Luke Bryan: A Decade Since “Friends”

I Called This 10 Years Ago

I wonder if Luke Bryan is reflecting on his career right now like I am.

It’s been a exactly 10 years since Bryan released his very first single — “All My Friends Say” –and yet it somehow seems like yesterday that I heard that song and thought, “I bet this guy’s going to sell out arenas and host the Academy of Country Music Awards someday soon.”

Well, maybe I didn’t predict things quite that precisely. But I do remember thinking he had something that most of the other rookies did not.

For one, twang. It seemed like 2007 was right around the time that a lot of artists were outgrowing theirs, so I was glad to hear a singer who was clinging to his Southern roots, drawl and all.

Something else Bryan had that made him stand out was that his first video felt like his 100th. He was a natural in front of the camera. The “All My Friend Say” video was shot on the front lawn of the fictitious Theta Delta house at the University of Georgia in Athens — actually the real Theta Chi house — and I’ve always loved how convincing Bryan seemed as the fraternity’s hired entertainment.

And when he actually did play live in real life, Bryan was an instant pro. He was never an artist who needed to get his sea legs onstage. Right out of that gate, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. The first time I met him and saw him perform, he was the early-afternoon opener at the Country Thunder festival in Wisconsin in July 2007. In my coverage, I called him the stand-out guy of the festival.

“When you find a Georgia native who’ll sing honestly about hog-wrestling, hot-wiring tractors and curing hams, you can’t let him get away,” I wrote.

By the end of his debut year, Bryan was named as one of Country Radio Seminar’s New Faces for 2008, along with Taylor Swift, Jake Owen, Bucky Covington and Jason Michael Carroll. It’s not always a perfect barometer of staying power, but they definitely chose well with Bryan.

In the decade since, Bryan has amassed 26 pages of news archived on his website, and reading through it now feels like a timeline — a very long one — of all the things he’s accomplished. He’s won awards, topped the charts, graced every stage, made all the lists, sold all the tickets and covered all the magazines. And along the way, he’s hosted shows, had babies, made friends, made headlines and managed to stay out of any real trouble.

Now all he has left to do is write a book, maybe sometime in his next 10 years.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.