How Luke Bryan Became A Country Music Superstar

Luke Bryan is one of the most prominent names in country music these days, and for good reason. The chart-topping musician, who has been an "American Idol" judge since 2018, has earned the title of CMT Artist of the Year six times, according to his website. He was also named Billboard's Top Country Artist of the 2010s and the Most Heard Artist of the Decade by Country Aircheck. In fact, Bryan has won over 50 awards for his music. If you're a fan of the singer, you might agree that some of his most beloved songs include "Drink a Beer" and "Drunk on You." The heartbreaking "Drink a Beer" spent five weeks in the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. "Drunk on You" achieved similar success and spent two weeks in the No. 1 spot on the same chart. Of course, these are only a few of Luke Bryan's many successes.

The country music star has opened up about his long journey to fame. "I've really been blessed to work hard to get to this point in my career," Byan told Fox News in 2020. "So if I'm doing something, it's because I'm driven. It's interesting to me. It's like people are like, do you love doing '[American] Idol.' I'm like, I love doing 'Idol.' The second I quit doing 'American Idol,' I will move on to something else."

With all of his accomplishments, you may be wondering how Luke Bryan became a country music superstar in the first place. 

Luke Bryan grew up on a peanut farm

In an interview with Rare Country (via America Songwriter), Luke Bryan revealed that he spent much of his childhood working alongside his parents on their peanut farm in Leesburg, Georgia, and those memories have stuck with him. Bryan explained how reminiscing on those long days of manual labor keeps him motivated. "People are like, all the time, they're like, 'How are you riding on your tour bus? Doing shows? Aren't you just exhausted?'" the "Knockin' Boots" singer said in the since-deleted video interview. "I'm like, 'Nah, not really. If you'd like to work for [my father] Tommy Bryan at the peanut mill for three months out of the year, a hundred hours a week, I can give you a crash course in exhaustion. Peanut dust in your ears and your nose and your throat."

Bryan's family farm also led to him to develop a passion for beer that is deeper than you might guess, as he explained to Country Living. In the interview, the musician recalled watching his father and his farmer friends kick back and relax with beers in hand at the end of a long day of work. Bryan's relaxation routine is very similar. He shared that also enjoys a cold beer after a concert.

His parents bought him his first guitar

Luke Bryan developed a passion for music at a young age. Luckily for the aspiring musician, his parents were fully supportive of his dreams. According to The Boot, they even bought him his first guitar when he was 14 years old. While speaking with the outlet in 2010, Bryan revealed that he's now supporting his oldest son, Bo, in the same way. "I've got a guitar that used to be pretty nice that Bo drags around the house," Bryan said. "We've got the piano, and I sit down at it and my fingers stick to the keys from popsicles! So, he has tons of music and guitars and stuff like that." Bryan went on to share how Bo's talents progressed. "My wife and I will be in one room and all of a sudden we'll hear Bo go sit down at the piano unsolicited," he continued. "I just love it. It used to be a bunch of rattling and now I can hear him in there making some notes."

Years later, Bo proved that he's still taking after his father even as a teenager. In 2021, Bryan's wife shared a clip of her son dancing on Instagram. Followers were quick to point out the similarities between the father and son. "He look just like his daddy," one user wrote in the comments. "Apple doesn't fall far from the tree! Nice people make nice people," another shared.

He was involved in theatre in high school

High school introduced Luke Bryan to the world of musical theatre, and he quickly mastered the art. The musician was also quite the dancer as a young student. "At school I could moonwalk all the way to the pencil sharpener and back," he told Parade in 2014. He also spent time singing in church. The multitalented teen impressed his high school's theatre staff. "He could just fill up a room," Robby Davis, theater director at Lee County High School, told Parade. Bryan starred in school plays like "Annie Get Your Gun."'

If you're curious about the musician's talents back in his teen years, you might be happy to hear that he shared a clip of one of his high school plays during an episode of "American Idol." Bryan revealed to his fellow "American Idol" judges that he performed "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" in his school's production of "Annie Get Your Gun." The "Country Girl" singer also shared a bit of the "American Idol" episode that featured the clip to Instagram. "Did someone get this video from my momma?" he joked in the caption of the post.

The Georgia native's brother passed away

When Luke Bryan was 19, his family experienced a heartbreaking tragedy. The musician's brother, Chris Bryan, was killed in a car accident, and it left the family devastated. "Man, I've had a billion emotions around all that," Bryan said of the tragedy while speaking with Parade. "You never quite get over it. But I do believe that when my brother was born, God allocated him 26 years. It was his time." He went on to share that his parents were really hit hard by the death, and they divorced soon after. "They got pretty jacked up," the musician said of his mom and dad.

Bryan spoke more about how his brother's death impacted him during an interview for "Today." "When Chris passed away, it was devastating because no one was more fired up about me going to Nashville than him," the musician shared. He went on to explain that discussing such a difficult topic gives him anxiety, but he's able to push through when he remembers there are people who have experienced similar grief. Bryan hopes that his transparency helps these fans. The musician continues to honor his brother through his music. His song, "Drink a Beer," is dedicated to Chris.

Luke Bryan attended Georgia Southern University

Luke Bryan decided to stay close to home after his brother tragically passed, and he attended Georgia Southern University, per Billboard. The musician joined fraternity Sigma Chi while at the university, and it turns out that his frat boy days influenced his music. Bryan revealed to Billboard that the themes of his songs will change in the future, but it seems that he's still having fun for now. "At some point, me singing about frat party themes is just not going to be realistic," the country music star said. "But if I look like a weird old dude up onstage, I'll be the first one to come to that realization."

Bryan's college years were likely life-changing because it was during this time that he met his wife, Caroline Bryan. The musician opened up about how he first connected with the blonde beauty during an interview with HuffPost. "I was playing a little bar in Statesboro, and she just happened to kinda be in town," he told the outlet. "We kinda saw each other and talked a little bit and then started emailing back and forth a little bit. And she was like, 'Hey, you want to come to my family's Christmas party?' I went to the party and the rest is history." Bryan shared that he and his now-wife separated for nearly six years and later rekindled their romance. The duo tied the knot in 2006 at their destination wedding in Turks & Caicos, per Us Weekly.

The musician moved to Nashville after college

Luke Bryan shifted his focus to his music career after he graduated from college and spent a bit of time working on his father's farm, per Taste of Country. Like many great country music stars, the aspiring musician decided to relocate to Nashville to get involved with the city's vibrant music scene. He made the daring move in 2001, per Billboard. While speaking to Taste of Country, the singer revealed that his father encouraged him to take a chance on himself by moving to a different state. "I left college and went to work for my dad, who owns a fertilizer chemical company and a peanut company," Bryan said. "And about a year-and-a-half breathing in fertilizer chemical dust and peanut dust and really working like crazy ... I felt like it was time, and it was time and I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends and family and have all their blessings."

In a separate interview on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," Bryan revealed that he initially felt obligated to work on his family's farm and eventually take over the business. His father's encouragement freed him from this pressure. "I picked a date, I moved to Nashville, and thank God, the rest is history," Bryan said. Look at him now -– it seems that his career worked out even better than he imagined.

Luke Bryan started out as a songwriter

Before Luke Bryan wowed crowds with his lively stage presence, he actually worked behind the scenes. The musician began working as a songwriter upon moving to Nashville, per Billboard. This proved to be a great way for Bryan to get his name out there because he went on to write hits for other country music artists like Billy Currington, Travis Tritt, and more. During an appearance at the Billboard Country Music Summit in Nashville (via CMT), Bryan and his team revealed that he landed a publishing deal with songwriter Roger Murrah shortly after leaving Georgia. This gave him the opportunity to work with these artists. "Roger plugged me into Music Row right off the bat," Bryan said during the event.

The "Play It Again" artist spoke about his passion for songwriting during an interview for Country Star Central, and his thoughts make it clear that the craft is about much more than money to him. "Songwriting gives me a way to tell stories and tell my life to other people," Bryan revealed. "It gives other people the chance to feel that their stories are heard, and that maybe they grew up like me or have experienced the same things that I have. The main thing is songwriting is just a fun way to express yourself, and have everybody else understand that and jump on the bandwagon with you!"

The singer's big break

Luke Bryan got his big break after he caught the attention of some very important people in the music industry. The musician and his manager, Kerri Edwards, tried to get him in front of a major record label in hopes of landing a deal, per CMT. Edwards arranged for Bryan to put on live performances throughout Nashville, and the singer eventually piqued the interest of Larry Willoughby at Capitol Records.

Universal Music Group Nashville's senior VP of marketing, Cindy Mabe, spoke to Billboard about working with Bryan in the early days of his career. It turns out the singer's fanbase back then consisted mostly of college students. "When we first signed Luke, he was playing packed college clubs around Georgia and the fans knew the words to every song," she said. "None of these songs were on the radio. They were just songs he had written, and those fans were always important to the vision we had for Luke. The young college kids taught us that if we wanted to keep them, we'd have to figure a way to keep them engaged." Bryan went on to release his debut album, "I'll Stay Me," in 2007. The project sold 500,000 copies and became certified gold -– not bad for a debut album!

Luke Bryan's life changed after two tragic losses

What should have been a celebratory time for Luke Bryan and his family quickly became quite the opposite after an unexpected and devastating death took place right after the singer released his first album, according to Parade. Bryan's sister, Kelly, died at age 39 due to unknown causes, and her passing shook the musician and his parents. Bryan recalled attending his sister's funeral. "I knew at 3 o'clock I would walk to the funeral home and at 3:05 I would see her," he told Parade. "I was nauseated all day. But when I walked in there, I felt like a pressure valve had been released. It was a sense of calm — not what I expected. My mother didn't feel [that way], and it breaks my heart. She was just devastated."

Tragedy struck again just seven years later when Kelly's husband also died suddenly. Bryan's sister and brother-in-law were survived by their three children. The musician told Billboard that he and his wife took the kids in and raised them alongside their two sons. "You don't want to sound like you love having them so much that you're glad it's the situation, but we're honored to be doing what we feel was the right thing," Bryan explained.

The artist dominates country music charts

As you've probably come to conclude by now, Luke Bryan's rise to fame has been full of ups ad downs, but his winding journey has been rewarding. The singer has dominated country music charts throughout his career. His second album, "Doin' My Thing," debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. This means that this record, which was released in 2009, doubled the first week of sales of his first album. "I am completely blown away by the fan support," Bryan said of the success of this project, according to Sounds Like Nashville. "I went into making this record hoping to show real growth as an artist and I hope I have accomplished that! This is a real great day for me and everyone who has worked so hard!"

Bryan's third album, "Tailgates & Tanlines," was arguably proof of his level of stardom because it debuted at No.1 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart and remained there for a month. The singer's fourth album, "Crash My Party," is his most successful album to date. The record, which includes hits like "Drink a Beer" and "Play It Again," remained at the top of Billboard's Top Country Albums chart for an impressive 13 weeks. It also stayed in the No.1 spot on Billboard's Top Album Sales chart for two weeks. Bryan has gone on to release two more albums since then.

Luke Bryan continues to release music

After releasing his sixth album, "What Makes You Country," in 2017, and his seventh album, "Born Here Die Here," in 2020, Luke Bryan revealed he is working on an eighth album that does not have a release date as of this writing. "I've got probably half of the project done," Bryan told SiriusXM's "The Highway." "I'm going to spend a couple of more months, hopefully as 'Country On' is going up the charts, spend a couple more months writing a lot of music. We're working hard in the studio and then go in and cut some more songs."

He went on to talk more about his single, "Country On," which was released prior to the album.

"It feels like an anthem," Bryan said of the song. "The title, 'Country On,' when you think about it on a T-shirt and everybody's saying, 'Country On.' When you're having a bad day, you know you can drink a beer and country on, it feels pretty good. I love what the song says." Co-writers Styles Haury and Mitch Oglesby spoke to Billboard about the songwriting process. They shared that the tune went through quite a few name changes before they settled on the title, "Country On."