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Country music party crasher Luke Bryan tests crossover appeal

Luke Bryan poses with his awards for entertainer of the year and vocal event of the year at the 48th ACM Awards in Las Vegas April 7, 2013 f
Luke Bryan poses with his awards for entertainer of the year and vocal event of the year at the 48th ACM Awards in Las Vegas April 7, 2013 f

By Vernell Hackett

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Country singer Luke Bryan's latest album, "Crash My Party," released on Tuesday and expected to land near the top of U.S. charts, is just his latest step in taking a quintessential American music genre to the rest of the world.

Bryan was the unlikely winner of the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year award in April, topping mega-sellers and cross-over stars Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton.

But for someone with global ambitions, county music's fun-loving farm boy, who is best known for songs "Rain Is a Good Thing" and "Drunk on You," still puts in his time at state fairs and in small towns around the United States.

"I want to continue fueling the live show and grow into bigger venues for as many years as I can," Bryan told Reuters. "I would hope to become an entertainer on a global scale but not have to change my music to get there."

Bryan, 37, catapulted into the country music spotlight with his hit 2011 single "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" from the album "Tailgates & Tanlines" and scored four consecutive top-five songs thereafter.

His compilation "Spring Break ... Here to Party" topped the Billboard album chart in its first week in March with 150,000 in sales, underscoring the singer's cross-over potential.

"What I always wanted to be is just a country singer who got to ride on a tour bus and perform every night," Bryan said tearfully after winning the entertainer of the year award.

"Crash My Party" is the fourth studio album from the rural Georgia native, who is known for his facial stubble and sing-along love songs.

The album's title song, a soaring love song, was released in April as the first single. It peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's U.S. country songs chart and also cracked the top 20 on the mainstream pop songs chart.

"My main thing is to up my game by constantly coming out with better songs and singing better than ever," Bryan said.

He hopes the album can sell 3 million to 4 million copies, which would top the 2 million in sales of "Tailgates & Tanlines."

One of the spoils that comes with reaching the top of country music industry is that he is now offered "upper-echelon songs" from Nashville's top songwriters, Bryan said.

"I've had the ability to learn that recording someone else's song is as gratifying as writing your own hit," he said.

(Writing by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Trott)

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