It was only a matter of time before Luke Bryan, 39, transcended the tag of bro country. You might want to have a beer with many of the singers of that ilk, but there are only a few you'd invite to dinner. He's one of those.
Bryan's sincerity and the sheer joy with which he performs has his fans singing along to his tune. That's made it as easy as 1-2-3 for his ascension. Here's how he did it:
1. Paying dues
Bryan moved to Nashville and wrote songs for a publishing house before being discovered singing at a club in his spare time.
His life may seem charmed now, but that's not within driving distance of the truth. Bryan planned to move to Nashville straight out of high school but stayed home when his older brother was killed in a car accident. He eventually made the move. Then his sister died suddenly in 2007 -- losses he speaks of in somber tones.
He's a son of the dust -- a peanut farmer by birth -- and calls Southwest Georgia home. It's a proud place (Bryan's family hails from Calhoun County, where I'm from, down the road from where he spent his formative years in Lee County), and it's proud of him. They love him from his alma mater, Georgia Southern, in Statesboro to the farms of Leesburg. He doesn't forget his part of the country, either, with his annual Farm Tour, which hits some of the smaller cities throughout the Southeast.
When he finally made the move to Nashville, his songs of country life got him in the door. His performance of them kept him there. All of this combines to spur him to life, in his music, constant touring and his fan club, the Nut House.
2. Playing and working in equal measure
There's a saying: You can play just as hard as you work. They should put that saying on T-shirts and sell them at Bryan's shows. He has had five studio albums in eight years. His latest, Kill the Lights, was his third straight CD to top the Billboard 200. His debut numbers were on par with hip-hop luminaries Drake and Kendrick Lamar. (Run tell that.) He released the last of his Spring Break albums, which had been a tradition, in March. He has toured every year since 2011, supporting some of music's biggest names, including Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum, and then selling out shows on his own. And the energy of his shows can leave even the fans gasping for air.
3. Gathering accolades
How do they love him? Let us count some more ways. Just this year:
He's been nominated for two American Music Awards this year, artist of the year and favorite male country artist. Fans can vote on the awards, which will be telecast live from Los Angeles on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. (ABC).
Bryan was nominated for two Country Music Association awards this year, entertainer of the year -- again -- and male vocalist of the year. ABC will show this one on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.
He won male video of the year at the CMT Music Awards and even picked up an award from the Canadian Country Music Association for top-selling album for Crash My Party.
In April, he was named the Academy of Country Music's entertainer of the year, an award he practically gave himself (he was co-host, along with superstar Blake Shelton, of the 50th-anniversary awards show broadcast live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington). He also won vocal event of the year, for a collaboration with Florida Georgia Line.
So, there you have it. Ladies and gentleman, Luke Bryan.