MEDIA NOTE: For more info and photos, contact Denise Wagner at Wonders of Wildlife museum, official home of National Hunting and Fishing Day, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-241-4468.
Country Music Celebs Embrace Hunting, Fishing
Q&A with Luke Bryan and Capitol Records Nashville
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—In the 37 years since Congress formalized National Hunting and Fishing Day, a variety of celebs have volunteered to serve as honorary chairman, lending their fame to help build public support for sporting traditions. Sports pros, actors and other personalities have served (see list below). But history shows that country music/entertainment has produced the most flag-bearers for the hunting, fishing and conservation community.
That’s no surprise, according to a marketing exec with Capitol Records Nashville. She says country music, like hunting and fishing themselves, reflects a lifestyle. Other genres are more about emotion and instrumentation.
Luke Bryan, the country sensation proudly presiding over the Sept. 26, 2009, celebration of NHF Day, is a case in point. Bryan’s hunting and fishing passions helped shape him as an artist, and continue to influence his path to stardom.
The lifelong sportsman recently hosted Yahoo! Music’s first-ever Country Music Wednesdays on Twitter. He was featured by USA Today and named among “Country’s Hottest Guys” by PEOPLE Country magazine. Bryan’s debut album, “I’ll Stay Me,” continues to build success with Top 10 hits in “All My Friends Say” and “Country Man.” He’s been a Billboard magazine new face to watch and invited to tour with Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley and Kenny Chesney. He’s now headlining a full slate of shows through 2009. A highly anticipated second album is due out this fall.
In the following Q&A, Bryan, along with Cindy Mabe, senior vice president of marketing for Capitol Records Nashville, further explore the connections between country, hunting and fishing—as well as managing an outdoorsy image in music’s modern marketplace.
Questions for Bryan:
1. NHF Day: Lots of celebrities enjoy hunting and fishing but keep it quiet. They worry it isn’t politically correct and might alienate fans. Why are you different?
Bryan: Hunting, fishing and the outdoors make up who I am as an artist and a person. It would be silly to try to hide or keep that from the public. I’m proud of my love for the outdoors and my true fans will appreciate that about me.
2. NHF Day: Why did you feel it was important to serve as honorary chairman of National Hunting and Fishing Day?
Bryan: It’s important because hunting and fishing has made me a more complete person. So many kids out there are not growing up like I was able to. I pray that there is a parent out there who heard an NHF Day interview or PSA that I did and it has inspired them to take their children hunting or fishing. The outdoors should be about being with those, and the things, you love.
3. NHF Day: How do fans respond to you and your hunting and fishing?
Bryan: I feel it makes me more relatable to my fans. I think my fans love to hear about the times when I go fishing or hunting.
4. NHF Day: You’re on the road meeting new fans all the time. How well do most people understand the ties between hunters, anglers and conservation?
Bryan: People who truly love the outdoors understand how important it is to conserve resources. It’s about respecting the outdoors. I believe there’s a common bond and common tie between people who fish and hunt, and pride in conservation is part of it.
5. NHF Day: Your first album, I’ll Stay Me, included a song called “Tackle Box” that seems very personal and meaningful to you. What’s the story behind the song?
Bryan: My mother’s father had a tackle box that, as a child, I would go through all the time. It kind of taught me who he was as a person. The song is about the wonderful times I had together with both of my grandfathers.
6. NHF Day: Your second album is coming out this fall. What can we expect?
Bryan: Overall it’s a better album and shows different sides of me as an artist. The songs still have a rural flare but I feel like they’re more relatable to a larger group of people. I feel I’ve gotten better vocally and the writing is much better, too. I am very excited about the new album.
Questions for Mabe:
7. NHF Day: Did Capitol ever advise Luke to tone down the whole hunting and fishing thing?
Mabe: No, we’d never ask Luke to change. We sign new artists to be true to themselves, to be unique and to sing about what country fans care about and believe in. Hunting and fishing are both very much a part of who Luke is. We’d never try to change that.
8. NHF Day: Do you see his image as a hurdle from a business perspective?
Mabe: There are no hurdles to being comfortable in your own skin. We believe Luke’s image is a breath of fresh air. Country music fans are smart and they can tell what’s real and what’s manufactured. Luke is as authentic as you can get. He may be more in touch with core country fans than most artists we know. Luke is an honest, fun-loving guy who enjoys the moment and tries to never take himself too seriously. He’s also a great vocalist and writer and he sells what he sings about because he believes them. He has brought a younger demographic to our format. His image and his music match his lifestyle and personality and you can never go wrong with that.
9. NHF Day: Through the years, several country stars—Hank Williams Jr., Louise Mandrell, Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy and now Luke Bryan—have stepped up to serve as honorary chairman of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Any idea why artists from other music genres tend to stay away?
Mabe: Maybe it’s because other music genres are not reflective of lifestyles, but rather more about instrumentation and emotion. Country music represents stories about real life and real people and what those people do everyday, the problems they face, the people they love and all of the good and bad parts of life. Country music is America’s music. It is still the largest music format in the U.S. with over 2,000 country radio stations. Very similarly, fishing and hunting are among the biggest participant sports in the U.S.
10. NHF Day: Over 34 million people hunt and fish, and demographic data show they’re much better educated with much higher household income than the average American. Do you think these stats would surprise most urban marketing professionals?
Mabe: Probably. It seems there’s a stereotype of people who hunt and fish the same way there is a stereotype about people who listen to country music. Both are perceived as something only people in small rural towns can appreciate when the truth is both are enjoyed everywhere by millions of people. Advertising agencies and Hollywood don’t always find either to be sexy enough, though, and so the stereotype is perpetuated on TV and in films. Regardless, the people always find what they like. The fishing and hunting business is huge, any retailer can tell you that.
Along with hunting and fishing licenses, excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, bows, arrows, rods and reels generate $100,000 every 30 minutes—totaling more than $1.75 billion per year—for fish, wildlife and habitat.
Sponsors for National Hunting and Fishing Day 2009 include Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Sportsman Channel, Realtree, GunBroker.com, Hunting Heritage Trust, Cabela’s, Boone and Crockett Club, Smith & Wesson, Field & Stream/Outdoor Life, Woolrich, Yamaha and Pope and Young Club.
For more information, visit www.nhfday.org or www.lukebryan.com.
National Hunting and Fishing Day
Jameson Parker (1987)
Robert Urich (1990)
Ron Guidry (1979)
Tom Seaver (1983)
George Brett (1986)
Wade Boggs (2004)
John Havlicek (1982)
Hank Williams Jr. (1988, 1989)
Louise Mandrell (1995)
Travis Tritt (2003)
Tracy Byrd (2005, 2006))
Jeff Foxworthy (2007)
Luke Bryan (2009)
Bert Jones (1977, 1981)
Terry Bradshaw (1980)
John Riggins (1984)
Jay Novacek (1999)
Tom Weiskopf (1978, 1981)
Johnny Miller (1981)
Arnold Palmer (1985)
Tom Lehman (1998)
Ward Burton (2000)
Michael Waddell (2008)
Gary F. Coley Family (1996)
George Bush (1991)
Roscoe Tanner (1981)