you better believe it,” Bryant laughed.

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