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Country Playlist: Chill Mix (2023) | Zach Bryan, HARDY + More

Powerful Playlists: 2023 Chill Country Mix

by Seth Woolcock

“Powerful Playlists” is a lifestyle column by Seth Woolcock, serving as the DJ for life’s various moments. Read and listen on as Seth unveils his early 2023 country playlist, offering chill tracks from the stylings of Zach Bryan, HARDY and more.

There’s something subtly special about the late winter/early spring season. 

Almost without notice, it’s getting darker later, greener faster as the days pass. Social obligations are usually still at a lull, finally allowing us to take inventory. Spring cleaning and taxes; all important tasks for the times. But it’s the self-inventory – our lease on life – that really matters most.

We all reflect differently. For some, it’s with an after-work glass of Chardonnay or Busch Light under the stars. For others, it’s a walk through a familiar forest or a drive down a favorite backroad.

However you take stock of your current situation, hoping to find future serendipity, it’s usually more calming done in the company of music. To help us find peace in today, this edition of “Powerful Playlists” will offer a country playlist featuring songs only from the first two months of 2023.

1. “Dawns (feat. Maggie Rogers)” – Zach Bryan

There’s no better intro to this 2023 country playlist than perhaps the best intro across the genre right now. Sirens echoing and light guitar set the scene of a city night. Zac Bryan delivers relatable lyrics about the addiction of love, asking what we do from here.

The song sets itself apart with the changing tempo at the 1:25 mark and the backup vocals of Maggie Rodgers. Bryan asks for his “dawns,” or days back, following the end of a relationship. 

Rodgers’ solo verse shares the opposite point of view, backed by cellos, electric guitars and light drums. The cutting-edge record reminds us that things happen for a reason and that we have to keep moving forward.

2. “Somewhere Over the Radio” – Matt Stell

Rising country singer/songwriter Matt Stell delivers a piano-driven ballad with “Somewhere Over the Radio.” The track tells a story as old as time; a small-town kid with big dreams must leave home to chase them.

The first half is filled with the anxieties of having the conversation with the girl he loves, thinking he’ll have to leave her behind. However, the song takes a feel-good spin when his girl agrees to come with him. It’s a different side than listeners usually see from Stell, spelling out that you don’t always have to chase your dreams alone.

3. “Damn Love” – Kip Moore

A perhaps “Baba O’Riley”-inspired intro met with classic Kip Moore-sounding guitar makes his latest single “Damn Love” one to remember. It’s just a fun song about the strength of young love; the good, the bad and, of course, the untimely fashion.

4. “Something Real” – Dierks Bentley

Five years removed from his Colorado-inspired album, “The Mountain,” Dierks Bentley returns with his 10th studio album, “Gravel & Gold.” And, man, was it worth the wait.

“For some people, [a road] is gravel,” Bentley said in an Apple Music interview. “For other people, those roads are where the best moments of life happen. I think that’s the overall message for the record: just being present in the moment you’re in, having an attitude of gratitude and finding the positive in some of the rougher moments in life.”

The album’s fourth track, “Something Real,” encapsulates Bentley’s mixed emotions about being a star and leaving the small-town life behind. He explains that he can’t fully pour his heart out on his radio hits because how he’s feeling won’t appeal to the masses. It’s an authentic track from the Arizona-born singer but is still becomes an upbeat banger, littered with his western-country influence.

5. “Screen” – HARDY

HARDY is hands-down the most clever lyricist in Nashville right now. “Screen” off his new album “the mockingbird & THE CROW” showcases just that. From TV screens with bad news to cell phones recording memorable moments, HARDY employs pulling the chord and to “take it in with your own eyes.”

This is definitely the most fast-paced song on this country playlist, but also one of the most memorable, ending with the picture of Hardy watching a storm through the back porch screen.

6. “Sunday Saints” – Jordan Davis

Let’s be honest. If you were raised in a small town, you’re probably like a lot of us, a mix between a little bit of heaven and hell. Sure, we have our vices, but our hearts are usually in the right place, as seen in actions like tipping and praying. That’s the story of Jordan Davis’ “Sunday Saints” off his new album, “Bluebird Days.”

Davis has a knack for making old-school-feeling music sound current. This one includes a fun, quick-paced verse at the 1:22 mark and a closing rendition of “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In.”

7. “Gettin’ There” – Andrew Jannakos

Another up-and-coming country singer/songwriter, Andrew Jannakos, is making a name for himself with powerful notes and relatable lyrics. His latest single, “Gettin’ There,” has both.

The song speaks about the unmentioned sacrifices significant others make when the person they love is chasing their dreams. In Jannakos’ case, it’s traveling away from home to tour and record music. This is a well-produced song, prompting us to be grateful for both the journey and those accepting of it.

8. “Bench Seat” – Chase Rice

A little piano, a few chords and Chase Rice’s South Carolina drawl come together wonderfully on “Bench Seat,” one of the lead singles off his new record, “I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell.”

The song tells the story of what seems like a simple cruise in a single-cab pickup truck. Fresh-cut grass, friendly neighbors and the “best view in Tennessee” set the scene. However, the depth of the song shines through when it’s revealed later that it’s from a dog’s point of view.

Rice takes us on a trip through the evolution of the dog’s life, how the rides around town began with just him and his owner but are accompanied by the owner’s wife and son. The way the song ends is sort of sad, but it’s based on a true story of how one of Rice’s friend’s dog saved his life. This makes it all the more special, swaying listeners to be grateful for the simple things in life, like laps around town and our pets.

“Life Part of Livin’” – Chase Rice

I’m rounding out this playlist with back-to-back songs from Rice because that’s just how great this album is. On “Life Part of Livin,’” Rice shares the simple truths he’s learned through the years, like how “college ain’t near long enough / And Natty Light’s the good stuff.”

It comes together to teach hare how “love’s where you find the life part of livin’.” This song is another relatable and moving masterpiece from country’s best-kept secret. If you like music that makes you feel something – in this case, gratitude for the ride – this track and the entire album are for you.

10. __________

It’s a tradition of “Powerful Playlists to keep the final song up to you, the readers and listeners. This 2023 country playlist is no different. So as you find your “you time” this year, wherever and whatever that is, keep these chill country tracks on hand. You never know when you’ll need them.

This playlist can be found for streaming and/or download on Apple Music. And for more feel-good content, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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