A Dozen Years of Luke Bryan: He Stayed Him

PHOTOS: A Long Look Back at Everything He's Done

When someone tells me that they love Luke Bryan, that they’ve seen all his shows, and that they have downloaded all his songs, my first question is always, “But have you heard ’Tackle Box’? Did you know he actually can salt-cure a ham? And did you cry during ’The Car in Front of Me’?” To this day, I still know every song on his debut album I’ll Stay Me by heart. And I want every one of his fans to feel that way, too.

Maybe I get a little carried away, but in the summer of 2007, my gut told me that this new guy was exactly what was missing in country music at the time.

So when he tweeted on Wednesday (Aug. 14) that it was the 12th anniversary of the release of his debut album, asking his followers to retweet him if they remember that day as vividly as he does, I did just that. As did hundreds of his other nine million followers.

When I look back on the 12 years since that release, it makes my heart happy to say that the album’s title was true then and is still true today. He stayed him. I don’t know any celebrity who is as genuine, good-hearted and egoless as Bryan. His crowds have multiplied. His stages have grown. His music has transcended the genre. And his trophy shelf has gotten a lot more crowded. But Bryan himself? Same as he ever was.

To celebrate, we put together a virtual photo album full of some of our favorites — in mostly chronological order — from the last 12 years.

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