With his 2007 debut, “I’ll Stay Me,” Luke Bryan unapologetically shared his own brand of traditional country music with an ever-growing legion of fans. On his sophomore release, “Doin’ My Thing,” Luke is destined to find an even broader audience. A broader audience indeed as the new project was recently certified gold for sales of over 500,000 copies.
It’s been a heady couple of years since Luke released his critically acclaimed first album. Not only has he scored top ten hits with “All My Friends Say” and “Country Man,” but the singer-songwriter celebrated his first two No. 1 songs, “Do I,” the lead single from this album, and “Rain Is A Good Thing,” the second release. Both have also been certified as gold selling singles.
Luke was recently honored with two trophies at the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards where he was named Top New Solo Vocalist and Top New Artist. He calls it “the biggest night in my music career, especially since it was fan-voted. You still have to deliver the songs and play great live shows, but boy, it sure gets the ball rolling.”
Luke, who was nominated as Male Country Artist and Country Album for the Teen Choice Awards, recently brought home his first CMT Award—Breakthrough Video—for “Do I.” The win led to an emotional display from Luke, who tossed his jacket into the crowd. “That was my chance to have some fun,” Luke enthuses. “You see some artists get up there and they’re too cool to act happy and excited. I don’t want fans to have that vibe from me. I enjoyed every second of it.”
His second album finds Luke returning to the studio with co-writer and producer Jeff Stevens. Faced with the success of his debut, the two men challenged themselves to top it. “My first album had great hits and it sold well, but everything about that album is beatable,” Luke says. “We wanted to make a bigger sounding record, something that moved a little down the road from the first record. We wanted to show my growth vocally and lyrically.”
A solid touring schedule helped Luke strengthen his already powerful vocals. “My voice is so much stronger than it was on the first album,” he says. “Some of these vocals I did in 10-15 minutes.”
In addition to headlining his own shows, Luke has toured with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley and Trace Adkins and will work shows this year with Jason Alden, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert and more. Luke has seen first hand how his hits have connected with fans. “Having ‘Do I’ and ‘Rain Is A Good Thing’ go No. 1 back-to-back has certainly opened it up quite a bit. It’s been pretty crazy watching the crowds grow out here on the road,” he says with a smile in his voice. “It’s been fun.”
An accomplished performer who honed his skills on the college circuit, Luke knows how to keep them coming back. “When the crowd sees you having fun and you’re giving them great music, it’s a deadly combination,” Luke says, “Look at Willie Nelson. To this day he just goes up there and plays ‘em a show. That’s what you gotta do. Any other way than just enjoying it and having a good time is the wrong way to go about it in my opinion.
“I’m a different performer than I used to be,” Luke says. “I used to run around and dance and do back flips. The music wasn’t necessarily there so I had to do crazy antics. Now I tend to let the music do the talking.”
A Spring Break concert at Daytona Beach helped Luke realize his music was connecting with fans. “There were three or four thousand people there,” he says. “That lets you know that you’ve made a difference. I was standing on stage thinking, ‘Wow, this is really worth it.’ You’ve got to enjoy the positives and make sure you don’t let them go by without acknowledging them.”
The Spring Break concert not only helped solidify Luke with his fans, it also inspired the creation of two Spring Break EPs. The latest, “Spring Break 2…Hangover Edition,” was released March 2, 2010, exclusively at iTunes.
In addition to professional success, Luke and wife Caroline welcomed son Bo into the world in 2008 and another son, Tate, was born in August 2010. “You have to focus and work harder because you have a family to take care of,” Luke says. “It adds another dimension to life.”
“My time with my family is important,” Luke says thoughtfully. “Family and friends, that’s the most important thing to hold on to.”
Unfortunately for Luke and his family, his older sister, Kelly, died in 2007 at the age of 39. Eleven years earlier, Luke's older brother Chris died in a tragic car accident, an event that influenced Luke to postpone his musical aspirations.
“The last show she saw me perform was my Grand Ole Opry debut,” Luke says of his sister. “The Opry will always be a special place for me because of that.”
The son of a peanut farmer, Luke believes in giving back to the community. He has aligned himself with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other causes. “Anytime I get the chance to call a station and help a cause like St. Jude or Make-A-Wish, I do it,” Luke says.
In honor of his sister and brother he also used his newfound celebrity to raise money for a local YMCA by performing in his hometown of Leesburg, Ga., with some Nashville songwriting pals.
A certified country boy, Luke hopes to one day own a place near his hometown. “Floatin’ down the Flint River and doing some fishing’ that makes me feel like me,” he says.
But the river will have to wait - he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. “It puts me on a new playing field,” Luke says of his runaway success. “I’ve got a clear vision of my music and the fans that I want to reach. I’ve got a lot left I want to prove.”