BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
HOUSTON – Luke Bryan was trying to be diplomatic.
As a native Georgian, his loyalties naturally lean toward the Atlanta Falcons.
But as one of a handful of country superstars who can fill cavernous venues, he’s packed some crowds into Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
“Most years I can be pretty neutral. But I grew up in Georgia so I have to pull for my Dirty Birds,” he said, flashing one of those perfect Crest smiles. “Still, it hurts that I might not get to play Gillette again if I say that.”
Bryan, a native of Leesburg who currently lives in Nashville, was coaxed into flapping his arms for a few seconds of the “Dirty Bird” dance. He also recalled fondly how he and his dad – Tommy Bryan, a lifelong Falcons fan – would watch the games together in the small Georgia town.
“When Deion Sanders came, it was an unbelievable time for the city,” he said.
It’s worked out in storybook fashion that the son of a Georgia peanut farmer will stand in NRG Stadium on Sunday evening and sing the national anthem for 100 million viewers. But, Bryan reminded at his Thursday press conference, he agreed to the honor before the Falcons started to roll through the post-season.
As for what his take will be on the song, which has been performed by everyone from Lady Gaga last year to Billy Joel to Cher to Whitney Houston, he said he’s “just going to walk out there and sing it. I’m gonna follow my heart and the vibe of the room.”
Bryan was well aware of the various prop bets ranging from the amount of time he will spend singing the anthem (the over/under is currently a minute and a half on most betting sites) to whether or not he will omit any words.
“I have friends, family, people I don’t even know walking down the street asking me (about it). I had a friend call me and ask, ‘Hey, man, are you going long?,” he said with a laugh.
Bryan, a vocal supporter of the military who often gives service members discounts to tickets to his concerts, said he will definitely be thinking about them on Sunday.
“I can use my voice to serve my country,” he said. “It’s a little way to serve.”