Luke Bryan is one of the biggest superstars in country music, but even in his early days as a struggling young performer, it was clear he had something special. Cole Swindell recalls that seeing Bryan years before he was famous was literally life-changing for him.

Years before he went solo and became a household name, Bryan played guitar and sang in a country band called Neyami Road, which built quite a strong following touring around and playing shows wherever they could. One of those early gigs was a show near Bryan's alma mater, Georgia Southern University, and he had stopped by his old Sigma Chi frat house to see some old friends when someone asked him to play a song.

One of the younger college kids on hand was Swindell, who tells Taste of Country that after he heard Bryan perform an original song called "Small Town Favorite Son," he was inspired to take a shot at music himself.

"I just remember thinking, "Wow, this guy's gonna be a huge star,'" Swindell recalls. "That night, I remember seeing him play live, and I've never ... I thought, 'This guy's an unbelievable entertainer.' It took a while for it to catch on for him. Where he is now, honestly, I was like, 'Man, he's a star,' the first time I saw him."

Bryan wrote songs for artists including Travis Tritt and Billy Currington before signing a solo deal with Caoitol Records, which released his debut album, I'll Stay Me, in 2007. The album's lead single, "All My Friends Say," reached No. 5, setting Bryan on the path to the superstardom he enjoys today.

Swindell and Bryan stayed in touch, and Swindell would later work for Bryan selling merchandise after he made his own trek to Nashville. Swindell would write hits for Bryan, Craig Campbell, Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery and more before releasing his own self-titled debut album in 2014. He has since gone on to a string of hits that has made him one of the biggest younger stars in country music over the past several years.

That's just one of the stories Taste of Country has showcased in The Secret History of Country Music, a new weekly series hosted by Taste of Country news host Ania Hammar. Each episode gives you the inside scoop on country music's biggest hits, moments and people. Garth Brooks is the subject of one episode, and Carrie Underwood has also been featured. Be sure to subscribe to Taste of Country's YouTube channel so you never miss a new episode:

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