In an interview with the Chicago Tribune about new album Born Here Live Here Die Here (out Aug. 7 via Capitol Nashville), Luke Bryan explained his role in the rise of R&B and hip-hop influences in the so-called "bro-country" that ruled the airwaves in the 2010s.
Like Jason Aldean, Sam Hunt and other country stars raised in Georgia, Bryan came of age with both '90s country artists and the rappers that by that point had eclipsed the popularity of most rock 'n' rollers.
"Let me paint the picture: I'm a small-town kid, and somehow I listened to Alan Jackson, N.W.A, the Beastie Boys, Garth Brooks and Heavy D & the Boyz," Bryan says. "I think my generation, as far as being a country kid, was one of the first to have these forms of music really start integrating."
The "What Makes You Country," "Knockin' Boots," "What She Wants Tonight" and "One Margarita" singer found out early in his career that his blend of pop-country connected with a young audience.
"'I would go play college bars, honky-tonks -- a thousand people dancing, partying their ass off, spraying beer," he says. "And the second I got offstage, the DJ would play the biggest hip-hop songs in the world, and everybody wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots and Wranglers with dip rings, they were all out there grinding and humping one another. And nobody ever had a problem with it. So 'Country Girl (Shake It for Me)' kind of does all that. So does 'That's My Kind of Night.' It's almost like a touch of a hip-hop song with a guy with a real country voice singing it."
Little did Bryan know, his attempts to connect with the college crowd reflected new country trends.
"I didn't know I was gonna open up another avenue," he says. "And you know what? There'll always be people who say I ruined country music. But I was driving home from downtown Nashville yesterday and I heard Kane Brown on pop radio with Swae Lee and Khalid. I'm like, 'That's interesting.'"
Beyond talk of Bryan's seventh studio album, the interview also covers lessons learned from the two time CMA Entertainer of the Year's gig alongside Katy Perry and Lionel Richie on ABC's American Idol, what his latest title track says about the small town experience and whether his farm tour is a safe option during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.