Luke Bryan has had plenty of hits at radio, but it wasn’t an easy ride for him. After having a Top 5 hit with “All My Friends Say,” his debut single, Bryan’s follow-up release, “We Rode in Trucks,” barely cracked the Top 40, leaving him to question if he had much of a future in country music.
“It was probably the darkest artist headspace I’ve ever been in because I thought ‘We Rode In Trucks’ was going to propel my career onto a fast track,” Bryan admits to CMT. “I was pretty upset about it.”
“We Rode in Trucks” was followed by “Country Man,” which was a Top 10 single, hinting his career was back on track. But when he turned in songs for his sophomore project, his label turned them down, and sent him back to the proverbial drawing board.
“I had a lot of bad news,” Bryan remembers. “At some point, I just kind of told myself, ‘Don’t be like that.’ I have my down days, and sometimes I get a little mad … but that’s neither here nor there. For the most part, I think I just love doing this. I didn’t ask to be born to do it, but I think I was born to do it.”
Fortunately, Bryan’s next release, “Do I,” also became his first No. 1 hit. The Georgia native’s original move to Nashville was delayed, while his family mourned the unexpected loss of his older brother, Chris, who was killed in a car accident in 1996. But when he finally did make the move, he knew he was where he belonged, in spite of the challenges and hardships.
“When I moved to Nashville, I moved for all the right reasons — just because I loved country music and I loved being on stage,” Bryan reflects. “From the second I got here … it just felt like I’d finally found the place for me to be. I never really looked back. Then to kickstart the whole process and to have dreams of writing number ones and performing number ones and being an artist to present day, you look at that, and it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around.”
Bryan also is one of the few artists who has been able to parlay his success into other forms of success, including his role as a judge on American Idol, making him a TV star as well.
“I’m comfortable with all of that now,” Bryan says. “I think my first year at American Idol, there was a lot of things I need to get comfortable with. Now I’m comfortable with Idol and doing the TV spots and the commercials and some of the fun acting bits, and I’m comfortable letting my emotions out on TV. I keep having anxiety about the crowds not showing up at the concerts, but all of our numbers (in 2023) touring-wise have been 20 to 30 percent better than ever.”
“I felt like I hadn’t done a fun Luke Bryan song in a minute,” the 47-year-old explains. “This was just fun, and it was summertime. There’s been a lot of beer songs out lately, and I’m sure people want to critique that. But it just felt like a song that really said what I wanted to say this summer. It’s been fun watching it catch fire and grow legs live and watching people hold their beer up when they’re singing.”
Bryan is grateful for all he has accomplished, but just as grateful for what he knows is still on the horizon for him.
“I’m grounded more than ever in what I need to say as an artist, certainly for the rest of my career,” Bryan says. “I really feel blessed that I can still, after all this time, have a tangible role as being somebody high up in the business. At the end of the day … when I’m on stage, I love every second of it. I still love connecting with the fans, and I still love hearing great songs.”
Bryan is planning on hitting the road in 2024 on another tour, which has yet to be announced. Find all of Bryan’s music and upcoming shows at LukeBryan.com.