As a four-time Entertainer of the Year for the Country Music Association (twice) and the Academy of Country Music, (twice) Luke Bryan has achieved a rare place in the business, garnering the admiration of both his peers and the public. The industry voters for the Nashville-based CMA recognized him as one of the music industry’s few talents capable of filling a stadium on a regular basis. The fans, who pick the California-based ACM’s Entertainer, view him as a talented, good-natured guy who – when they see him at those stadium dates – is still one of them.
Part of his rise to prominence can be traced back to Bryan’s relatable work ethic. He’s passionate about his job, and about improving, which ultimately requires risk. With Kill the Lights, Bryan’s risks succeed as he alters his sound a bit by adding a new co-producer and delivers songs that display sides of him that have never been fully revealed before.
There’s a slow-jam sexy vibe to “Strip It On Down,” an uncharacteristically dark edge on “Razor Blade” and a first-ever duet with a female artist as Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild joins him on “Home Alone Tonight.” Then there’s “To The Moon And Back,” the first song he’s recorded that’s truly dedicated to Caroline, his wife of ten years.
“With ‘Do I’ (his first #1 single in 2009), I think all of our family thought we were getting a divorce,” he says with a chuckle. “People would call me and be like ‘Are y’all okay?’ So now that we have ‘To the Moon and Back,’ I think people will know that we’re pretty solid.”
Solid is the perfect word to describe Bryan’s remarkably swift ascent to the top of the country heap. He’s placed 17 singles in the No. 1 spot, sold 8 million albums, 30 million tracks and accrued back-to-back double-platinum albums, earning the title of Top Country Artist in the sales-generated Billboard Music Awards two years in a row. He performed for 1.7 million fans in 2014 ,1.5 million in 2015, and 1.6 million in 2016, including Nineteen football stadiums and has co-hosted the ACM Awards four times. He debuted his now Platinum selling Kill The Lights at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and top Country Albums Charts, going on to become the best-selling country album of 2015 and the 10th biggest selling album on the all-genre Billboard Top 200 year-end list.
The stats clearly indicate that Luke Bryan’s career is a big deal, but as heady as those achievements are, there’s no appreciable distance between him and his fans – even when there are 50,000 of them clamoring for his attention. When he plays those major venues, Bryan spends more time at the edge of the runways than with his band, essentially putting himself in the crowd’s world as much as he brings them in to his.