‘Proud of My Climb’ to Success, Luke Bryan Declares: ‘Working My Butt Off’ Got Me Here (Exclusive)

Luke Bryan performing during the Country On tour in June. PHOTO: MATHEW TSANG/GETTY
Luke Bryan performing during the Country On tour in June. PHOTO: MATHEW TSANG/GETTY

Luke Bryan’s Country On tour includes a performance where he joins his three opening acts onstage for a medley of pop songs, including “Levitating” by Dua Lipa and “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee.

On a breezy July night in Mountain View, California, in front of 20,000 people, rising stars Alana Springsteen, Chayce Beckham, and Conner Smith join Bryan in singing. The singer laughs as he hands over the spotlight to the trio, only joining in when he knows the words or when he decides to give Beckham a bear hug halfway through.

Although Bryan maintains a busy schedule that includes touring, American Idol, and a residency in Las Vegas, it is evident that he has never lost his enthusiasm for performing. Additionally, the ways in which he is helping the upcoming generation of country musicians achieve success also demonstrate that he has never lost his appreciation for his well-earned success.

“For the majority of my professional life, I went up there to perform. So it’s extremely empowering and satisfying to just accept who you are, Bryan says in this week’s cover story for PEOPLE. “I earned it the traditional way: by working myself to death. I hope they may all take pleasure in the voyage because so many individuals have supported and assisted me along the way.

Luke Bryan.
Luke Bryan.

On his current Country On tour, the “Play It Again” singer performs each night for tens of thousands of fans. In September, he will perform at six Farm Tour events as well as twelve residency shows at Resorts World Las Vegas (Bryan revealed on Wednesday that he will perform at more Vegas gigs on December 29, 30, and 31 and on January 3, 5, and 6).

Bryan’s hectic schedule is barely a barrier because of his contagious energy and tendency to treat his fans like friends with onstage photos, fist bumps, and poured shots.

He says, “I had a blast when I had 100 people in the room, and tonight it’ll be the same way. “It’s time to move on the day you stop liking it. Fortunately, I’ve never had those emotions. Being in front of 20,000 people makes becoming old pretty difficult.

And it’s obvious to those who know him best that the sentiment is sincere.

The 22-year-old Springsteen said, “He’s just so honest. “You get exactly what you see. People often advise against meeting your heroes, but Luke is an exception. Smith, 22, continues, “He’s always been a man to follow through on his commitment to support and encourage up-and-coming artists. It has been such a blessing to benefit from that knowledge.

The 27-year-old Beckham said that travelling with Bryan is “one of the best things I get to do all year.” Beckham and Bryan first became acquainted after Bryan won American Idol in 2021. I’m incredibly appreciative of the chance I was given to observe and absorb knowledge from industry leaders.

Bryan’s ascent to the top makes it understandable why he is so committed to sharing his success with others. When his older brother Chris was killed in a vehicle accident at the age of 26, the artist, who started performing as a child around his Leesburg, Georgia, hometown, interrupted his intentions to move to Nashville and pursue a career in music.

Bryan chose to remain put and complete his education at Georgia Southern University, where he met Caroline, his future wife, who is 43 years old. Caroline worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative to help with the household expenses while Bryan toiled away to establish himself.

With his debut single “All My Friends Say” in 2007, Bryan finally achieved success. At the time, he was 30 years old and considerably more prepared to deal with the responsibilities of fame.

“I think at 20 I would’ve processed it all a lot differently, with a lot less maturity,” he claims. “I could read people better when I moved to Nashville at the age of 25. I could move through the sketchy crowd. It was quite beneficial to me in those ways.

Luke Bryan. PHOTO : JIM WRIGHT
Luke Bryan. PHOTO : JIM WRIGHT

Bryan was also able to develop his personality as a singer-songwriter thanks to the unplanned gap years.

“I wouldn’t have truly realized who I was as an artist when I was younger. I was just trying to figure out what I want to be back then, performing other people’s songs,” he recalls. “Now that I know, I realize that the most important thing is to do your best to communicate your story in the most genuine and accessible way possible. I am powerless to turn back time and criticize the stars or fate for how everything turned out. I am proud of the climb I made to get here as I look back.

In addition to eagerly anticipating his return to Las Vegas for the new tour dates, Bryan claims he is now hard at work on the follow-up to his 2020 album Born Here Live Here Die Here.

The smaller and more intimate theaters in Sin City provide the performer a chance to let free in ways that he doesn’t always get to do in large arena events.

“I believe a significant portion of the audience is simply come to experience a country show. And the beauty of Vegas is that there are 5,000 people in a theater if I want to spend 20 minutes playing songs on the piano, he adds. “I’ve really enjoyed being able to showcase the humor and a little bit of off-the-cuff behavior.”

Bryan will travel to Cancun for his annual Crash My Playa festival, which runs from January 17–20, after his show in Vegas. Bryan still enjoys the opportunity to interact with his fans at any given time, just like he has every previous time he has taken the stage throughout his decades-long career.

“It’s not an act,” he says of performing. “I’m in the moment, I’m having fun, and I’m feeding off fans’ energy. I love to make people smile. That’s why I fell in love with music”

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