When Luke Pell shipped out for Afghanistan during his five years of service in the army, there was one thing he learned that he couldn’t live without: His guitar. “I had my roommate at the time mail it to me,” he laughs.
Country music and love of country have long been important to Luke, who grew up on his family’s ranch in the tiny town of Burnet, Texas. When he wasn’t breaking horses or making plays on the football field in Friday Night Lights fashion, he was stalwartly studying Garth Brooks.
“He was a country artist, but he had this live show where he was flying around on wires like a rock show,” says Luke. “He was the cowboy I could relate to, but he was also a rock star. Seeing that as a kid, that’s something you never forget.”
His passion for music grew as he took solace in that trusty guitar while serving in the military. In fact, when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point—which he attended on a full scholarship, thanks to those early football days in Texas—he was given his choice of army bases. He picked Fort Campbell in Kentucky because of its proximity to Nashville.
“I would drive down on weekends or after work, just trying to get my feet in the songwriting world and meet people in the music industry,” he says. It was on one of those trips down that he discovered another musical muse: Eric Church. “He came out with his sunglasses on and his ball cap pulled down and he just sang. There was so much energy in the room that the hair stood up on the back of my neck. The way he bridged country and rock, it was just an inspiration.”
When Luke left the military as a captain after five years of service, he tried his hand at a corporate job (working as an engineer for an oil company), but music was still calling. “It kept eating away at me, and I thought, ‘Man, I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t say Nashville is where my heart is.’”
He officially made the move to Music City and holed up with songwriting buddy (and future collaborator) Brandon Kinney (“Boots On,” “Beer in the Headlights”) in a Dickson, Tennessee bunk house.
A couple years later, Hollywood came calling. Luke appeared on The Bachelorette's 12th season and was rumored to be in line to become the 21st bachelor. Most recently, he appeared on The Bachelor Winter Games on ABC. But while America may recognize his face from reality TV, it’s his voice that commands attention.
On his debut self-titled EP, Luke shows off some of that anthemic Garth Brooks country with a distinct dash of Eric Church cool. It’s a style that has amassed him nearly two million streams on Spotify.
The singer-songwriter is no stranger to the road, either, having played 90 live shows in 2017. Now, as he gears up for the “Hometowns and Highways Tour” with Logan Mize this spring, he’s excited for what’s to come and continues to embrace his roots. And he knows getting here was no accident.
“If you do what makes you happy you’ll never work a day in your life. If you're a person that has faith in who you are and what your values are, and you're honest with yourself and the rest of the world, then whatever your dream is, you'll end up where you’re supposed to be,” he says. “When I was working those corporate jobs, I wasn't being honest with myself. I had to make the move. I’m the driver in my own journey, and I have to stay true to myself. And I hope that authenticity comes across in my music, as well.”