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Talking with Luke Bryan about charity, Jason Aldean and Georgia roots

Luke Bryan

He has an album with the third highest sales debut of the year, a trio of nominations for the CMA Awards in November and is showing off his philanthropic side through his involvement with the Give with Target program.

It’s officially a great year for Luke Bryan.

The Leesburg native, who played a sold-out show at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood in July and to an ever bigger crowd with fellow Georgian Jason Aldean at UGA’s Sanford Stadium in April, is one of this year’s celebrity partners for the Target campaign – an obvious pairing since Bryan released an exclusive deluxe version of “Crash My Party” through the retailer.

Along with athletes Gabrielle Douglas and Donald Driver and actresses Sophia Bush and LaLa Anthony, Bryan will make an appearance – and perform – at Northside Elementary school in Benson, Minn., this year’s beneficiary of the social giving program aimed to ensure schools have the resources they need. The Minnesota school was the first to reach the goal of 10,000 votes through Target’s Facebook page.

Bryan called in recently from a tour stop in Kansas City, Mo., to talk about this involvement in the program – he’s always interested in doing anything that promotes education, he said – as well as his Georgia roots and his friendship with Aldean.

Q: You’re involved in a project that is helping schools. Did you have any kind of musical education in school and what message are you going to try to get across to those kids in Benson?

A: We had music classes through grade school and I did some drama stuff in high school, but I stuck with music. Any message I always would deliver to kids is to follow your dreams and your heart.

Q: How often do you get back to Leesburg?

A: Probably once a year these days. My mother and father are still there and obviously, a lot of friends. But we live in Nashville. It’s big time there. We love it.

Q: What was your reaction to the huge opening sales week for “Crash My Party”?

A:  It was certainly well beyond what we could have anticipated. I’m just excited about the number of people that supported it. I was surprised it was in the 500,000 range; we were hoping for the 400 [thousand range].

Q: You’ve gotten this reputation as the easy-going, beer-drinking party guy, but would you say that’s an accurate depiction or just the guy you portray?

A: What you see is me. I like to be well-rounded. I like to have fun and be serious. But when it’s time to party, we party, and when it’s time to work, we work. I balance that in all ways.

Q: You’ve had a string of Top 5 hits. Were you surprised at any of them?

A: At this point in my career, it’s all just a series of blessings and surprises.

Q: You’ve got another trio of nominations for the CMA Awards. As winner of ACM’s Entertainer of the Year, what do these accolades mean to you?

A: It just tells me I’m very blessed and very fortunate to have amazingly wonderful fans who have stuck with me and allowed me to grow as an artist. The fruits of our labor are coming in. It’s very amazing and flattering to have awards and to go in my office and look at what I’ve achieved.

Q: How do you think growing up in a small Georgia town has influenced artists like you and Jason Aldean?

A: My main thing is, you learn and grow up in an environment around good, kind-hearted people and they bestow really great values on you. I’ve tried to carry that and take that small town knowledge and go see the world and try to inspire. I’m very happy that I have that small town upbringing and roots, but I also love that I’ve been able to see the world and really understand many different cultures. I’ve been around the block a time or two, so you can let me out in New York City and I’ll be OK and you can leave me in a swamp and I’ll be OK there, too.

Q: You opened for Jason at the Sanford Stadium show which is coming to DVD now…was it as meaningful for you to play there as it seemed to be for him?

A: It was absolutely one of the highlights of my career. Being two Georgia boys, we were like kids in a candy store.

Q: Having worked with Jason and Eric Church on “The Only Way I Know,” is collaborating like that something you would do again?

A: Certainly, you never turn your eye or ear to the right collaboration, as long as it’s a great song.

Q: Anyone you want to work with in the future?

A: [Laughs] I’ve got some stuff coming.

Q: What does the rest of the year look like after tour wraps in October?

A: A few award show performances. It’s still a busy year, and we’ll kick off a huge tour next year, bigger and better…a little bit inside and outside.

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