In the nine years since Capitol Nashville released his debut single, Luke Bryan has put a bundle of his emotions on display: vulnerability in “Do I,” exuberance in “That’s My Kind of Night,” mournfulness in “Drink a Beer,” yearning in “Strip It Down.” But never, he insists, has he been as revealing as he has in “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” a song that celebrates Mother Nature.
“I own a hunting show (Buck Commander), I own an outdoor clothing company (32 Bridge), my tour is sponsored by Cabela’s, but I think for some reason people get sidetracked in who I am and what my music is,” says Bryan. “All people really want to write about is me shaking my butt. That’s fine, too, but this is a big part of my life and a big part of my story.”
Released to radio via Play MPE on March 7, “Huntin’ ” takes the listener to Bryan’s South Georgia home turf. The sound of gravel flying, the isolation of the woods or a grassy hill — they’re all part of the storyline as Bryan references a couple of the local Lee County touch points, the Flint River and the Muckalee Creek.
With the Georgia shout-outs, the embrace of his upbringing and J.T. Corenflos’ muddy, out-of-phase electric guitar, “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” revels in old-school country, a mix of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” and Alabama’s “My Home’s in Alabama” with a sprinkling of Waylon Jennings’ outlaw spirit. As country increasingly draws a larger chunk of its audience from urban and suburban areas, Bryan — who just co-hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards for the fourth straight year — figures the new single will help that fan base better understand the roots of the music and the lifestyle it’s associated with.
“There’s a reason why suburban white kids like rap music stuff, because it takes them to a place [they don’t know],” says Bryan. “It’s almost like a learning experience for them, and I think this is what ‘Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day’ is going to be. Somebody living in the city, if they don’t know it, they want to learn more about it.”
The title belonged to Bryan, though its origins are sketchy, even to him. It was dutifully logged into the Notes section on his phone, but he could have dropped it there from all kinds of scenarios — while driving, while boarding a plane, or even in between songs at a stadium.
“I can be onstage in the middle of a concert, and I’ll have an idea onstage,” says Bryan. “My guitar tech will bring me a guitar, and I’ll say, ‘Hey, man, text me this phrase.’ Then I’ll go back and have that interaction with 20,000 people, and when I get done with the show, I’ll see what he texted me.”
Bryan pulled the “Huntin’, Fishin’ ” title out during an appropriate concert run: the 2014 Farm Tour, an eight-show tour of smaller Southeastern markets that featured The Peach Pickers — songwriters Dallas Davidson (“Kick the Dust Up,” “Boys ’Round Here”), Rhett Akins (“I Don’t Want This Night to End,” “Get Me Some of That”) and Ben Hayslip (“Mind Reader,” “The Only Way I Know”) — among the opening acts. Davidson believes it was the second night of the tour — Oct. 2 in Auburn, Ala. — that they started in on it, spurred by Bryan’s title.
“He hops on the bus,” says Davidson, “with his little tiny guitar — it’s out of tune — and started banging on the guitar, and bam, we were off to the races.”
The title itself had a built-in pliability. It can be interpreted as a celebration of hunting, fishing and romance, but its real intent is to capture a guy who hunts and fishes — and loves that he gets to do it every day.
“The important thing is the fact that if you live in that hunting, fishing, loving-every-day mentality, you’re going to be a little more stress-free, and your quality of life will be a little better,” notes Bryan.
They brought that home with the penultimate line in the chorus, setting up the hook with an appreciation for living “red-dirt rich and Flint River paid,” essentially earning a meager — but adequate — income with your hands.
“We were extremely excited when we got to that line,” recalls Davidson.
They didn’t finish the song in Auburn, though. It took two or three more writing sessions before they could put “Huntin’, Fishin’ ” to bed (presumably a river bed), because the Farm Tour backstage lifestyle is as relaxed as the life the song portrays.
“We’ve got sound check, and then you’ve got family that’s coming, and friends are coming, and it’s just more of a family atmosphere out there,” says Davidson. “So you’re not dedicated to, say, a 10 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon kind of write, so we just had to chip away at it.”
When they worked on the second verse, they folded in a female companion — “The Peach Pickers are always aware of bringing a girl into a song,” says Davidson — and they brought her up into the deer stand. Non-hunters might be caught off guard by that move — it doesn’t sound like a great date location — but insiders will certainly understand.
“My wife goes with me a lot,” says Davidson. “We sit out there and we talk, she gets to see the wildlife come out, she gets to see the sunrise, or the sunset, and seeing what God has put on this earth is such a magical thing.”
Once “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” was completed, Bryan recorded it among four or five songs on a demo session — rare for him at this stage in his career — and it gave co-producers Jeff Stevens and Jody Stevens, plus the crew of musicians at Ocean Way Sound Studio, a better template to work from.
It was Corenflos who dialed in on the out-of-phase guitar tone, deftly matching the earthy tones of the subject matter.
“I was mesmerized by it from the second I heard J.T. fiddling around with it,” says Jeff. “That took me back to the ’80s, to the ’70s.”
Four minutes in, banjo player Ilya Toshinsky started playing a Scruggs-like double-time figure that re-energizes the track.
“It sounds like a kid running through a cornfield,” says Jeff.
Bryan did the final vocal parts at Reba McEntire’s Soundstruck Studio, where he freestyled a spoken-word section, talking to those suburban kids on the other side of the speaker, insinuating that the Muckalee is the answer to “that old dirty air” in the city.
There were other contenders, but “Huntin’, Fishin’ ” won out as a single, and Bryan got to release it without a radio edit — even though it takes 26 seconds before Bryan kicks into the first verse and contains a Frampton-esque, 40-second outro, complete with a 20-second power chord and a final drum fill from Greg Morrow. Bryan and Stevens are both aware that radio will edit it or talk over it.
“If you write the perfect song and you go around asking people if they think we ought to edit it, then somebody’s going to tell you to edit it,” says Bryan. “We tinkered with editing some stuff in there, but we feel like every stage of that song has an important purpose, and it just seemed like any edit that we did affected the song. The long intro — disc jockeys can talk over the intro and sell Charmin toilet paper, and then I’ll start singing.”
The song seems to be selling itself. It’s already at No. 16 on Country Airplay after a scant four weeks and No. 21 on the hybrid Hot Country Songs chart. The speed gives Bryan’s team plenty of reason for optimism.
“I think that this will be one of Luke’s biggest songs, and I’m not sure that people will know why, because I don’t know why,” says Stevens, a non-hunter who’s invested in the message of “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.” “It’s about life and love, and I think we’re on the precipice of another really big one.”