Interview: Luke Bryan Is Preparing a More ‘Vintage’ Sound
Luke Bryan's next studio album may sound different than his previous six. It will almost definitely be shorter.
The singer and American Idol judge isn't planning some sort of about face, but he is dialed in to changes in the marketplace, country community and his own interests. "Knockin' Boots" reflects all of that. That he doesn't have the accompanying album finished or even a new single chosen now that the summer jam has hit No. 1 does, too. For more than a decade Bryan brought the hits as reliably as the New York Yankees, but now there's no hurry. In this era of content, content, content, there is no real deadline to deliver. Anytime is a good time when you're among country's biggest stars.
Bryan strolled easily into Taste of Country's Airstream trailer at Hometown Rising in Louisville, Ky., singing along to Keith Urban, who was on stage at the time. The Sunday night sold out show was just a short bus ride from his Nashville home, and there was less pressure to get to media engagement after media engagement beforehand, so he felt free to talk family (the kids are very busy with sports) and joke about filling out a comment card at the end of the interview to rate the interviewer and outlet.
Watch Luke's full interview in the video above, and subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel for more from his pre-show visit (find photos from his Hometown Rising set below).
"Knockin' Boots" is lyrically similar to some songs you've released before but sonically ... it's a little bit more retro, a little bit of a looser production.
Yeah, historically when it comes to uptempos or even mid-tempos, my tracks have had a lot of music in ‘em, kind of hit-you-in-the-face. When we heard "Knockin’ Boots" for the first time and it was literally just me and a guitar and a hi-hat keeping time, it kind of caught our ear and it felt like something that was unique enough to record.
I think is most intriguing part of "Knockin’ Boots" is just how catchy it is. I’ve had fans go, "You know, I really don’t like that song but I can’t stop singing it" ... I look in the aisles and husbands and wives are out there twirling and dancing. It's kind of a nice little fun dance song, too. It's been really fun to have out this summer. It would have been better if Blake (Shelton) wouldn't have put "God's Country" out there and dominated (smiles). No, I'm playing but you know the fact that Blake and I — we're kind of the seasoned vets and we had some big ol' summer hits and it was fun.
Blake said something kind of interesting I thought —
He always says very mean stuff about me.
Well no, it wasn't about you, it was about albums and how he's liking being able to do a single at a time because he can quickly pivot. He doesn't want to make another album ,although he knows he'll have to at some point. Do you subscribe to that theory?
I think you have to approach recording music like you’re making an album. I think the beauty of making an album is that you’ll do eight, nine, 10 songs and you’ll start seeing what you’re missing. I don’t disagree with Blake’s train of thought. I think I may marry the two.
I don't know if like a 15, 16 — for awhile that was the trend [Bryan's last three albums had 15, 13 and 13 songs respectively, not including bonus tracks] ... The only thing that worries me — even with What Makes You Country my latest album — there are songs on there that are just wonderful songs that do get a little ... lost in the mix. I think if we shrink the size of the albums and really focus on album size, you may in turn kind of make it that way.
I think it's a fun time in music. Even with "Knockin' Boots," we were like — we didn't really have a song picked. I went in and recorded a couple songs and we were like, "We like it, it's summertime, let's put it out." I think the freedom of kind of put a song out when you want to is pretty nice.
In terms of the music you're working on, is there a theme or a thread?
I don’t necessarily know if I have a theme. Typically I’ve always had stuff that does have pop, kind of real poppy stuff, but then if you listen to my whole album, the whole work, there’s obviously very country things on there. I think this album is leaning toward that. I've got some stuff that I've looked at, that I'm going into the studio to record that sounds very vintage-like, but then I've got some stuff that has some new and different sounds on it. I think I always kind of have to marry the two.
I’m not gonna have some album with every track is gonna have steel guitar on it, but do I have steel guitar on this album? Yeah.
See Photos of Luke Bryan from Hometown Rising: