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When the 2024 Stagecoach Festival lineup was announced recently, one name stood out beside country heavyweight Morgan Wallen’s: Bailey Zimmerman, a 23-year-old artist who, just a few years ago, had only a passing acquaintance with the world of country music. His journey from obscurity to sharing the stage with country music’s finest is a story of rapid ascent, fueled by heartbreak anthems, social media savvy, and a touch of rock ‘n’ roll spirit.
Zimmerman’s debut album, “Religiously,” released in May, created waves in the music industry. Its first-week streaming performance marked a historic achievement, earning him the title of having the biggest streaming debut album of the year across all genres in 2023. Notably, it also became the best streaming debut for any debut country album, solidifying his place in the country music pantheon.
The album’s success was no fluke. Zimmerman had already tasted chart-topping success with hits like “Fall in Love” and “Rock and a Hard Place,” both of which claimed the number one spot on country charts. The latter even broke into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, while enjoying a six-week reign on the country airplay rankings.
What sets Zimmerman apart is not just his musical prowess but also his unconventional path to country music stardom. Long before he was known for his heart-wrenching lyrics, he was a viral sensation on TikTok, showcasing his love for lifted trucks. His unique charisma attracted a devoted following before he ever contemplated a career in music. Warner Music recognized his potential and promptly signed him.
Zimmerman’s journey also brought him to the hallowed grounds of the Stagecoach Festival. Hailing from a small town in rural Illinois, the idea of music festivals like Stagecoach was once a distant dream for him. However, after experiencing the festival firsthand, he understood its allure, especially when he saw the sea of 20,000 fans singing along to his music. His forthcoming appearance alongside Morgan Wallen and Hardy at the festival is highly anticipated.
Known for his heartbreak songs, Zimmerman has carved a niche in a genre often associated with rowdy party anthems. He acknowledges the potential need for more upbeat tracks but believes that his heartbreak anthems provide an alternative form of energy. Rather than wallowing in sadness, his songs often evoke a sense of righteous anger, making them ideal for live performances.
“Religiously: The Album” serves as a deeply personal expression of Zimmerman’s emotions. Of the 16 tracks on the album, 14 delve into the realm of breakup songs. These songs, he admits, are an authentic reflection of his own experiences and thoughts on relationships. The album’s thematic consistency is a testament to Zimmerman’s unfiltered songwriting process.