Premiere: Assuming Responsibility with Jon Bryant’s Poignant “Did What I Did”

A solemn self-reckoning, Jon Bryant’s heartfelt “Did What I Did” is an intimate confession and assumption of responsibility.
for fans of Father John Misty, Bon Iver, Hozier

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To be in a cult is to be human.

Jon Bryant’s new music is an exploration of human nature; a deep reflection on what it means to be, to think, and to do. All of us are susceptible to the will and whims of others, just like all of us have the capacity to detach from the pack and/or express our individualities. In his latest song “Did What I Did,” Bryant tackles ownership in our own behaviors, acknowledging that we are ultimately behind who we are, how we act, and what we do.

Cult Classic - Jon Bryant album art

Cult Classic – Jon Bryant

I did what I did because I wanted to 
It felt so good at that altitude 
So I set free what I kept inside 
Nowhere to run 
Nowhere to hide 
I was wrong and I know 
It burns as bad as it shows 
I’ve thought it out and I’ve got no explanation 
I don’t know what to say 
A lie would get in the way 
I did what I did 
I did what I did because I wanted to 

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Jon Bryant’s new single and music video for “Did What I Did,” off his forthcoming fourth album Cult Classic (out May 17 via Nettwerk Music Group). Often compared to artists like Jeff Buckley, City and Colour, Bon Iver and more, Bryant began teasing songs off his new record late last year with “Cultivated” and “Paradise,” the latter of which has gone on to be one of his most-streamed singles to-date. His new songs hint at a profound inner awakening – both in his personal life, and in his artistry. When we last encountered the Vancouver-based singer/songwriter, he was having his Samson-like hair cut, treading water in a deep blue sea, and exploring the cult-like nature of our everyday relationships and lives in the Andrew Gerard-directed video for “Cultivated.”

Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

Cults play an understandably large role in many of the songs across Cult Classic, taking inspiration from Bryant’s own personal experience in one. He explains how while he is no longer a part of any formal cult, his participation opened his eyes to aspects of his life he had never noticed or considered before.

“Four years ago, I joined a cult. I was a member for a short but intense period of time. In the beginning I was recruited by a friend and after months of convincing I decided I would give it a shot. I did my research and found mixed reviews of the organization. No cult will ever say they’re a cult, but in my core, I felt a weary need to have caution. Especially since how from the minute I walked into their basement facility up until the day I left, I felt transformed and enlightened. Through all this, I made every mental effort to maintain a safe distance from full commitment to the organization. I’ve never fully defined my beliefs and I wasn’t about to start. However, what they were sharing with me was some of the most useful and rewarding information I’d ever heard. I knew that with the right amount of truth, promises and brainwashing, anyone could fall into the trappings of a cult.
A few months after I joined, I began to distance myself from the group. I still wanted to be involved as it was feeding my love of learning, but I knew something was off. After hearing more awful stories of people’s experiences with the organization, I finally cut ties. In the early days of writing the music for this album, I saw myself (and the world around me) through the lens of a cult. It was only until I was involved with one, did I actually realize that they’re interwoven through so much of culture. To be in a cult is to be human.”
Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

A solemn self-reckoning, “Did What I Did” is an intimate confession and assumption of responsibility. It reminds us that ultimately, no matter the sequence of events or how history happened exactly, we individuals are accountable for our actions – whether it’s lying to a loved one, tp-ing a car, writing bad words on the school chalkboard, joining a cult, etc.

“’Did What I Did’ is about taking responsibility for our mess. Guilty or not. Because it’s never that simple,” Bryant tells Atwood Magazine. “We make choices everyday that benefit us. That should be obvious. Every choice we make involves some degree of selfish ambition, and sometimes those ‘mistakes’ lead to personal growth and a new understanding of ourselves. I don’t think we should be ashamed of that. I’m not saying it’s a license to go hurt people. But I am saying we should be the best version of ourselves and expect a few setbacks along the way. We’re only human.”

I did what I did because I wanted to 
How can I fix what I can’t undo? 
I don’t expect you to sympathize 
Seeing your pain in our goodbyes 
I’m trying to change 
What I can’t hide 
I was wrong and I know 
It burns as bad as it shows 
I’ve thought it out and I’ve got no explanation 
I don’t know what to say 
A lie would get in the way 
I did what I did 
I did what I did because I wanted to
Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

Jon Bryant © Carly Dame

Directed by Ryley Burghall, the “Did What I Did” music video stars Bryant alongside young dancers Darryl Brown, Sarah Colatosti, Charlie Tipping, and Paige Jon Baptiste – each of whom is seen boldly performing, or dancing around a bad deed (like toilet papering a car or vandelizing school property). One by one, each person sits down in front of the camera for picture day, smiling a half-smile as the camera pans back to reveal what they did. Bryant’s lyrics, “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide,” ring out vividly as each actor is confronted by their actions, forced to think about what they did and why they did it.

“I’m thrilled with how the video turned out. Ryley’s vision captured the energy of the song in such a detailed and charming way. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all love the feeling of taking risk, whether it’s spray painting lockers or stealing a cookie. This video poignantly demonstrates our lifelong love affair with risk.”

Intense, dramatic, and somewhat nostalgic (it is grade school, after all), “Did What I Did” is a bittersweet admission for which there is no redemption, like a question with an unsatisfying answer. “I did what I did because I wanted to…” Raw, vulnerable, and emotionally naked, Jon Bryant’s new music is a full submission of the self – making us all the more excited for what’s to come in Cult Classic in May!

Until then, stream “Did What I Did” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

Stream: “Did What I Did” – Jon Bryant

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📸 © Carly Dame

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Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com