When Luke Bryan launches his annual Farm Tour, which plays agricultural communities throughout the Midwest and South, on September 30th in Indiana, the Georgia native will hit the stage with the greatest momentum of his career, an in-the-zone voice and a much larger production than his early days.
“I would hop in a 15-passenger van and drive a band that I had put together in Nashville that week,” Bryan tells Rolling Stone Country, recalling his pre-superstar years on the frat-house circuit. “We’d go play colleges and I’d pass out free CDs.”
Now, however, the Kill the Lights artist is touring smart, hitting the road with a mindset that views performing as a marathon rather than a sprint.
“This year, I have been the most relaxed touring-wise. There are always things where you go through little blips. It’s just the business. But I have never enjoyed touring more than this year,” he says. “I had one show in Denver, my first dadgum stadium show, where I was just sick as a dog. But when my voice is great, nobody is having more fun in the room. When singing is second nature, and I’m interacting with the crowd and not even thinking about hitting a note, that is when it’s perfect. I just love those moments.”
Being aware of how healthy his pipes are on a particular night has been a breakthrough for Bryan. He says he has picked up tips from some unnamed veteran performers on how to get through a lengthy tour. Most importantly: don’t overreach.
“I’ve learned that if I feel it getting a little tired, I’ll pull it back. You ain’t got to go out there and win an award every night of the tour. Just do a great performance,” he says.
Along with his commitment to stellar live shows, Bryan is equally adamant about singing in his own voice — in the past, the vocalist would sometimes mimic his heroes. He cites a recent performance of “Strip It Down” on The Tonight Show as a high point.
“My whole life I could sing like Ronnie Dunn like nobody’s business, and still can sound like him if I tried. Or even Marty Roe of Diamond Rio. I could always sing like other people,” he says. “My guys who mix my front of house, they said in soundcheck [at The Tonight Show] that that’s probably the finest we’ve heard you sing in these environments. When you start getting that confident, it snowballs.”
Bryan will perform a string of dates this weekend in Florida, beginning Thursday at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.