Singer and songwriter Luke Bryan comes by his country influences naturally — he grew up in Leesburg, GA, a small town 100 miles from the Alabama border where his father grew peanuts and sold fertilizer for a living. Bryan helped his family work the farm when he was young, but in his early teens he developed a passion for country music, picking up his influences from his parents’ record collection, listening to the likes of George Strait, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson, and Merle Haggard. When he was 14, his folks bought Bryan his first guitar, and a year later his playing and singing was strong enough that he started sitting in with local bands at a club featuring live country music. At 16, Bryan starting writing songs with the help of a pair of local tunesmiths who had enjoyed some success in Nashville, and Bryan planned to head to Music City to try his luck after graduating from high school until his brother died in an auto accident. Wanting to offer emotional support to his family, Bryan opted to attend Georgia Southern University instead, though he didn’t give up music; Bryan continued writing songs, formed a band and was playing gigs on campus or at nearby watering holes most weekends while pursuing his studies. Bryan recorded a self-released album he sold at shows during this period, but he was reluctant to take the plunge and devote himself to music full-time until he returned home to work in the family business after receiving his degree. Bryan’s dad, confident of his son’s talent, made him an offer — he could either move to Nashville or be fired. In the early fall of 2001, Bryan pulled up stakes and relocated to Nashville, where his heartfelt songs of country life earned him a contract with one of the city’s many publishing houses. In his free time, Bryan continued to perform at local clubs, and after an A&R man from Capitol Records saw him perform a set of his original material, he was given a record deal. Capitol released Bryan’s first widely distributed album, I’ll Stay Me, in the summer of 2007, following it with Doin’ My Thing in 2009.