Luke Bryan is a superstar in the making and the career growth from his first to his second to his third studio album, tailgates & tanlines, is the proof. The Georgian who burst on the scene in 2007 with his unique blend of down-home accessibility, movie star good looks and relatable lyrics, is set to explode in a major way.
Not a flash-in-the-pan, overnight sensation, Luke has built his career from the ground up and the Leesburg, Ga., native wouldn't have it any other way. "My path is exactly where I want it to be," Luke says. "I'm doing my thing. I'm getting better with every album."
The son of a peanut farmer, Luke knows patience and determination are key elements when it comes to a successful crop—or career—and he's dedicated to growth. His first album, I'll Stay Me, produced the Top 10 hits "All My Friends Say" and "Country Man," while his sophomore effort, Doin' My Thing, found the singer-songwriter scoring three straight No. 1 singles: "Do I," "Someone Else Calling You Baby" and "Rain Is A Good Thing."
Luke's momentum shows no signs of slowing. "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)," the lead single from his much-anticipated third album, ranks as the fast-rising single of his career.
When Luke scored his first solo performance slot on the 2011 CMT Music Awards, he made the most of it, receiving a standing ovation for his over-the-top performance of "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)," not only from the fans, but also from his artist peers. "When you get performance slots for award shows, that's a big deal for me," Luke says.
He's equally excited about headlining the 10th annual CMT on Tour, which has an impressive list of alumni, including Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. "It's almost like you're getting a stamp of approval to go to the next level," says Luke. "All those artists that were a part of the CMT Tour have crossed over into a larger level of artists."
His tours with superstars Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean, as well as his own annual Farm Tour, which offers a student from a local farming family a college scholarship, showcase a stage mastery built working the college and club circuit.
"I want my music to jump off the stage and out of the speakers," says Luke. "When we do 'Rain Is A Good Thing' paired back to back with 'Country Girl,' it just feels like the roof is fixin' to come off the place."
Critics affirm Luke's stated goal. The Peoria Star Journal calls him a "playful and confident performer" while the Oregonian dubs him "a serious contender for McGraw's throne."
Luke's fan-voted wins as Academy of Country Music Top New Male and Top New Artist, as well as his score as USA Weekend Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the CMT Music Awards were a "huge validation," he says.
"Country Girl (Shake It For Me)," with its infectious chorus and backbeat, represents another step forward for the strapping star. Co-written by Luke and Dallas Davidson—the pair also penned "Rain Is A Good Thing"—"Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" sets the tone for, but doesn't define, tailgates & tanlines.
Luke's latest album is no doubt his best yet. The 13-song collection (of which Luke co-wrote eight) balances lighter fare with meatier offerings. "I Don't Want This Night To End," written by Luke with fellow Georgians Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, is destined to be a clap-along concert favorite and radio smash.
"Drunk On You," written by hit tunesmiths Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, is an intoxicating tale of young love that Luke calls "young and fun."
Another song destined to be a radio favorite is "Too Damn Young," a coming of age tune about the loss of innocence that country fans will no doubt relate to.
"Harvest Time," written by Luke with Rodney Clawson, is an autobiographical look at Luke's rural roots, while "Don't Know Jack," penned by Erin Enderlin and Shane McAnally, is a stark reminder of the power of alcohol addiction.
"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye," is an up-tempo lets-make-love-one-more-time-even-though-we-know-we're-splitting-up song, while "Been There Done That" is the ultimate kiss-off tune.
In short, tailgates & tanlines represents real life.
"I'm really proud that I've got some meatier things on this album," Luke says of the balance between hell raisers and heart breakers. "Nothing is more frustrating to me than putting a song on an album and regret putting it on there. I'm excited that there are no songs on tailgates & tanlines that I'm iffy about."
As dedicated as he is to his craft, Luke is even more dedicated to his family: wife Caroline and sons Bo and Tate. "I try to make my time in Nashville mean something for the boys," he says.
"It's a big fun ride for everybody," Luke says of his success. "My wife and I are enjoying life more than ever."
While superstardom is knocking on his door, Luke Bryan will answer when he's ready. "I have never wanted to grow fast in this business," he maintains. "I have always wanted to take my time, make it happen and be smart about it and I've been lucky—all that stuff is happening."
Luke's aw-shucks demeanor belies his rare gifts. This singer/songwriter/entertainer is the complete package and superstardom is inevitable.