Now that Luke Bryan has his own exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, fans can learn more about what helped shape his status as the face of today’s country.
Some of his first instruments and even the first song he ever wrote are included in Luke Bryan: Dirt Road Diary, but the tiny placards placed next to each item only reveal a fraction of what makes them special. To hear the story behind them, you’ve got to ask Bryan himself.
In an interview just before he toured the exhibit for the first time, Bryan filled reporters in on some of his most precious possessions.
“My very first guitar, I don’t even know what brand it is,” Bryan said. (It’s a Silvertone). “But I was about 14 and had been on a summer trip to Jennings, Louisiana. . . During that trip there was a kid playing guitar at a church and I saw all the girls swooning over him, and I told myself when I got back to Leesburg I was gonna find a guitar.”
Upon returning to his Georgia hometown, he phoned a neighbor who he knew owned more than a few instruments. “I called to ask if he had an extra guitar. He goes, ‘Yeah, I have one,’ and it was that guitar,” Bryan said. “He brought it over that night.”
Earlier in his childhood, Bryan also took piano lessons but says they didn’t stick at the time. Even so, he always tinkered with it, and now is confident enough to play in front of a packed arena.
“It was a family friend’s piano, and I don’t know if we ever formally asked if we could have it up here [at the museum], but it’s here,” he said. “In our house we had limited space, and the piano just lived in my room. When I got into the guitar, that got me interested in piano, too.”
Bryan said he honed his chops by learning to play the songs of one of country’s preeminent piano men: Ronnie Milsap, with whom he performed during the ACM Superstar Duets concert last month. Still, the “Kick the Dust Up” singer jokes that his talent is marginal at best. “People who have seen me play know that I’m quite limited on piano skills,” he laughed.
But it was the first song Bryan ever wrote that truly started him down his musical path, and he performed it in front of his whole church congregation.
“My first song was ‘The Day He Turned Me Around,’ and it was a Christian song,” he remembered fondly, pointing out the lyrics. “The ink faded, but you can still see what I wrote. It was just a simple Christian song, but I physically wrote it and performed it in front of my congregation when I was 15, maybe 16.”
Back then, Bryan couldn’t fathom what was to come.
“You don’t realize at the time what you’re laying the groundwork for, but it’s neat to see that piece of paper [now],” he said. “I remember putting it up there on the pulpit and being real nervous.”
Bryan, who announced his new album Kill the Lights will be released on August 7th, is currently on his Kick the Dust Up Tour, which hits amphitheaters and stadiums this summer. He’ll play Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on June 6th.