2013 is one continuous party for US country sensation, Luke Bryan. The thirty- seven year old – possessing what has been termed a ‘frat boy/farm boy persona’ – has two album releases; March’s Spring Break…Here to Party and August’s Crash My Party. In April he used his abundant charm and cheeky smile to gatecrash the Academy of Country Music Awards, debuting the ‘Crash My Party’ single while co-hosting the event.
The singer-songwriter is also celebrating his first headliner tour, Dirt Road Diaries, with popular acts Florida Georgia Line and Thompson Square as support. Opening night was made all the more special – for concert goers, the band and Luke – as he was joined onstage by David Lee Murphy. Murphy is a perennial Aust favourite, most recently joining us for CMC Rocks the Hunter this year.
“He’s one of the best songwriters at Nashville,” Luke introduced his guest. “One of the best artists there’s ever been. He’s gonna play one of the biggest songs in country music history.” Together they roused a packed stadium to holler along to the proverbial lyrics of ‘Dust on the Bottle’.
Luke is not classified as a traditional country artist. Maybe it’s the way his nasally Southern sound was teamed with the almost-rapping-fast verses of ‘Country Girl (Shake It For Me)’. Maybe it’s his casual onstage attitude, attire and backwards baseball cap. Or the fact he has been known to borrow songs from pop and rock genres to shock and delight his young concert crowds. He surprisingly covered OneRepublic’s song ‘Apologize’ for second album Doin’ My Thing. That being said, his catchy songs narrate love and country living through relatable lyrics, at times conjuring nostalgic notions of the creeks, fields and roads that Luke called home growing up in Georgia.
“Obviously country music purists are going to look at things I do and it’s maybe going to rub them the wrong way, but I will stake my country music heritage with anybody,” Luke contends. “It’s no disrespect. I love the way I’m going about it and doing it, and clearly the fans are happy with it.”
So it seems. With fan votes determining the majority of Luke’s career award wins. Last year alone, he cleaned up with nine American Country Awards, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year for Tailgates and Tanlines. The album’s single ‘I Don’t Want This Night To End’ earned Single of the Year, Music Video of the Year, and Most Played Radio Track. At the 2012 CMT Music Awards it received Male Video of the Year.
Jason Aldean, Luke (Bryan) and Eric Church were collectively dubbed ‘the ABC boys’ upon their partnership for Jason’s 2013 single ‘The Only Way I Know,’ co-written by David Lee Murphy and Ben Hayslip. It won CMT Music Collaboration Video of the Year and Academy of Country Music Vocal Event of the Year.
Luke was again under the spotlight at this April’s ACM Awards, but this time he wielded the mic as co-host with Blake Shelton.
“Country music’s hardcore fans know Luke’s personality, how goofy he is,” Blake said in the lead up to the big night. “But I don’t think he’s had the opportunity yet for that television audience to see that he’s not afraid to make a fool of himself. Which I think is always the reason he and I have been buddies. He doesn’t take himself any more seriously than I do.”
Blake and his wife Miranda Lambert were both up against Luke for ACM Entertainer of the Year, but were arguably the most excited for Luke when he claimed the prestigious title.
In an emotional speech Luke earnestly thanked his fans, business team and the artists he has been privileged to open for. He appeared blown away by the win, given his recent introduction to headlining.
“This is the defining moment of my life, and it means so much to me,” he finished up. “I would never take it for granted.” Rewind to the weeks before the show, when Luke said, “I’m still just happy to be in the room. I moved to town just wanting a number one song that I had written.”
Luke relocated to Nashville twelve years ago, and before his 2004 signing with Capitol Records he landed a song writing deal. He penned the title track for Travis Tritt’s 2004 album, Honky Tonk History, before blessing Billy Currington with the 2007 number one, ‘Good Directions’. The co-write with friend Rachel Thibodeau was awarded ASCAP Country Song of the Year. Luke debuted as a recording artist that same year with good-time single ‘All My Friends Say’, which was just one of 10 songs Luke co-wrote for his first album, I’ll Stay Me, which also included his next two singles ‘We Rode in Trucks’ and ‘Country Man’.
Luke’s second album Doin’ My Thing, offered three consecutive number ones ‘Do I,’ ‘Rain Is A Good Thing’ and ‘Someone Else Calling You Baby’. For ‘Do I’, Luke enlisted the lyrical sagacity of Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly and Dave Haywood, and third member Hillary Scott’s sublime pipes on backing vocals.
The ‘Rain Is A Good Thing’ music video opened with two old-timer farmers discussing – what else? – the weather. One of the men affirms, ‘Country music always brings a better class of people, so I expect there’ll be a shindig to remember,’ introducing footage from the 2009 Farm Tour in Georgia. Luke’s own brainwave, the multiple-artist, annual outdoor concerts funds college scholarships for farmers’ children like himself. Before studying business management at Georgia Southern University, he grew up helping on the family peanut, cotton and corn farm. Thus, he knows intimately the complicated process behind rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey… His fan club is aptly named ‘The Nuthouse’.
Luke’s third and most successful release, Tailgates and Tanlines, was called ‘a soundtrack for fun and sun, along with an instantaneous cure for the summertime blues.’ It gave us hits ‘I Don’t Want This Night to End’, ‘Country Girl (Shake It For Me)’, and ‘Drunk On You.’
Now his fourth release looks set to be another smash.
“The Crash My Party album, I can honestly say that I’m positive that it’s better than Tailgates and Tanlines,” Luke pronounces. “We have the big fun uptempos, we got the songs that are heavy. We’ve got your ballads, your love songs, your singalongs, your light songs.”
“I didn’t write a lot of the songs, I probably wrote three or four songs on it, and then I just got some of the best songs I’ve ever heard from the town of Nashville.” He told The Tennessean he would proudly take seven or eight singles from the album. With popularity-laced song titles ‘Play it Again’, ‘Beer in the Headlights’ and tour-namesake ‘Dirt Road Diary’, he may well extend the party of his current four-straight number one streak.