July Country Rookie of the Month: Bailey Zimmerman

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Two years ago, Bailey Zimmerman was building gas pipelines. Since then, he has gone from writing his first song to signing a deal with Warner Music Nashville/Elektra Music Group and placing two tracks within the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

Zimmerman’s single “Fall in Love,” which officially impacted country radio on July 11, has 113.1 million U.S. official on-demand streams, according to Luminate. The track sits at No. 10 on the Hot Country Songs chart — while his latest release, “Rock and a Hard Place,” has 33.7 million U.S. official on-demand streams and is No. 12 on the same chart, after debuting at No. 2 in June.

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Illinois native Zimmerman first augmented his TikTok following by uploading videos of his custom-lifted trucks. By 2020, he began interspersing those truck videos with clips of himself singing and collaborating with his friend and fellow singer-songwriter Gavin Lucas. His original song,  “Never Comin’ Home,” caught the attention of fans and industry execs alike in early 2021. To date, Zimmerman amassed over 1 million followers on TikTok.

“I posted ‘Never Comin’ Home’ and it blew up overnight. It was a whirlwind from there. It hasn’t really stopped,” Zimmerman says. “Two months later, [Warner Music Nashville’s] Cris Lacy and Rohan Kohli reached out to take a meeting. It was all so new to me. I didn’t know what Warner was. I didn’t know what labels were, or publishing or anything.”

He cut “Rock and a Hard Place” after first hearing one of the song’s co-writers, Heath Warren, perform it on his Instagram page. “When I listen to outside cuts, I’m listening for the very first line. If it doesn’t grab me, I’m like, ‘No.’ But as soon as I heard that on Heath’s Instagram, and I heard the line, ‘Like swinging and missing,’ I knew that I wanted to cut it. It was [in the] perfect key and everything.”

Zimmerman, who is booked by WME and co-managed by The Core Entertainment’s Simon Tikhman and Chief Zaruk, and 10th Street Entertainment’s Chris Nilsson and Scott Frazier, says a full album is “for sure” coming next year — and in the meantime, he will have another single coming within the next few months. “We’ve also talked about putting out an EP, but nothing’s set in stone just yet,” he says.

Billboard’s Country Rookie of the Month for July, Zimmerman spoke with Billboard about his whirlwind road to success, his first performance, his mentors and his dream collaborators.

Things have happened so fast for you. It seems you’ve had a crash course in learning about the industry. 

My life went from like, nothing to 100, just so fast. I started reading books. [Fellow country artist] Drew Baldridge has been like a mentor for me. He was like, “Dude, get the book All You Need to Know About The Music Business [by Donald Passman].” I learned what a 360 [deal] was and about percentages and how labels worked, all kinds of stuff. I still have a lot to learn, but I dove in to learn what’s going on.

When was your first public performance?

My first show was last August at [music festival] Rock the South in [Cullman,] Alabama. Luke Combs was headlining. I had a 25-minute set at 2:00 p.m., and I loved it. I didn’t realize how fit you need to be to be able to run around and stuff, but since then I’ve got addicted to it real quick.

What were you like in school — were you into music back then?

I played a lot of baseball. I got into playing guitar when I was nine but then just kind of threw it away around 11 or 12 and started playing baseball and riding dirt bikes. But I listened to music all the time.

How did you get into country music?

My dad owned a trucking business and would haul cars across the United States. We would get up at 3 a.m. and do these drives, and he would always have country music playing. One of the big country songs when I was growing up was Craig Morgan’s “Wake Up Lovin’ You.” My dad loved that song and would turn it up any time it came on.

Are others in your family entrepreneurial?

My grandpa owned a used car shop in our little town of Louisville, Illinois. My mom worked there and now basically owns it with my uncle. My family’s always had businesses. My brother owns a metal shop. My dad owns a towing and salvage yard now. We’ve always just loved creating, in our own ways.

What was the first concert you attended?

My mom took me to an all-ages Tesla concert when I was like 12.

What did you do after high school?

I went to West Virginia and got my union card and started building gas pipelines. I did that until the end of 2020 and then in January 2021, that’s when “Never Comin’ Home” hit.

What would be your dream venue to play?

Madison Square Garden. I remember watching the [Justin] Bieber movie  [2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never] over and over again and I just thought that would be the ultimate place to play.

What are some other music documentaries you’ve liked?

Well, I’m excited to watch that Machine Gun Kelly documentary [Life in Pink], he’s such a unique dude. Kanye West has one that’s really good [Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy].

Who would your dream musical collaboration be?

First, Morgan Wade. She’s just such a badass and I love her music so much. Another would be Morgan Wallen. That would be really sick, because our voices have a similar tone. That’s like a dream collab, but we’ll see.

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