Daniel Breland ’13 visits with Keith Urban at his Nashville home in June. (Photo credit: Daniel Breland Instagram)
In a quick break from prepping for an upcoming trip to Australia with country superstar Keith Urban, "My Truck" singer-songwriter sensation Daniel Breland reminisced about Peddie with his former music teacher Alan Michaels on Wednesday in front of a virtual crowd of 130 starstruck students.
“It meant so much for our students to hear Daniel share his story in such an accessible way,” Michaels beamed. “A student reached out to me following the visit to tell me that hearing Daniel convinced him to pursue a passion for composing music.”
The Atlanta-based, Burlington, New Jersey native joined the Peddie audience remotely from a Nashville recording studio to talk about his rise to fame and credit the institution “where I found myself musically.”
“Over those four years, I found myself feeling confident and comfortable to try things out musically. Not everything I tried at the time was working. But it was a part of the development, and it was really important for me to get my footing and be able to perform in front of my peers and to be able to get feedback,” Breland said.
He recalled a time in 2012 when a community meeting performance with roommate (and current creative producer) Nathan Tempo went awry:
“Nathan had programmed a big electronic dance drop on his computer. It started with me and my friend on the piano singing this song, and then we had this big drop to blow everyone away. During dress rehearsal, it was all smooth. But in the moment, for whatever reason, as Nathan was about to press play, his computer completely crashed, and I didn’t know what to do, and so we just ran off the stage,” he said chuckling.
Along with the embarrassment, Breland also remembered the reaction from his teachers and peers.
“Everybody afterward was like, ‘Oh, that was a really great performance. Keep your head up.’ Nine times out of ten that type of performance where you are embarrassed and run off the stage, I think most people would be making fun of you. But [at Peddie] I always felt supported and loved.”
Breland grew up in a musical household. His parents are singers but chose different professional paths. “My dad is a judge, and my mom works in education and is getting her doctorate,” he said.
Along the way at Peddie, Breland realized that he wanted to pursue music as a career. “It was the independence at Peddie that I had – to be able to explore things – that pushed me further down that path,” he said.
Breland continued to experiment with songwriting as a student at Georgetown University and moved to Atlanta after graduating in 2017.
“I wasn’t making any money or music yet, so I had to work a day job. I would go to work in a suit and tie from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I would go to the studio from 6:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. I would get home at 3:30 a.m. and have to be up by 7 a.m. for work. So I was literally on a 20-hour schedule for a year and change just trying to get the music to take off.”
Just two years later, Breland’s career took flight.
“My Truck” exploded on TikTok last fall as more and more user-generated videos featured the country trap (a fusion of country music and hip-hop) song. Atlantic Records took notice, and Breland signed with the label in December.
“My Truck” has nearly 35 million streams on Spotify and has garnered more than 27 million views on YouTube, where it went viral in February. Last month, the song was certified gold.
Breland has worked with big names in the music industry recently, including Ty Dolla $ign and Justin Bieber. He’s featured on the track, “Out of the Cage,” on Urban’s upcoming album, The Speed of Now Park 1, scheduled for release on September 18, and Urban will appear on Breland’s upcoming “country-twerk” songs slated for release later this year. The two are traveling to Australia in mid-September to record music videos.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Breland. “It’s been really exciting.”