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Luke Bryan explains how he tunes out the haters and focuses on his fans Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Pandora
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Pandora

Luke Bryan has been one of the biggest country stars in the world for quite a few years now, and that success hasn’t come without a few critics and detractors taking shots at his music. Over the course of his wildly successful career, Luke has incorporated elements of hip-hop and R&B into his hit songs. That doesn’t go over well with country purists, but Luke isn’t making music for them.

He tells “The New York Times,” “Listen, at the end of the day I write, record and sing about what I see my fans reacting to.”

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Making sure his fans connect with his music is very important for Luke, and he’s not going to put that relationship with his audience at risk to carry out a creative experiment.

Luke explains, “If I roll into a concert and I tell everyone I have written the world’s greatest song, and I walk out there and play it and nobody really gives a [expletive] about it, it ain’t the world’s greatest song anymore. That’s how I go about it. I am not stubborn enough.”

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That’s not the approach taken by artists like Sturgill Simpson, who won the Best Country Album Grammy earlier this year for his project, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.” Sturgill has been an outspoken critic of mainstream country music taking on the ACM Awards last year when they named an award after the late Merle Haggard. He’s also been a big critic of the CMA Awards, too.

For his part, Luke would like to connect with Sturgill to talk this kind of stuff out. He says, “I’ve wanted to go have coffee with Sturgill. I am utterly amazed at what he does.”

When “The New York Times” reached out to Sturgill about Luke, he replied via email, “I don’t know Luke, I don’t think about Luke, and I’ve honestly never heard a single note of his music.”

So, where does that leave Luke? To reference his debut album title, “I’ll Stay Me,” he’s going to keep on making music for his fans. The younger folks in his audience don’t mind a dash of hip-hop or a big pinch of R&B in their country anyway. Luke looks to his own family members for proof of that.

“All my nieces and nephews are listening to [the hip-hop star] Future,” he says with a laugh.

The thing about Luke that always keeps his music country is that Georgia twang. He’s never lost that thick accent. So,  no matter how far the background music may stray from a fiddle and a steel guitar, Luke’s voice is always going to keep him firmly in the country format.

Luke’s new album, “What Makes You Country,” is now available everywhere featuring the hit lead single, “Light It Up.”

Luke is also a big nominee at this year’s Rare Country Awards. He’s up for Tour of the Year, Fan Moment of the Year and Male Artist of the Year. Voting is open through Dec. 13 at RareCountryAwards.com. Winners will be announced at our first-ever Rare Country Awards concert event livestreaming from Nashville on Dec. 14 with performances from Kane Brown, LANCO and RaeLynn.

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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