Luke Bryan: Let Him Entertain You
Luke Bryan’s Entertainer of the Year win couldn’t have been more appreciated.
Originally published in our May 6, 2013 issue featuring Luke on the cover.
ACM Awards day was magical for Luke Bryan well before showtime even arrived. Already invited to host one of the biggest awards ceremonies in country music, broadcast on network television, and nominated for four awards—Vocal Event, Album, Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year—Luke was in high spirits. The ACMs seemed the perfect culmination of the two years since the release of his best-selling album Tailgates & Tanlines in 2011, since he opened for Jason Aldean on two tours, successfully sold out every show on his own 2012 Farm Tour and embarked on his headlining arena trek, the Dirt Road Diaries Tour, in January.
Hosting the ACMs in Las Vegas with his close friend Blake Shelton, Luke revealed himself to be warm and confident, with perfect comedic timing. He had even already received a trophy, along with Eric Church, in the Vocal Event category for their contribution to Jason Aldean’s No. 1 hit “The Only Way I Know.” But, as it turned out, the highly regarded Male Vocalist trophy went to Jason, while Album went to Eric.
So it just seems fitting that when the Entertainer of the Year envelope was torn open by Shania Twain, Luke’s name was the one that she read aloud.
His head dropping to his chest as he wiped away tears, Luke was barely able to make it to the stage to accept his award. He hadn’t even thought about a speech of any kind, so his gratitude was spontaneous and completely heartfelt. “I was so focused on the awards, I didn’t even really think about nominations,” Luke tells Country Weekly a few days after his upset win. “I was focused on hosting and making sure that went smooth.”
So was he surprised? “One thousand percent,” he says modestly. Flooded with emotion, a hundred thoughts raced through his brain. “Your whole life of dreams kind of flashes before your eyes,” Luke remembers. “It’s all spiritual at that point. You think about all the sacrifices your wife and family makes, and being gone. Everybody’s face that ever helped me along the way flashed before my eyes.” One of those people who helped him, Jason Aldean, didn’t wait to get backstage to congratulate his friend. He rushed the stage immediately following Luke’s remarks to embrace his hunting buddy.
Others were surprised, too. Compared to some of the other nominees, Luke hadn’t had the years of headlining experience or the television exposure. But what he does have is a legion of loyal fans.
“I think I won it strictly on a really deep relationship between me and my fans,” Luke reflects. “And I think that they can truly appreciate and believe how much I love them and respect them and how I’ve worked hard to gain each fan each and every day. Each time I’ve won a fan-voted nomination, they’ve shown their love for me by basically handing me that award. It’s been an amazing relationship. When you can give it all you’ve got, night in and night out on the road, and they can give it back to you with awards like this, it’s amazing.”
Luke doesn’t question the timing of the big win. “I told myself prior to the speech I wouldn’t apologize for winning. I’ve dreamed of winning it for years. And I told myself that if it happened this year I wasn’t going to stand up there and say, ‘I can’t believe it happened this year,’” he says. “I just felt like, heck, I’ve been out entertaining for half my life now and I’m going to enjoy being called that and just love the moment. It’s the pinnacle of what you can want to achieve in this business, in my opinion.”
He also took some time to celebrate the victory with his wife, Caroline, his record label family and, of course, his fans. “I hugged my family and wife and thanked them. I had to do quite a bit of press afterwards and then we went and did the Fan Jam, sang a couple of songs there, then we went to the Capitol party,” he says. So no raging into the wee hours?
“I was just emotionally drained. We got in the bed about 2:30,” Luke says. “It was really low-key. Not a big party night.”
But he is still pinching himself over the win, calling it “surreal.” His family, too, is overwhelmed for their Georgia boy, but for Luke, it’s back to the business of making music. And he vows there’s no time to kick back or rest on his laurels.
“I will chill out the day I say I’m done. It’s just not in my DNA to chill out about being excited about songs and performing,” he says. “I’m always going to love it and enjoy it and have a great time.”