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Luke Bryan’s country doesn’t have boundaries

Luke BryanJim Wright

Luke Bryan is well-known for his party-and-truck-minded country-pop smashes like the hip-swinging “Country Girl (Shake it for Me),” the stomping “Kick the Dust Up,” and the anthemic “Crash My Party.” But on last year’s “What Makes You Country,” Bryan, who headlines Fenway Park Friday, stretches himself — and the boundaries of “country music” — on tracks like the humanity-minded “Most People Are Good,” the hip-hop-tinged “Hungover in a Hotel Room,” and the title track, which blows up the expectations of the “country” lifestyle from the inside. The Georgia native is still a top-notch entertainer, as his high-energy shows and recent stint as an “American Idol” judge show, but his sly bucking of convention has added new dimensions to his music.

Bryan spoke to the Globe via phone from a between-tour-dates trip to his beach house.


Q. The title track of your album, “What Makes You Country,” implies that definition of “country” is ultimately pretty open-ended. I feel like that’s part of your appeal.

A. It’s funny. People will say to me, “We remember when you covered [Lady Gaga’s] ‘Bad Romance.’” It was always fun for me to go outside the box — I got some flak for it, but I was able to make my mark a little bit by being that way. “What Makes You Country” says, “You don’t have to be born in a small town, or raised in a small town, do 1,000 percent small-town things for your whole life to be considered country.” If you go camping with your family once or twice a year and that’s your connection with being country, then be proud of that.

People want to put country in so many subcategories and pick apart those who don’t fit into all the boxes. I’m saying, “Listen, don’t worry about checking all the country boxes. Just be proud of what about your life makes you country. Let’s celebrate that, and not judge.”


Q. That message really resonates in New England. When I tell friends of mine country is popular up here, they’re surprised.

A. Yeah, I see it everywhere. I’ve had the opportunity to play my music in every state of the United States, in multiple countries. I remember my dad being blown away when I told him I was playing Gillette Stadium. People just don’t understand that New Englanders are more hardcore country than us south Georgians. That’s the beauty of country music. When you go play a big city, there are country people, and it’s really amazing.

Q. What drew you to “Most People Are Good,” which was written by David Frasier, Ed Hill, and Josh Kear?

A. The first time I heard it I loved every word, every lyric, every image. It was saying something really important at an important time. I knew people would relate to it in so many ways, and I was excited to be able to put it on the radio. When you’ve got a gut feeling about a song and then your gut is right, it always makes you feel pretty special as an artist.

Q. What’s the live response to it like?

A. It’s very powerful to see 40,000 people singing a song about being a good person — it has a spiritual feeling.

Q. You’re playing Fenway Park for the first time this July, but later this year you’re playing in smaller towns like Boone, Iowa, and North Augusta, S.C., as part of your annual Farm Tour. What was your inspiration for that?


A. If you’re from the Boston area, you’ve probably had the opportunity to go see so many shows. But for some of these smaller rural places that we go to, a Luke Bryan show is one of the biggest things that’s ever happened. The Farm Tour through the years has evolved and grown, and we try to partner up with a local university and give scholarships to kids from agricultural backgrounds. We might do a Northeast leg someday. You never know.

Luke Bryan

With Sam Hunt, Jon Pardi, Morgan Wallen, and DJ Rock. At Fenway Park, July 6, 5 p.m. Tickets: 617-733-7699, www.mlb.com/redsox/tickets/concerts/luke-bryan

Interview has been edited and condensed. Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.