Quick-draw country stars Dustin Lynch and Chase Bryant are no strangers to A-list arena tours.
Chief among them: Brad Paisley's long-running Weekend Warriors Tour, which passes through Bloomington's Grossinger Motors Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday (unlike the star's sold-out 2010 and 2016 visits, tickets were still available at press-time).
Lynch, a 32-year-old Tennessee native who grew up 90 miles southeast of Nashville in Tullahoma (population 18,655), has preceded the likes of not only Paisley on some of the world's largest arena stages, but also Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and Florida Georgia Line.
The Texas-born Bryant, who turned 24 in October, is the designated baby of the quadruple-threat Warriors team ("old man" Paisley is 45; the tour's third opener, Canadian-born Lindsay Ell, is 28).
Over the course of his short 3½ years in the country limelight, Bryant has preceded the likes of Brantley Gilbert and Tim McGraw onto arena stages before their legions of fans.
In separate GO! interviews, the two young guns, who've been aboard the Paisley tour bus since last summer, talked about life on the A-list tour road alongside one of their biggest heroes.
"We've been on the road with Brad since the tour kicked off in May," notes Bryant, no stranger to area country fans hereabouts, having headlined at the Ford County Fair in Melvin (2013) and the Logan County Fair in Lincoln (2015, alongside B-N's Brushville).
"No, I didn't expect it to go on this long," Lynch says of a tour fast- approaching its first anniversary and set to continue for its second summer, with dates scheduled through Aug. 24.
"He liked having us around, and when the offer was made to stay on after the tour was extended, we took that as a great compliment. He's the absolute best."
With Lynch and Ell, Bryant sees the trio of openers as "paving the way" for country's next generation "the way Brad paved the way for us for so many years. To be a small part of his tour ... as a such a fan of his, I'm absolutely honored."
Helping bond Lynch, Bryant and fellow opener Ell together is the fact that all three are part of the artist roster at Nashville-based Broken Bow Records and its sister labels, Red Bow Records and Stoney Creek Records.
Both Lynch and Bryant acknowledge the challenge of taking the arena stage before a crowd who's there for the headliner, be it a Paisley, Urban or McGraw.
Lynch, whose debut single, "Cowboys and Angels," went platinum in 2012 and whose self-titled debut album hit No. 1 on Billboard's country chart, has his own rock-solid fan base, to be sure.
"But I still look at this as a way to introduce our music and our live show to a part of Brad's fan base that maybe doesn't know us yet," says Lynch.
"Hopefully, they'll go 'Wow, this was fun and the next time Dustin comes through, let's go and take some friends.' We put on our best show, and I love getting to play our songs for people who've never seen us or even heard of us."
Though Lynch has yet to headline his own full-blown arena tour, he's worked his way up to the very brink, with each of his succeeding albums keeping close pace with the No. 1 "Dustin Lynch" on the charts, including 2014's "Where It's At" and the current "Current Moods," both of which peaked at No. 2.
Between the three albums, Lynch has scored five No. 1 Country Airplay hits: "Where It's At (Yep-Yep)," "Hell of a Night," "Mind Reader," "Seein' Red" and, most recently, "Small Town Boy."
Though it didn't scale the heights of those hits, Lynch will forever be remembered for one of 2012's most indelibly, er, descriptive song titles, "She Cranks My Tractor."
"Without a doubt, I want to continue to really broaden our reach and bring on the new fans, with the goal to grow to the point where I can headline my own tour at this (Weekend Warriors) level."
Lynch says he's happy to wait however long it takes for the timing to be just right.
"A lot of acts go into that level when they are still really young," he says. "We have six big hits, and we're working on our seventh. But I realize that we need to be patient and wait to get a few more under our belt so we can be up there for an hour-and-a-half, and not have to figure out a way to keep the crowd energized. It's all about familiarity with the music, and I've been doing this for a long enough time in front of people to know that."
For the time being, Lynch wants us to know one thing, and one thing only: "With four acts on the bill of this tour, each has their own thing, their own wonderful thing, that speaks for itself. But, you know, it's really just a big dance party, with no sitting down, and all high energy."
Bryant — whose grandfather Jimmy Bryant was a pianist for Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings and whose uncles Jeff Bryant and Junior Bryant co-founded ’90s country band Ricochet — is at about the point where Lynch was when he was starting out half-a-dozen years ago.
"But he's so much prettier and has got such great teeth," laughs the youngest gun about the sex appeal his heartthrob senior, who not only has a great teeth and profile, but also dresses well, having started his own fashion line, Stay Country (www.staycountryclothing.com).
Bryant's debut single, 2015's "Take it on Back," hit the Top 10 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart, with his second hit, "Little Bit of You," scoring even higher.
"I was in Colorado Springs for an Air Force show there with Brad, and I was approached by him," recalls Bryant of their first meeting, followed shortly by his invitation to join Team Paisley for what promised to be one of the year's key country tours.
Does anyone make a big deal over his "tour baby" status?
"Nobody's made a big deal of it, though I'm sure they will now that you've brought it up," he laughs.
Thanks to that deep family lineage in music, little left-handed Chase was wielding a guitar at age 3, "but I was just a kid who didn't know anything, I truly didn't, though I thought I did. At 16, I still really didn't know much, and now I'm 24, still honestly trying to figure out how to do this."
He exaggerates, of course, but insists "I've been so lucky to be a part of these tours, with Brantley and Tim and Brad, because it takes a while to figure out who you really are. And Brad has helped so much, just getting to watch him on a nightly basis. It's purely humbling, it really is ... and it makes me realize how much more I've got to do."