Country singer Luke Bryan has reached out and apologized both publicly and personally for the “outlaw country” remarks made in an interview that he now says weren’t meant to disrespect, but were said to describe the kind of artist he was. He says it just isn’t his “style” to “speak against any artist.”
Newsmax reported July 16 that Luke Bryan, the reigning Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year, set off a blowback firestorm when, in an interview for HITS Double Daily earlier in the month. When talking about the kind of artist he was, the Georgia singer said, “I think that people who want Merle, Willie, and Waylon just need to buy Merle, Willie, and Waylon. I’ve never been a ‘Those were the good old days’ kind of guy. I’m not big on looking back on the past. I’m not an outlaw country singer. I don’t do cocaine and run around. So I’m not going to sing outlaw country. I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a big bonfire, and drink some beers — and that’s what I sing about. It’s what I know. I don’t know about laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs. I don’t really want to do that.”
The remarks weren’t taken well with fans of the artists mentioned. Nor were they taken kindly by relatives of those mentioned. Kathy Pinkerman Jennings, the wife of Waylon Jennings’ son, Buddy, went after him on Facebook.
“I hope your family members are proud of you for using your worldwide platform to take the time to disrespect my father-in-law,” Pinkerman Jennings posted. “You have managed to prove to the world your true self. Albeit that Waylon’s drug use is well documented and something he overcame, I assure you, he was never ‘laying in a gutter.'”
Still, she did wanted Bryan to know that her ire wasn’t about so-called “outlaw country.” She recalled having met him and how he had referred to Waylon Jennings as one of his heroes. But: “This is not about music, Outlaw Country, whatever – it’s about DISRESPECT.”
She concluded with: “You are a platinum, disrespecting, no singing, whining, grasping for media attention, a*****e. Use your platform for something good, instead of bashing the LEGENDS that came before you.”
But now Luke Bryan has reached out in a public apology via Twitter. And he has made a personal phone call to Jessie Colter, Waylon Jennings’ widow, to apologize as well.
On Twitter, Bryan wrote over three posts: “with many topics discussed. It’s so frustrating that something negative has spun out of the story. I would never speak against any artist… It’s not my style. I consider Willie, Waylon and Merle musical heroes. I was trying to state what I was about and… where I come from with my music. It’s simple as that.”
“Luke Bryan called my mom today to clarify that he would never disrespect my dad or me or any of us,” Shooter Jennings told the Los Angeles Times. “He also asked for Buddy’s number to call Kathy. Whether or not he does, that takes a lot of guts. I misfired and said some things in the past about people, namely John Mayer. And I didn’t have the guts to apologize. So, that being said, that kinda won me over.”
It seems that Luke Bryan most likely learned a valuable lesson about public relations and perception, not to mention being very careful how one phrases one’s thoughts — especially thoughts that will be shared with the public. And he should’ve known better to even mention disparaging terms with regard to Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings. Old country, outlaw country, legendary country — regardless of how one refers to the icons of country music — are venerated, no matter their flaws.
In fact, back in 2013, Luke Bryan’s good buddy and Academy of Country Music Awards co-host Blake Shelton, made a comment, according to GACTV’s “News & Notes,” on the show “GAC Backstory: Blake Shelton” that made older country artists and fans a bit angry. He said that country music had to evolve and that old farts and “jacka***s” that didn’t like it weren’t buying today’s country music anyway.
This elicited a response from country legend Ray Price, who noted on his Facebook page that Blake Shelton “sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him.” Shelton, of course, quickly apologized to Price and others he may have offended, saying he could have “worded” things a little better but he stood by his comments that country music was evolving and that he would try to help it do so.