Luke Bryan Reminisces His Magical First Trip To Nashville That Ignited His Country Music Ambitions

The country star’s first trip to Music City left a lasting impact on him.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

July 26, 2023


4:15 pm

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Luke Bryan; Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMA

The first time Luke Bryan visited Nashville, he was greeted with the magic of Music City that left him dreaming of the day that his name would be known around the town that has produced so many of his heroes.

Looking back on how far he’s come since then, Bryan shared a look into the trip that turned out to be the start of something beyond what he could have ever expected as a hopeful singer/songwriter from Georgia. 

“One of the first nights I ever had in Nashville, me and my current guitar player and fellow songwriter friend, Michael Carter, we drove up from South Georgia and we just walked around,” Bryan began in a statement to his label. 

Grand Ole Opry Experience

Luke Bryan; Photo by Jim Wright
Luke Bryan; Photo by Jim Wright

Of course, they made sure to experience all the main tourist attractions and historic sites, such as the Grand Ole Opry. 

“We took in the Grand Ole Opry, we sat in the front row of the Opry and stared around. We actually snuck in somehow in a private tour. We just saw a line walking in and we just stood in line and somehow we snuck into the Opry backstage.”

Little did Bryan know that one day, he wouldn’t have to sneak into the venue because he would be invited to step into the coveted circle and make his Grand Ole Opry debut on April 6, 2007.

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This look inside the Opry was followed by a slew of neon lights as he strolled down Broadway. In true Nashville fashion, Bryan also had a run-in with a country music icon. 

Honkytonks On Broadway

“Then we went out and went to some of the famous bars and honkytonks on Broadway, went and saw the Ryman,” he said before adding, “Then on the second day, we knew that Vince Gill was going to be down in Franklin and actually got to meet Vince, and it was a great first visit to Nashville.”

Aside from seeing some of the most well-known places in the city, what really stuck out to the “Country On” singer was the billboards that stood before him as a physical goal for what he hoped his future would entail. 

Bryan continued, “So many memories just riding around and seeing the billboards and seeing the country stars on billboards promoting albums and promoting singles, and just I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, if I can only be on a billboard one day.’”

Luke Bryan; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Luke Bryan; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

That day eventually came when Bryan finally took the opportunity to leave Leesburg, GA and move to Nashville in September 2001. While he entered with a load of passion and some experience under his belt from performing around his home and college town, it took a few years before he landed a record deal with Capitol Records. 

Fast forward to 2018 and not only is he becoming a hitmaker with his name on billboards across the city, but he’s also landed his namesake among the famous honky tonks on Broadway. This was the year that Bryan opened up his own bar, Luke’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink, where he occasionally stops by to grab a drink or jump on stage.

Everything Luke Bryan dreamed about during his first visit to Music City eventually came true. It’s safe to assume that his younger self would be proud of how much he’s accomplished in this time. 

Since the release of his debut album in 2007, the country star has garnered 30 No. 1 hits, sold nearly 13 million albums, and won over 50 major music awards. Additionally, he’s performed sold-out shows for 12 million fans within his headlining concert tours that include 36 stadium concerts, Farm Tours, Spring Break shows, and his annual Crash My Playa destination event.

Bryan went from living in a small town, learning about his dad’s job as a peanut farmer and dreaming big to be one of the biggest names in country music. However, no matter how many awards he wins or No. 1 singles he achieves, he will always stay humble in his Georgia roots.

Luke Bryan - I'll Stay Me Album
Luke Bryan – I’ll Stay Me Album

Country On Tour

Luke Bryan is currently on the road for his Country On Tour, named after his chart-topping single, “Country On,” which marked Bryan’s 30th No.1 single at country radio.      

The summer run kicked off on June 15 in Syracuse, New York continues with stops in 36 cities across the U.S. with stops in major markets like Philadelphia, Denver, Nashville, Orlando, Charlotte, Raleigh, and more. 

Chayce Beckham, Tyler Braden, Ashley Cooke, Jackson Dean, Jon Langston, Conner Smith, Alana Springsteen, and Hailey Whitters will join Bryan on the run alongside DJ Rock.

Bryan is then set to embark on his 14th headlining Farm Tour. From September 14-23, he will set up stages in the fields of farms in Shelbyville, KY, Millersport, OH, Colfax, IA, Brooklyn, WI, Eyota, MN

Since he first began this trek around small towns in 2009, Bryan has found various ways to give back to these communities that reflect the one that raised him in Leesburg, G.A

Return To Idol

In addition, it was recently announced that the five-time Entertainer of the Year will be returning to his role as a judge on American Idol for the upcoming 2024 season. 

ABC took to social media to confirm that Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie will reclaim their roles alongside the show’s veteran host, Ryan Seacrest. 

The upcoming competition will mark the show’s 22nd in total and seven seasons on ABC. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.