By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Country singer Luke Bryan admits he enjoys being a goof and a cut up. Much of his music shows the fun side of Bryan, and his latest album, "Tailgates and Tanlines," is no exception as he returns to fond memories of growing up in Georgia.
"Tailgates" landed in record stores and on music websites on Tuesday with "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" sitting at No. 7 on Billboard's country music song chart, and the award-winner Bryan told Reuters that his fans should be hearing plenty more of the songs as the radio-friendly CD begins its roll-out.
"It has country songs on it, songs that reference how I grew up in Georgia and then songs that are no doubt radio songs. So there's a little bit of everything, and I'm ready to get it out there to see what people think about it."
Bryan is the rare singer/songwriter whose talent seemed evident when he arrived on Nashville's country scene a decade ago. He was signed as a songwriter within months and landed a recording deal a few years later with Capitol Nashville.
Ironically, his first No. 1 was not his recording, but the "Good Directions" smash hit sung by Billy Currington, a tune Bryan co-write with Rachel Thibodeaux.
That song reached radio shortly before Bryan released his 2007 debut single, "All My Friends Say," about the consequences of seeing one's former love while out on the town.
From that tune on, Bryan's slow southern drawl and easy smile earned him numerous fans who like his good-timin' songs.
RISIN' UP THE CHARTS
His first album, 2007's "I'll Stay Me," reached No. 2 on country charts, and his second, 2009's "Doin' My Thing," went certified gold with two No. 1 country hits, "Rain Is a Good Thing" and "Someone Else Calling You Baby." He was named top new artist at 2010's Academy of Country Music Awards and new artist of the year by the Country Music Association.
When asked how his wife reacts to women fawning over the 35-year-old at his shows and on city streets, Bryan laughs.
"This whole thing has been an amazing ride, and to have fans react like that is still a surprise to me," he said "Caroline loves it. She has a big smile on her face watching everybody have a good time."
"Tailgates and Tanlines" features a number of party songs, among them "Drunk on You" and "I Don't Want This Night To End," and Bryan also takes fans back home to his Georgia roots.
"Songs like 'Muckalee Creek Water' and 'Harvest Time' were written from growing up in my hometown," he said. "I played 'Harvest Time' for some farmer buddies of mine back home and, man, a big ol' tear welled up in their eyes."
Muckalee Creek, he said, is where he fished as boy and around it is a swamp and forest where he hunted. He likened the area to any sort of woodsy, country setting a kid might have growing up in a rural U.S. town.
While Bryan's live act rocks, he is quick to point out that his band is one of the few country touring acts with a traditional fiddle and steel guitar because he wants to maintain "the integrity of country music."
The single "You Don't Know Jack" off the new CD shows his appreciation for his country roots. "This one lets everybody know that as far as me being country, I'm not going anywhere," Bryan said of the song about an encounter with a homeless man.
Bryan wraps up Tim McGraw's Emotional Tour the middle of August, then goes into rehearsals to headline the 10th annual CMT on Tour with Lee Brice, Josh Thompson and CMT's "Next Superstar" winner, Matt Mason, which kicks off on September 15