Luke Bryan is eagerly awaiting the release of his new album, 'Tailgates & Tanlines,' which hits shelves next week (August 9). The Georgia native saw both his debut CD, 'I'll Stay Me,' and the follow-up album, 'Doin' My Thing,' land at No. 2 on the charts -- an impressive feat for any artist, let alone one who was relatively new to the music scene. But in spite of critical acclaim and strong sales on his previous albums, Luke says the upcoming project is the first one that authentically portrays who he really is.

"People would be going, 'So you're a recording artist now,' and I would be answering questions like I was a recording artist, and I still didn't really know what a recording artist was," Luke explains to The Boot of his earlier musical endeavors. "And now I'm starting to kind of get what a true artist is. An artist is selling who you are through music and hoping people buy into it. I've figured that out even more on this album. You just hope who you are is good enough to get you where you want to be, and be happy at that. This album does that; it goes a little farther beyond some things I've ever done, but it also reels back in to the core of me and what got me here."

'Tailgates & Tanlines,' which includes eight tracks Luke co-wrote, also shows growth in his vocal range. "My voice on 'I'll Stay Me' is not even the same voice, not even the same animal," notes the married father of two. "I don't even approach singing that way anymore. I've learned so many more things about being an artist, and being who I am. The moment you start really figuring out where you want to go with who you are, and what you're about, is where your artistry really begins."

The 35-year-old is enjoying his highest debut on the pop charts, with his current single, 'Country Girl (Shake It for Me).' The tune, plus his jaw-dropping performance on the CMT Music Awards, has earned the singer-songwriter an entirely new following of fans who were decidedly uncountry.

"There's nothing more gratifying than to have somebody come up after a show and go, 'Man I don't even like country music. I couldn't even tell you who Willie Nelson is, but I loved your show,'" he acknowledges. "You always love that. With me, with a lot of relevant acts, you want to have good solid music and have everything going."

Luke is getting plenty of practice in putting on a solid show. He is currently taking notes from Tim McGraw, while he serves as opening act on his Emotional Traffic tour. He will then headline his own tour, CMT on Tour: Luke Bryan Tailgates & Tanlines. Keep track of his concert schedule here.

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