Luke Bryan Talks Candidly About His Career
Details The “Massive Flops” On His Road To Success
In a fascinating Q&A during last week’s Country Music Summit in Nashville, Luke Bryan traced the steps along his road to stardom.
Bryan said he moved to Nashville from his family’s Georgia peanut farm because “I felt like living a dream was really important in my life, and hauling peanut wagons and selling fertilizer wasn’t the best dream” for him.
When he was just signed to a Nashville publishing deal but hadn’t yet landed his record deal, Bryan said he’d spent $900-$1,000 of his own money to make copies of the songs he was recording demos for in Nashville, and hand them out for free at his shows. The strategy paid off. When he’d play a college town, Bryan said, he’d leave behind 500 CDs, and when he came back to play that town again, “those CDs had made it into people’s iPods and it grew the fan base.”
But not every market was a slam-dunk, Bryan said at the Summit, which was presented by Billboard and the Country Music Assn. In his early touring days, he said, “There were massive flops along the way. I played Auburn, Alabama, four times and lost $5,000 each time. We played Austin, Texas, and there were three people there.
“We’d load up our gear and drive all day and finally get to play at 11:45 at some American Legion,” said Bryan, “but I can remember really enjoying that moment.”
Bryan said the packed shows he’d play in his home state, where he had an established fan base, supplemented his initial forays into states like Indiana or Iowa, where he might lose $8,000 a night playing to tiny audiences.
After all the hard work he put into building his career, Bryan said he’s only now feeling the payoff. “Since 2004, it’s felt like a deadline that never really goes away,” he said of his career. “But now I feel like I can take a breath or two.”
Since becoming successful, Bryan said, his philosophy is “We just want to work and enjoy this and not let the money be the deciding decision” in business dealings.
Asked about maintaining his frat boy image at 35, and balancing that with being a husband and father, Bryan said, “My wife enjoys watching the fans have fun and watching my antics, like shaking my butt for girls.” At many shows, Bryan says, “My wife is in the middle of the crowd with her girlfriends partying.”
about the blogger
Veteran entertainment journalist Phyllis Stark has been reporting extensively on the music industry for two decades. As a freelance writer, her work appears regularly in numerous publications and sites. She previously was Nashville Bureau Chief at Billboard magazine.