Bryan Martin on How Writing Music After Misfiring a Gun Saved His Life: 'I've Lived Through It'

"I knew I was going to wind up losing myself if I didn't start learning how to deal with pain a little bit better," the country artist tells PEOPLE

Bryan Martin was just 4 years old when his mother decided to record her son delivering the Billy Ray Cyrus classic "Achy Breaky Heart." And from that point on, the fast-rising country music artist hailing from the oil fields of Louisiana began dreaming about becoming a singer someday.

But soon, that dream began to fade.

As a teenager, broken bones from a stint in bull riding and a shattered collarbone from playing football led Martin down a path in which he looked to painkillers for relief.

"Even though I had a reason for it, I started realizing that I was taking them more for the high than the relief," says Martin, 32, to PEOPLE of the opiate addiction he battled at the age of 18. "I knew I was going to wind up losing myself if I didn't start learning how to deal with pain a little bit better. I think the pain on the inside was a lot worse than the pain on the outside."

bryan martin
Bryan Martin. Josh Russell

After a very brief stint in the U.S. Army in which Martin hoped he could get his addiction under control, Martin returned home to Logansport and hit rock bottom. And eventually, that "pain on the inside" got the best of him.

"I took 30 Percocet, and I wrote this big old long note that I was going to leave behind," he remembers of his suicide attempt at 18 years old. "Then I got a gun, and I pulled the trigger, and I can still remember how it felt to have the barrel on the side of my head. It's been like a metronome for my life ever since."

But the gun misfired. Martin passed out. And then a voice in his head told him that this was not the way he was meant to live out the rest of his days.

"I've been through so many different situations throughout life since then," he admits. "Vehicle wreck, relapses, brain injuries, a divorce. And every single time, people told me that I would never be able to write again. But every day I get up, I know that if I pick up a pen or pick up a guitar, there's healing."

bryan martin
Bryan Martin. Josh Russell

He draws in a deep breath.

"I've lived through it," continues Martin, whose previously released single "We Ride" garnered 9.1 million streams. "I've learned how to take a song and write it down every day as a way of healing. And if that same song can have some healing in somebody else's life, then I've done all I can do."

Premiering on PEOPLE, Martin's self-penned new single "Wolves Cry" is yet another example of the art that now comes from the veins that were once filled with so much pain.

"That story tells about where I'm from," says Martin, who will be joining Warren Zeiders on 15 dates of his Pretty Little Poison Tour this spring. "I'm proud of my culture. My daddy had a five-acre lot of land and a double-wide trailer that he worked his ass off for. He spent a lot of time providing for his family, working in the paper mills, and he taught me how to work on things and be self-sufficient. That's something I'll always value, just like my mama and the love she gave me for singing."

bryan martin
Bryan Martin. Josh Russell

And it's that singing that will soon be heard on Martin's upcoming album Poets & Old Souls, set for release in March.

"I can't really talk that good and explain what I've been through in a seminar, but when you put me behind a guitar, I can tell you," he concludes. "I'm not hiding my scars."

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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