From personal tragedy to the top of the charts, country’s newest superstar, Luke Bryan, 37, has lived a life worthy of any great country song. But for Bryan, the road started in a small town called Leesburg, Ga., with a population just shy of 3,000 . “Everything you see is ingrained in my music and who I am as a person,” he tells Sunday’s Parade.
Bryan, who cohosts the Academy of Country Music Awards April 6 on CBS, recently debuted his new digital EP, Spring Break 6…Like We Ain’t Ever, at two Panama City, Fla., free shows that attracted more than 230,000 revelers. “It’s gotten kind of insane,” he says. “It’s not even organized chaos. It’s just chaos.” Excerpts from the story follow:
On the hip-shaking social media GIFs that glorify Bryan’s posterior:
My wife and I laugh about it, because she always thought I had a flat [rear end] until I started working out. Look, when you roll into a college bar bringing country music, you better have something else going on. I’ll shake it all night long.
On busting dance moves since he was a little boy:
[Michael Jackson’s] Thriller was my first cassette; that was like currency. At school I could moonwalk all the way to the pencil sharpener and back.
On cherishing the values and experiences that were formed as a kid in Leesburg:
I love the foundation of this town. It’s still very much the same, which puts a smile on my face. But I also love the knowledge that comes from visiting this whole country. I want to be a positive person for everybody. As long as my voice feels good and I ain’t sick, I have the best time with every day.
On dealing with the death of his older brother, Chris, who was killed in a car accident in 1996:
Man, I’ve had a billion emotions around all that. 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.
Bryan also relied on his faith to get through his sister Kelly’s death in 2007.
I knew at 3 o’clock I would walk to the funeral home and at 3:05 I would see her. 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.
On the emotions of his hit “Drink a Beer”:
My sister was drink-a-few-beers-on-the-back-porch perfect. The emotion of that loss … so many people have been right there. Sitting on a dock drinking a beer with your dad or granddad—it’s such an honest connection.