Team Bryan (L-R): Dustin Eichten, Director of Marketing, Capitol Records Nashville, Luke Bryan, Jay Williams, Agent, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, and Kerri Edwards, Manager, Red Light Management. (Photo: Michael Seto)
Luke Bryan finished his "Artist Development Case Study Panel" yesterday at the Billboard Country Music Summit in Nashville by complimenting his team and handing out advice to a 16-year old in the audience.
"You have to have people in your team who you are comfortable with and who will do the things that you know will be right," Bryan said.
The 16-year old, who asked Bryan how he could move out of the fair and festival circuit to the next level of performing, got some sage advice from one of country music's fastest rising stars.
"Young kids scare me," Bryan told the teen. "I've had such a fulfilling life being young and doing what I'm doing now."
Luke Bryan discusses his career at the Billboard Country Music Summit. (Photo: Michael Seto)
Bryan went on to advise the budding musician to enjoy playing his music, focus on getting better and do what's right.
"One day you'll probably have to move to Nashville," Bryan said. "Some people come here thinking they will not make any mistakes, but while you may be real good in one area you may let things slip somewhere else. Play every day, work on songs," Bryan encouraged. "Fate, luck, working hard and being good to people are all important. Most importantly, enjoy your life now."
Bryan had planned to come to Nashville when he was 20 but a family tragedy caused him to change his plans. He went to college, worked with his father for awhile, and at 25 realized that music really was where be wanted to be.
"I'm so glad that I waited until I was 25, when I was more mature," Bryan said "College taught me about being more social and I feel I was able to make better judgments about people."
Bryan, who said he didn't even know people got paid to write songs, made it his goal to have that happen.
"I sat in my apartment and wrote songs all day and when I got an appointment with (publisher) Roger Murrah, I had a few songs. He heard something in those songs and he signed me to a publishing deal."
Signing with Murrah was fortuitous for Bryan in ways other than his songs. It was through Murrah that he met Kerri Edwards, who is now his manager. At the time she was pitching songs. After going to see Bryan in concert, she asked Murrah for his blessing in her pursuing more opportunities for the young writer.
"When I saw his show I realized 'Wow, this guy has it,'" she said.
All of the people on the panel who work with Bryan agreed on that point -- Bryan had it going on in the songwriting department. Edwards continued working with him and when she pitched songs she casually mentioned he was also a singer. Bryan kept writing and honing his performance skills.
Finally Edwards felt he was ready for his big showcase in Nashville. All but one label came. They all turned him down, saying they felt he wasn't ready.
"We looked at it as 'What can we do to make better?'"
Make it better they did and Capitol Nashville came on board with an offer. Soon Luke was watching his first single, "All My Friends Say," climb the charts. It took 39 weeks for it to get to number five.
"It was a nightmare to watch," Bryan admitted. "We set goals that we felt like we could attain and not be disappointed. We were just enjoying it."
Jay Williams with William Morris Agency went to see Bryan early on and immediately recognized his viability as a live act. Before the singer released his first single and album, Williams continued to promote him on a regional level, especially the college towns, as well as in cities outside the south. At the same time, Bryan continued a tradition he had started early in his career -- handing out free CDs of his demos in clubs where he played.
"If I handed out 500 CDs then the next time I went into that town those CDs would have morphed onto iPhones and iPads and more people would come to see me," Bryan said.
By the time the first single was released, Williams says he felt Bryan's live show was ready. When the singer went out on tour with Toby Keith, he was able to maximize his exposure.
Bryan signs autographs for fans after the session. (Photo: Michael Seto)
"I moved to Nashville to play live," Bryan said. "I enjoy every moment of being onstage. I always have a good time."
That love of performing came off to the audience on the Toby Keith tour, and Bryan established himself as a hard-working touring act. He continued building that following as he opened tour after tour. Today he is viewed as the new superstar for 2013.
"We debated about going out as a headliner this year," Williams admitted. "There are a lot of country tours out there this year plus, we had the opportunity to go out with Jason Aldean, which is going to be one of the biggest country tours of the year. When we are not playing with Jason, we are selling out six to seven thousand seat auditoriums."
With the proper planning and cooperation between label, management and booking agency, Luke Bryan has moved through the ranks from clubs to auditoriums and amphitheaters. In 2013 he will headline his own tour. Bryan is proving to be an example of what can happen when everyone on the team works together for the same common goal.