By all accounts, Luke Bryan is having a fantastic year. From winning the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year this past spring, to headlining his own national tour (dubbed Dirt Road Diaries) for the first time, to seeing his 2011 album Tailgates & Tanlines go double platinum, it was a new level of success for a guy who’s already among the most popular in country music today.
“I’ve been lucky in this business to have each year be the year of my life,” Bryan told Radio.com.
Now comes Crash My Party, Bryan’s fourth full-length studio album. The 13-song collection (see the lyrics) was only released this week (Aug. 13), but already it’s pushing the Georgia-born singer’s career to new heights, thanks in good part to the chart success of the title track, as well as the growing popularity of the album’s second single, “That’s My Kinda Night.”
Radio.com spoke with Bryan about picking songs for Crash My Party, singing with a “different mentality,” and where he’s at with his career.
Radio.com: Can you talk about songs on Crash My Party that musically reflect new directions, or a new side of you?
Luke Bryan: I feel like there are songs for everybody on the album, from your hardcore country people to your really contemporary country people. There’s a song called “Drink A Beer,” I describe it as the coolest sad song I’ve ever recorded. And then there’s a song called “Goodbye Girl,” where I’m singing [with] a different mentality. I think it’s a new side of me. And I’ve got a song called “Blood Brothers that has some really, really neat percussion. The songs, they all do certain little things.
What was challenging about the song “Goodbye Girl” in particular?
I’ve always come out guns blazing with my voice. And this one, I had to really lay it back and be much more tender, and that was just new ground for me. It was fun going there and showcasing that side of my voice that people may have never heard.
And what was it about “Drink A Beer” that first grabbed you?
I just thought it was an amazingly written song. It was something that everybody can connect with because so many people out there have lost somebody. And their connection with them was, they used to have a beer in a bar with them, or have a beer anywhere with them. Drinking a beer with a friend is a huge connection, and that song bridges all those emotions together. Like I said, it’s one of the coolest sad songs I’ve ever heard.
Chris Stapleton was one of the writers on “Drink A Beer.” Have you recorded any of his songs before?
No I have not. I’m a huge Stapleton fan. I’ve always been a huge fan of his voice and his writing, so I was excited to get to get the opportunity do that. And then obviously to have him sing backgrounds with me was pretty awesome, too.
When you put songs together for an album, do you consciously attempt to create a balance of moods among the song choices?
Well yeah, you don’t want to load an album up with too much of the same subject matter. You want to [include] something for everybody. I try to make my albums something that everybody can gravitate to and love a song on it. The main thing for me is just do a well-rounded album that showcases me as an artist, and showcases me as a songwriter, and Nashville as a songwriting town. I want my personality to shine through in the music, and that’s what I try to do on my albums.
Has your process for picking songs changed over the years as you’ve grown more successful?
The main thing is I [now] get first listen of a lot of great songs coming out of Nashville. And that used to not be the case, just because I was building my career and my credibility as an artist. But now, I’m fortunate to get some really great songs. I’m excited that the songwriting community writes a lot of songs trying to get on my album, that’s very flattering.
You have described one of your early songs, “We Rode In Trucks,” as telling your story. Are there songs on this album that do that?
“We Rode In Trucks” and “Dirt Road Diary,” there are a lot of similarities in the way they tell my story. And hopefully relate to my fans. “We Rode in Trucks” [had] a lot images from my childhood, and “Dirt Road Diary” is the same thing. Anytime that I can tell my story as a person through a song is pretty amazing.
Which came first the song title (“Dirt Road Diary”) or the tour name (Dirt Road Diaries)?
The song actually came first. I wrote it with the Peach Picker guys [the songwriting team of Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Ben Hayslip]. Then we decided to name the tour after the song.
But you chose not to name the album after the song?
Yeah, we didn’t want to throw that title around too much. We want to differentiate, not flood the market with one name.
So what did lead to title the album Crash My Party?
I’ve never titled an album after a lead single. “Crash My Party” sounds like a party song anyway. And it kind of defines the theme of my life, partying and crashing a party and stuff. Even though the song isn’t about that. The fact that it was a lead single, and everybody could associate it with me and the album, it seemed to be a no brainer.
Who were some of your vocal heroes when you were growing up and first started singing?
I started singing around 12 or 13, started in church. My heroes were always Ronnie Milsap, Randy Owen, Brooks and Dunn–Ronnie Dunn is just an amazing singer. Conway Twitty. I love the big voices.
What led you from singing at home to singing professionally?
I started a little band in high school. Then at college I started doing little two-man acoustic gigs, and had my band on the weekends, and started putting a little money in my pocket from time to time. And I got the bug, and the rest is kinda history.
Jeff Stevens has produced all four of your albums. How did you meet?
I met Jeff through my manager. Jeff and I got together and wrote songs, and those songs created my buzz. And it felt right. It wasn’t broke, so we never tried to fix it. And we’ve learned a lot ever since.
You mentioned that you like to have “something for everybody” on your albums. Do you think country audiences today are more open to influences from within as well as outside the genre?
I think music fans are less inclined to stick to just one kind of music. I think they’re listening to all forms of music, and they just pick which song of the genre they like, and they put it in their playlist. I think a lot of the walls and stereotypes have come down. You can be a rock, rap and country fan all in one, and nobody’s going to look at you funny about it.
– Kurt Wolff, Radio.com