NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- What a difference a decade makes.
Country star Luke Bryan is kicking off his first major headlining tour with CMT on Tour this September, exactly 10 years after he arrived in Nashville looking for a record deal.
In that time, he has earned three No. 1 hits, sold more than 500,000 copies of his last album, "Doin' My Thing" and was named the Academy of Country Music's top new artist in 2010. But touring big venues on his own has been a goal from day one.
"If you move to town and you don't dream to headline your own shows one day, then I don't think you're necessarily aiming your sights high enough," Bryan told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview. "That's kind of where we're at today, and we're just wanting to get out there and enjoy headlining."
Bryan will be bringing along special guests Lee Brice and Josh Thompson.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of CMT on Tour. Former headliners include reigning CMA entertainer of the year Brad Paisley who launched the tour in 2002 as well as Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Jason Aldean and last year's anchor Miranda Lambert.
Bryan hopes the tour will serve as a similar springboard for his career. He has toured with Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney and currently Tim McGraw. All the while, he has been paying attention.
"You learn it's tough work doing what we do. You don't just snap your fingers and everything lines up easily for you," Bryan said. "I've watched them. I've watched all the work they put into their tours. You never take your fans for granted. You always appreciate them every show, night in, night out."
CMT looks at a range of indicators to determine the best artist to front the tour, and performance across all CMT platforms is key. Bryan, for example, has remained one of CMT.com's Top 20 artists for the past two months. His music videos have also performed consistently on-air. "Rain Is A Good Thing" spent 19 weeks on the CMT "Top 20 Countdown". His latest single, "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)" debuted at No. 12 last week.
"CMT on Tour: Luke Bryan Tailgates & Tanlines" kicks off in September for approximately 25 shows. Cities and dates will be announced soon.
Bryan will release his third studio album, "Tailgates & Tanlines", August 9.
AP Entertainment writer Chris Talbott contributed to this report.
Caitlin R. King can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/AP—Country