Luke Bryan’s Rookie Soldier Field Stop

Luke Bryan announced Tuesday (Jan. 14) he’ll be performing at a few stadiums this summer. One of those is Chicago’s Soldier Field, where he’ll appear Aug. 31.

Am I surprised? Not at all. I feel like Bryan has been working hard for this since, well, June 21, 2008.

That was the very first time the then-rookie played Soldier Field. I know because I interviewed him that day, and I remember thinking he would probably be a stadium headliner sooner rather than later. It was partly because of his music but mostly because of his attitude.

Since Bryan was the first performer that day, followed by LeAnn Rimes, Gary Allan, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney, our interview was early in the day. So when we were done talking, we walked around backstage and hung out with his brand new son Bo (who was about 3 months old and wearing the most adorable all-access lanyard I’d ever seen).

Then Bryan and I ran into the boss of WUSN, Chicago’s country radio station. Bryan was thanking him profusely for playing “Country Man,” the third single from his debut album I’ll Stay Me.

Because I apparently had no filter back then, I asked Bryan, “Why are you thanking him? It should be the other way around. He should be thanking you for making the kind of music his listeners love.” But that wasn’t the way he saw things.

At the time, Bryan had already created so much buzz with his first of many party songs (“All My Friends Say,” ) his first ballad of rural life (“We Rode in Trucks” ) and his first No. 1 songwriting cut for Billy Currington (“Good Directions”). So in my mind, one more song from a hot newcomer was something radio stations should’ve been grateful for.

I may not have understood the value of radio spins for a new artist back then, but I could see that Bryan did. He understood it, he appreciated it and was quick to give credit to anyone but himself. And in the seven years since, that is what has taken him from the guy playing to the empty seats as the opening act to the guy who goes on last.