|Luke Bryan at the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.|
In a stunning exclusive, we can now report that Luke Bryan has left his music label -- UMG Nashville -- and plans to record what he calls "some old school country music." As of press time, he was in talks with several independent labels about continuing his music career at what he called "a dialed back and more real" level. Calls to UMG were not immediately returned; nor could rumors that Bryan left CEO Mike Dungan a strongly worded "I quit" voice mail be confirmed by anyone close to the artist.
Multiple sources, however, with intimate knowledge of Bryan’s plans -- but who spoke only on the condition of anonymity -- said the star hasn't announced new tour stops because he's cancelled all tour dates past December. They confirmed that his current single, "Move," will be his last release on mainstream country radio for the foreseeable future.
"He said, and I’m not kidding, ‘I'm through shaking it,’" according to one source on Wednesday. "He told me he’d looked in the mirror and just didn’t like what he saw," the source continued, before a long, seemingly disconsolate pause. “I mean…I just don’t even know.”
Another member of Bryan’s inner circle thinks he has isolated the multi-platinum winner’s artistic turning point. “For the last year and a half, all Luke’s heard about is Sturgill this, Isbell that, blah blah Grammys, whatever,” this source said. “So he YouTube’d this Isbell guy and saw him playing live with John Prine and he yells to all the guys on the bus ‘What’s that little bitty fiddle thing that one dude has?’” It was yet another of Bryan’s coterie who told him the instrument in question was a mandolin.
“That’s when he chugged a couple more Red Bulls and just Googled for a while; not a single Fireball mini for hours. He was like so focused,” said the source. “Then he finds out some ‘Dave Cobb’ guy supposively [sic] has like the best studio to make you sound really, really good.”
Despite multiple, repeated – and ultimately unreturned -- calls from Bryan to Cobb’s Ryman-based recording studio offices, the singer appears to his intimates a man determined to cash in on the fledgling “roots” movement in country music. “Who knows?” said one source. “Here’s a perfectly normal, 40-year-old man signing about beer and [expletive] to college girls, and now it’s all ‘Y’all get me a banjo guy and a dude who can play that steel thing.’ I mean, what’s up with that [expletive]?”
While all of the confidential sources pushed back on the idea of “panic” within Bryan’s camp, each of them acknowledged that as their meal ticket stepped off into such uncharted territory, tensions are high.
"Pedal steel, fiddle, some resonator? What the [expletive] are we supposed to do in the studio now?” asked a source on the mega-star’s recording team. “Turns out he wants to write ‘a bunch of songs’ with that Cobb guy’s son [sic] Brent. And John Prine turns down all our Snapchat requests.”
The news that its golden boy is gone – at least for the foreseeable future -- will likely shake Nashville to its core. The Leesburg, Ga. native has sold more than 7 million records and 27 million singles, and will be – regardless of his risky new ventures – always recognized as one of the founding fathers of bro country. We'll have more information on this fluid situation when it becomes available.
*by Trailer and Kevin Broughton