About 15 months ago, Georgia boys Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean teamed up to bring their raucous down-home country-rock music to Oklahoma City.
Fans can expect an even rowdier party when the pair makes their triumphant return Thursday night to Chespeake Energy Arena. With its 360-degree setup, the show not only will take place in the round, but also showcase two performers who have turned the corner into superstardom.
“Where we were two years ago vs. now is night and day. ... We used to do shows and hopefully we would sell 'em out, and now we go in there with 'em sold out 10 minutes after the tickets were offered up. So it's a lot more confidence and a lot more fun being out there like that,” Bryan said in a phone interview last week from Nashville, Tenn., where he was working on his fourth spring break EP.
“We're grinning and got big smiles every night. It makes it completely more exciting.”
Since their October 2010 Oklahoma City tour stop, Aldean and Bryan have both dropped smash albums. Aldean's multi-platinum “My Kinda Party,” released in November 2010, spawned four hits that reached No. 1 or 2 on the country charts, with his fifth and final single, “Fly Over States,” on the climb. The album and “Don't You Wanna Stay,” his duet with Kelly Clarkson, won prizes at the 2011 Country Music Association and American Country Awards.
Last week, the Macon, Ga., native earned six nominations for the April 1 Academy of Country Music Awards, and he will compete for three awards at the Feb. 12 Grammy Awards, on which he and Clarkson will perform together.
The ACM's top new artist of 2010, Bryan released his third full-length album, “Tailgates & Tanlines,” last August, and it already boasts two platinum singles: the rollicking “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” and the current hit “I Don't Want This Night To End.”
“I've got the No. 1 song right now, so things are good. It's doing really well and I certainly can't complain,” Bryan said. “The album's almost platinum, so it's pretty good times.”
Although he now has four No. 1 singles to his name, Bryan, 35, said hitting the top of the charts isn't routine for him.
“It's the same feeling if not better every time. It's always very, very rewarding,” said Bryan, who has also toured with Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts in the past few months.
The singer-songwriter has scored much of his success with musical tributes to rural living, anthems rooted in his upbringing on a peanut farm in Leesburg, Ga.
“I think it ultimately speaks to the heart of true country music fans, which they're not bouncing back and forth between different types of music that they follow. You know, they wake up and their radio station stays on country all day. I think you start by getting them as your main fan base and then it kind of grows from there with more people experiencing your music. But the main thing is I think it's just the true fabric of what country is and then you're able to hopefully take it and go a little bit beyond that but still stay true to your roots,” he said.
“I think they're young and fun. I think they're what hit songs need to be: Catchy ... and easy to sing along with.”
He will make more music that appeals to young fans with his as-yet-untitled fourth spring break EP, due out in March. He annually marks the EP release with shows in Panama City Beach, Fla.
After wrapping his first headlining tour last fall, Bryan is excited about opening again for his pal Aldean.
“He and I are really, really good friends, really close. And I think our crowds are very similar,” Bryan said. “It's obviously a bigger scale each day and each month, anytime you know you're out there selling a lot of copies, your live show's gonna be that much better too 'cause more people are gonna be singing the album cuts and certainly singing the hits. ...
“We get onstage and the band has a blast the whole time, and the energy level never seems to come down at all. It's certainly fun being onstage. That's why I want to make fun music so I can enjoy playing it.”