Country singer Luke Bryan recently shared a picture of himself and all his children, both adopted and biological. This held a lot of significance, because the whole family has been through almost unimaginable hardship in the past. It was a relief to see that the kids were doing well, and they looked so grown-up too.
Luke Bryan has the sort of country music career most people could only dream of. He’s released nine albums so far and received seemingly endless acclaim. He’s sold so many albums – more than seven million – that he’s actually in the top ten for most album sales of any artist for the 2010-2019 decade.
But Bryan has faced plenty of hardship in his life. He was one of three children born to his mother and father, but now sadly he’s the only one left. The 19-year-old Bryan was getting ready to move to Nashville and pursue a career in country music when his older brother Chris was suddenly killed in a car crash.
Naturally it was devastating for the entire family. In the end, Bryan’s parents ended up getting divorced, such was the pain of losing a child. And although Bryan himself was mere days away from his move to Nashville, he decided he couldn’t do it at that point in time. Instead, he opted to stay at Georgia Southern University.
That decision would prove to be a good one and not just because Bryan got to finish his education. While at Georgia Southern University, he met the woman who would become his wife: Caroline Boyer. They met in 1998 and dated, broke up for about five years… and then got back together, this time for good.
In the mid-2000s Bryan began pursuing country music again on the advice of his father. Things went well: he was signed to Capitol Nashville and co-wrote “Good Directions” for Billy Currington, which was a success. And come December 2006, Bryan married Boyer. The next year he released his first album.
But then another terrible tragedy struck the Bryan family. Luke’s sister Kelly, a mother of three children, suddenly died while looking after her son at home. To make things worse, her exact cause of death is still unknown today. In 2013 Bryan told People magazine, “They never determined what happened. The autopsies, the coroner, no one could figure it out.”
Kelly’s husband Ben raised the now motherless children as Bryan began to have kids of his own. In 2008 Thomas “Bo” Boyer Bryan came along, and two years after that, Tatum “Tate” Christopher Bryan – his middle name the same as his late uncle’s first one – was born. And Bryan’s music career continued to go well.
Bryan’s music career put him out on the road a lot. In 2008 he told the website Sounds Like Nashville, “It is hard having a family and having to leave them at home, but the road is a great place to be between the people that you meet and the friends that you make it feels like home after a while.”
Come 2013 Bryan released a song, “Drink a Beer,” about the deaths of his brother and sister. Among the saddening lyrics were the lines, “Funny how the good ones go/Too soon, but the good Lord knows/The reasons why, I guess/Sometimes the greater plan/Is kinda hard to understand/Right now it don’t make sense.”
In September 2015, Bryan told Rolling Stone magazine that “Drink a Beer” was one of his most important songs. He said, “You have to have the songs in country that people don’t have to think about; and then you have to have the songs that changes [sic] their lives. That’s what ‘Drink a Beer’ did for me. That was the most critical song in my career.”
In the interview Bryan gave to People in 2013, he went into detail about the deaths of his siblings and how his faith had helped him deal with them. He said, “I do understand life is fragile. But all I can do is keep my brain in a positive space in this lifetime and be a light for my family and for people dealing with similar things in their lives.”
After his sister’s death, Bryan said, “You question God at moments like that. I think my mother still does, and I don’t blame her. But I’ve come to a peace. I don’t like it. I don’t like that my sons are missing that side of my family. But someone else is deciding things.” Boyer added, “He still hurts, but he knows God has a reason for everything.”
Bryan also discussed how he’d postponed his music career after Chris’ death. He said, “I was never convinced I’d get back to Nashville, but I didn’t spend time on ‘Should I go or should I not?’ It was just ‘Not going.’ Your mother had just lost a child. At that point her youngest son was not going to leave the house. Chris’ dying got me a little more mature.”
The subject of the Bryan family home also came up. They were moving to a 169-acre property near Nashville, one with a stream, lake and garden for the kids to play in. It would also grant the family a new level of privacy. Boyer explained to People, “I’ve seen people go through our trash. It’s time for us to be behind a gate.”
But soon the house would have more people in it, and unfortunately it would be due to yet another death in the family. Come November 2014, Ben Lee Cheshire passed away from a heart attack, leaving behind the three children he and Kelly had raised. Bryan and Boyer decided to step up as surrogate parents.
Two of the kids, Kris and Jordan, were legal adults. But the youngest, Til, was still a teenager. It was arranged that Til would come and live with Bryan and his wife in Nashville, while the older sisters could come to visit him. In February 2015 Bryan told ABC News, “It’s every day on the phone all day trying to talk with the family and figure out what to do, but it’s what you gotta do.”
Bryan found the situation tough and exhausting, but he told ABC News, “You know, we just stay positive. I think people expect that from me. I have to pray that people that have had similar situations can maybe look at my family and see me positively dealing with it. I’m not saying it’s easy.”
In August 2015 Bryan told People about how the situation was looking, saying, “Obviously my nieces and nephew, they didn’t ask for this. Their life was amazing before Caroline and I took a more prominent role, even after losing their mother. Now my focus is trying to do what we can to help them.”
Bryan discussed how his family was adjusting, saying “Bo went from being kind of the alpha male to being the middle child, but he takes it in stride. It’s been amazing watching them do so well with it. They treat Til like their brother, and Til does the same. And that’s what’s funny, is Til went from being the baby of his family to being the oldest.”
The singer went on, “It’s definitely been a social experiment. They’re becoming better athletes ’cause Til gets to play with them. When I come home, they’re throwing the baseball a little farther and hitting the ball a little harder. I know that’s ’cause Til’s been out in the yard with them.”
Bryan concluded, “I think with everything that’s happened in my family, I just have to lean on my faith and the understanding that God has a plan for all of us. We just wake up every day and do our best. I’ll get down in the dumps, and then I’ll meet a Make-A-Wish kid, and I’ll ask myself, ‘What are you complaining about?’ You just have to keep your faith strong and rock on.”
The country music star also spoke about his children in his 2015 interview with Rolling Stone. The interviewer asked him, “Your personal life is fairly public. Are you ever conflicted over how much to share, especially since taking in your sister’s children?” Bryan had to stop and think about the answer.
Bryan said, “This day and age, entertainers, famous people in general, their lives are a lot more… the transparency of everything has really hit. I was at Tate’s, my son’s scrimmage baseball game, and I’m out helping coach, and it’s dusty, and I got dirt all over me, and I look behind the backstop, and there are twelve people videoing me on their cellphones.”
The interviewer asked Bryan, “How is it coming off the road now, with such a large family?” Bryan answered, “Every day when I’m home, me and Caroline get in bed around 10:00 p.m. and it looks like we have done a triathlon. It truly is.” But he had a lot of praise for how his wife was handling things.
Bryan explained, “Caroline is in the midst of it every day, and she’s jockeying, and her sister helps and our nanny. It’s kind of a village. But it challenges every day, and you learn and learn. You try to get through it every day.” After that, he talked about the tragedies that had put his family in that position.
Bryan talked about how much he missed the members of his family who had passed. He said, “Even my brother, who probably I’ve talked about the least through all of these tragedies, he would have been the guy who would have been completely immersed in everything that’s been going on in my career… It’s a complicated thing. My boys, they ask questions. They’re forced to have to figure out things that a seven- and a five-year-old shouldn’t figure.”
But despite everything, things seemed to get easier and easier in the Bryan household. In 2018 Bryan was asked at the iHeartRadio music festival what made him the most proud of his children. He answered he was so happy to have seen them become “gentlemanly boys.” Not only that, they were hard workers.
Bryan said, “They come home and sit down they do their homework, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t do that when I was a kid.’ They’re just well-rounded kids – learning farm life and how to live on a farm and do outdoor things, but they’ve also come with me and been on set of American Idol and to these big cities and watched me do Dodgers Stadium and [have seen] the whole world and have a nice perception of it.”
And in 2019 Bryan provided a new update on how his family was doing, by way of a photograph that featured them all. For Thanksgiving that year, he posted a sweet snap of himself, Boyer, Bo, Tatum, Til, Kris and Jordan in front of a fireplace. And all the younger kids looked so delightfully grown up.
Bryan captioned the picture, “Happy Thanksgiving from this crazy clan of mine.” And his wife Boyer posted a different version of the same scene, this one highlighting the “crazy” part. In her shot, which was more of an outtake, the whole family were running wild and pulling faces for the camera.
Many fans flocked to Bryan’s Instagram to state their appreciation for the photo, and for the family’s coming together in general. One person wrote, “So much respect for you and your wife. What you’ve done is selfless and amazing. Such a great family. God bless y’all, and may your holidays be blessed with love.”
The Bryan parents often detail their child-raising experiences on social media. After Thanksgiving came the Christmas period, and the whole family went on a skiing trip. Boyer posted some pictures of the family having fun on her Instagram and wrote, “Christmas in Colorado! It was amazing!! ‘Ski good or eat wood!’”
And in January 2020 Boyer delighted her Instagram audience by sharing a video of Til after he had had a wisdom tooth pulled. The teenager was bandaged up and still recovering. Boyer wrote, “When your kid gets their wisdom teeth taken out, sometimes you have to film the aftermath of anesthesia. Sorry Til.”
Bryan did a few interviews in 2019 about his life and the tragedies. In May 2019 he spoke to Country Living magazine and said, “I’ve watched my family go through ebbs and flows where we get mad at God and we get mad at why this has happened. Well, you keep going and you try to, try to be as positive as you can, and you try to appreciate every day… You’ll never get back to 100 percent. You’ll always be working to get back to 75 percent.”
Boyer also spoke in that interview, and she said, “Our family thing is, you can take two paths in life: one of being bitter and angry, or one of I’m gonna find the happiness in this and make the best of something that’s horrible.” On taking on the nieces and nephew, she said, “We never thought twice about it.”
In a July 2019 interview with TV show Today, Bryan praised his wife for helping him through it all, both the highs and the lows. He said, “The work that she puts in with the children… I mean, it’s just amazing. I look at her phone, and it’s just pinging and vibrating and going off constantly, and it’s the children.”
Bryan also talked about how he felt in many ways that he was actually lucky. He told Today, “You’ve got to lean on your faith and understand that you have to really hold true that it was God’s plan. Just when I think I’ve got it bad, you meet somebody else that’s dealing with really, really challenging stuff.”
The country superstar went on, “I think it’s important for me to try to be honest when I’m having good days, bad days. Then the way I conduct myself, hopefully, and the way our family can inspire some people, you know, that’s the special element.” So far, the family has indeed inspired others.
Bryan explained to Today, “If there’s any positive side to any of this thing, I have so many fans walk up and go, ‘You know, just the way you lived through tragedy’s really inspired our family to get through our own personal tragedies and struggles.’” And that’s obviously a very good thing.