Celebrated road-racing cyclist Lance Armstrong and Luke Bryan took a bike ride around Austin, Texas on Sept. 21. Even better, when it was over, they had a long talk on Bryan's bus about their ride, listening to country radio, songwriting, raising three boys and what Bryan called the "Texas music situation."
It's all part of Armstrong's podcast, The Forward. Their conversation goes on for about 45 minutes, and these were just a handful of the highlights.
On getting his cycling start:
"I'm only about two years into riding. I've been out on the road a long time, I was on stage one night, and my dadgum knees puffed up on me. I was like, 'I gotta quit jogging.' So I started cycling. It's changed the game."
On why he couldn't get out of the ride:
"I had a flat, and I thought it was my ticket out. But then I didn't know I had a Tour de France tire-changing crew behind us."
On trying to be bigger than his idols:
"When I moved to Nashville, somebody told me early on pick the artists that you grew up idolizing and try to be bigger than them. Try to shoot for those stars -- Alabama, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn. I was a kid that just listened to country radio. And then I would play those songs in my band. I wouldn't venture out there and listen to these crazy, overly artsy things."
On his humble country start:
"You wake up one day, and you blink, and all your dreams have come true. It's pretty crazy stuff. But I enjoyed when I played the 200-seat honky-tonks when my first single was coming out, and now when I look at Austin and at my Texas fan base, Texas has a huge music situation, and I'm glad I have a little spot here."
On some misconceptions about life in Nashville:
"I thought that the thing to do was just songwrite, songwrite, songwrite. Well, then your first few years of songwriting, you can't songwrite, songwrite, songwrite because you're not making any money. You gotta get songs out there in the pipeline. So Michael Carter and I would rent a van, find some Nashville pickers, we'd drive down to Georgia on Thursday mornings, play some clubs, and come back with $500-1,000 in our pockets. All the while I'm writing, and then the end goal was to get a record deal."
On being that football dad:
"The first fall that (Bryan's nephew) Til was living with us, he was back-up quarterback in 7th grade. So we just go up to watch this football game, and the starting quarterback goes down. Man, I jumped the fence, got down on the sidelines with the coaches, but I wasn't prepared for him to go from back-up to starting. They won the game. It's been amazing having him."
On raising three boys:
"The first year that Til lived with us, it really wasn't reality. Because you almost don't get onto him like you need to, you just gotta cut him a break. It's the real deal now. When he makes a mistake or gets in a little trouble, he feels the full wrath. If you don't have a wife that's got a crazy backbone -- it's a necessity."
Toward the end of the conversation, Armstrong asked Bryan a "Would-You-Rather" type question: If he had to choose, would he choose to play country music or hunt and fish? He chose country music.
"When I'm on stage, it just doesn't get any better. When you're watching people truly let go and have fun, you can see real life happening. I've seen people of all walks of life enjoying my music," Bryan said, "and it's very inspiring."