It's the story of my life, not a style of music," says Bryan, when asked about the tattoo on his left arm that simply says, "Rhythm & Blues". He continues – "Life is the greatest symphony of all. The dramatic highs could never be experienced and appreciated without tumultuous lows, and they're two sides to the same coin. It's beautiful and painful. Perfect."
Born on New Year's Eve of 1985, Bryan was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area (Vallejo, CA). Being a military child with divorced parents, he constantly moved around. After jumping from city to city in California, he spent several years in Orlando, FL, before spending his high school years in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bryan's mother was always on stage in church during his childhood. A wonderful vocalist in her own right, she had a lot to do with the music he was exposed to. From Stevie Wonder to Journey and Bread, she exposed him to the "soul of music", as he puts it. She taught him how to harmonize and improvise during car rides with his sister Bethany. He would sing in church as a child, and remembers being completely terrified the first time he was about to take the stage.
Bryan signed his first production deal at 16. His partner ended up doing jail time, and the studio was shut down for the illegal activities that went on. Thinking his dreams were too far out of reach, he realized he was living a lifestyle far from what he wanted: "All I did was test the boundaries of living in any way possible. Drugs, alcohol, anything to speed up or slow down. I destroyed myself brilliantly, so as to appear that I still had it together." Bryan claims to be "close with death", having lost many friends, nearly dying himself several times. His sometimes questionable and often misunderstood outlook is a reflection of what he calls "a momentary reality". He believes that "intelligence lies in your ability to creatively respond to right now", and his daily life appears to reflect this belief. He became disillusioned with school and walked out one day and never came back, then ended up graduating a year early through a home-study program.
Feeling like his dreams of being a singer weren't realistic, he studied intently for a year and was a licensed mortgage broker the day after he turned 18. He reflects, "I worked 12 hours a day to pay for two apartments and all of these toys that I never really enjoyed. My friends were graduating high school and I was playing almost as hard as I was working, which was a dangerous combination." In a downward spiral, he wound up in some trouble and had to part ways with the mortgage industry. After couch hopping for several months, Bryan found himself in Atlanta for close to a year. Then, with his savings in his pocket and belongings in a backpack, Bryan headed for New York. He'd saved enough money to rent a room for a few months, giving himself time to find a job and get to work on his musical ventures, and had his laptop in his backpack that held years of music he'd written and was hoping to sell and/or record.
His first day in Times Square was filled with all the excitement the city has to offer. That same night, however, he ended up being jumped and robbed of everything he'd owned - both the money he'd saved, and the music he'd spent so much time and effort on. Again, he found himself with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to.
Adapting as he always does, Bryan sang in Times Square during the day for money, and slept on the streets at night. After a few weeks, a local connection referred him to a major music studio, and he found himself interning at 49th and Broadway's KMA Studios. Shortly thereafter, KMA became Bryan's home – literally. He slept on a futon in a spare studio room, and showered at New York Sports Club. He'd spend all his spare time developing himself as an artist and writing songs with T.C. Love, who is now his creative partner for over 6 years. After several years of being "beautifully beaten down by the city", a near-miraculous course of events landed Bryan a publishing contract with Sony/ATV. Bryan and T.C. Love's creative collaborations finally took full shape when T.C signed him to a joint production deal along with Title 9, which materialized into a record deal with Universal Republic Records.
Bryan claims that the music he writes is "profoundly inspired by nothing and everything", and insists there is no formula to creating something beautiful and powerful. He concludes, "There is innate and sometimes latent understanding in everyone, and it naturally wants to express itself. To stay out of our own way is enough."