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Luke Bryan Doesn't Forget Southern Roots

By The ShowBuzz's Melissa Castellanos

From the Georgian countryside to Nashville, the Mecca of country music, singer Luke Bryan is making his mark on the industry with some good old-fashioned southern charm.

With a good set of pipes and good looks to boot, Bryan is more than just a pretty face; he's just been nominated as the Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music and Country Music TV's Music Award for USA Weekend breakthrough video of the year for "All My Friends Say."

Never did this small town guy ever dream that he would be performing alongside his favorite band, Alabama nor have plans to share a stadium with Kenny Chesney, who has been nominated eleven times by the Academy of Country Music (including Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist). But it's all coming true for this down home guy.

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"To get asked to do a tour with Kenny Chesney … it's unbelievable. I'll never forget when we got that call," Bryan told The ShowBuzz .

Bryan released his hit single "All My Friends Say" in 2007, which made the Top 5 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Capitol Records released his debut album "I'll Stay Me" last year.

"It's a song that kind of says my approach to this business," Bryan said. "You can't take this stuff too seriously, you have to have fun with it and not change, not become a bitter person, enjoy each day."

In addition, Bryan also co-wrote Billy Currington's single "Good Directions," which spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts in the summer of 2007.

Amidst the attention and newfound fame, Bryan is trying his best not to forget where he came from. His hit song "We Rode in Trucks" pays homage to his hometown of Leesburg, Ga., a place where he grew cotton, peanuts and corn, hunted, fished, played football and fell in and out of love.

"It wasn't that long ago. It's a part of my soul" he admits in his lyrics. "Down where I was born was heaven on earth where Flint River washes that red Georgia dirt. The sun sets slow and the stars shine bright, where I grew up, we rode in trucks."

Inspired by country greats Alan Jackson, George Strait, Alabama and Brooks & Dunn and even singer/songwriter Lionel Richie, Bryan knew since his youth that he wanted to pursue a career in music.

In 11th grade, he formed a band with his friends and played at church and parties around town. Destined for stardom, Bryan had planned to move to Nashville to seek out his dream.

Tragically, his older brother died from a "freak car accident," which devastated Bryan and his family. So, Bryan put his plans on the back burner, so he could console his family. He then enrolled in Georgia State University and worked for his father, who ran a peanut mill and a fertilizer plant.

Recognizing his son's potential, Bryan's father gave him an ultimatum - either quit and pursue his dream in Nashville or stay and he would be fired. So Bryan quit. He was 25 at the time.

"When you move to Nashville you're kind of trying to draw a lot of attention and create a buzz about you," Bryan admitted.

2Lately "American Idol" has reinvigorated country music by putting it on the mainstream radar, making it more contemporary and relevant then ever before. Contestants turned country singers have included Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington.

"I think that it ("American Idol") brings more awareness to country music and puts country music on the big stage," Bryan said. "American Idol allowed us to find Carrie Underwood."

Photos: "Idol:" Season 7
Pop singer Jessica Simpson has also decided to go the country route.

Simpson's country album is due to be released sometime in 2008 on Columbia Nashville, according to Billboard Magazine.

3Simpson, who said she was inspired by Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire, told Billboard that she's been collaborating with Nashville songwriters, and that due to her Texas roots, she grew up listening to country music and has always wanted to make a country album.

"We'll see what happens," Bryan said. "I think the attraction to country music is the fans, the lure of the hardcore fan base. Her voice sounds great, she connects with her fans. She's a good singer. I hope she does well. It adds a whole other dimension to the profile of country music."

Rappers have even made the crossover to country music.

Tim McGraw, who is married to Faith Hill, collaborated with Nelly on "Over and Over," which was a hit.

While at the Grammy Awards, Rapper T-Pain said that he would like to collaborate with Toby Keith.

Bryan would like to explore musical collaborations with artists from other genres as well.

"I am open for anything interesting that sounds fun," said Bryan, who listens to all types of music. "I want to hear what's going on the mainstream level.

Country Music Television has created a new reality series called "Gone Country," hosted by John Rich of the country duo Big & Rich.

The series shows Hollywood stars attempting to make it as country musicians. The cast is made up of R&B pop singer Bobby Brown, Wilson Phillips' Carnie Wilson, Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, "American Idol" finalist Diana DeGarmo, pop singer Julio Iglesias Jr., singer/actor Maureen McCormick and R&B artist Sisqo.

"It's pretty cool to see how far music can take you," Bryan said. "This whole experience has been a learning experience."

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