Luke Bryan Talks Musical Influences: ‘A Good Song Is a Good Song’
Luke Bryan is undoubtedly one of the reigning superstars of country music, but he isn't about to be limited to one genre. The singer-songwriter has played everything from Macklemore to Taio Cruz to Maroon 5 to the Steve Miller Band during his live shows, and his eclectic taste is evident in the songs he chooses for his albums.
But while that may seem strange for a country artist, whose songs run the spectrum from "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" to "I See You" to "Drink a Beer," for Bryan, it's just part of who he is as an artist.
"Growing up in Georgia, it’s a diverse culture," Bryan tells Radio.com. "I had black friends that introduced me to Dr. Dre and Eazy-E as a kid, as well as my friends who were listening to Pearl Jam and had skater haircuts. And here I am, all I was ever able to listen to was country."
Bryan says his shows certainly aren't limited to country music fans either, especially in some of the larger venues, like a recent show in San Diego, Calif.
"I looked into the crowd and saw every form of person out there having the time of their life," he recalls. "That’s cool. That’s amazing and interesting to me, that my music is touching people and they want to come have some fun with it. I watched for years as I played in country bars and when I stepped off stage hip-hop dance music went on, and people were on the dance floor line dancing to it. I think a good song is a good song. A catchy song is a catchy song. A sad song, an emotional song is the same way. At the next show, I’ll play whatever is the fun thing to play."
Still, even with such a diverse sound, and a wide-ranging appeal, the 38-year-old acknowledges that not everyone loves his music. Criticized by some for starting, or at least perpetuating, the "bro-country" movement, with even Zac Brown famously citing Bryan's No. 1, multi-platinum "That's My Kind of Night" single as "the worst song [he's] ever heard," Bryan is unfazed by his detractors.
"With people critiquing what I’m doing, they can say whatever they want to," he attests. "I’m watching what fans do. They tell me everything I need to know. They are my barometer. When I write a song, I play it for my wife and my boys and my management and my bus driver, and they’re my barometer. Whatever people want to write about and critique about this and that, that’s just one person’s opinion and it’s their job to do it. It gets a little frustrating … Judge the whole deal, I would hope, and not a single song."
"The main thing for me as an artist is to stay focused on the fans," he continues. "I love trying to write and hear music that I know will affect [them], in positive ways and negative ways, and I try to stay true to myself. The critiquing and all that gets pretty interesting."
While he may have a few naysayers, he's clearly at the top of his game. One of only a few artists of all genres who have successfully sold-out two nights at New York City's Madison Square Garden, Bryan says he alone can't take the credit for the success of those shows.
"I feel that it says something about both country music and New York City, that I could headline there," he humbly attests. "I think the city went a little while without a country radio station, and now country is represented well up there and the fans were demanding it. And I think country music is growing and evolving to where it’s not a far stretch for me to be seeing my music or any other country artist playing in the heart of Manhattan. For me to be walking down the street and seeing my face on the top of a New York City cab was just – I was like, 'What? What was that?'"
Bryan is in Texas to co-host the 50th annual ACM Awards with Blake Shelton on Sunday night, April 19. He is also nominated for four ACM Awards, including the night's highest honor, Entertainer of the Year.
The 2015 ACM Awards will air live from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on April 19 at 8 PM ET on CBS.
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