Luke Bryan has taken an unusual approach to the business side of his career since winning the Academy of Country Music’s entertainer of the year in April: He’s turning down almost everything.
Rather than cashing in on his win and successful ACM co-hosting gig with Blake Shelton, country music’s newest platinum-selling, arena-filling star has decided to leave sacks of money on the table, ignore television and double down on the live performances that have gotten him this far. His tour hits Cruzan Amphitheater in West Palm Beach on Oct. 26.
Even Bryan can’t believe he’s doing it, but his logic is pretty unassailable.
“It’s my first year in,” the 37-year-old Georgia native said. “I won entertainer of the year, and I ain’t really been an entertainer yet.”
Bryan pulled in the fan votes needed to win one of country music’s biggest awards, one ofthe most surprising upsets in the history of the ACMs — and his competition included Shelton, Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean. The award is usually given to established performers at the top of the genre. They’re not only selling oodles of albums, but also headlining arena- and stadium-sized shows and representing country music in a positive way to the world – and they’ve been doing it for years.
Bryan was just moving into that group. He reached platinum status with 2011’s Tailgates & Tanlines, and this week releases Crash My Party, expected to be the year’s top-selling country album. He’s been greeted with sellouts at his first arena tour this summer. Turns out the fans who voted for him back in April decided it would be OK if the cart arrived at the same time as the horse.
Bryan wants to cement that place in country music.
“I’m getting really, really amazing TV opportunities where it’s quite lucrative financially, and it would have been stuff in different public spotlights,” Bryan said. “I can’t believe I’m turning them down, but when I huddle up with my core group of people and think about it, I think it’s neat to just handle the headlining right now. I don’t think I’m savvy enough as a headliner to start taking it for granted.”
The run he’s been on means there were high expectations for Crash My Party even before he had finished recording it.
But life is generally coming a little easier, Bryan said. He’s getting every opportunity a performer could ask for and he’s reached all his goals long before he thought he would. So he’s been re-examining how he’ll approach the rest of his career.
“It’s like an inner peace deal,” Bryan said. “I’ve almost kind of got to redo my goals, you know? Now I think my goal is just happiness and being good to people and getting joy out of taking somebody fishing and putting them on a big fish or something, and watching fans’ faces at my concerts. I don’t know, man, everything I’ve ever dreamed of has happened. I think now I’m just shifting my goals into pure enjoyment.”