Make-A-Wish Kid Ethan Payne Pens a Musical Thank You to Luke Bryan

Check out the tender video telling his story on 'Sounds Like Nashville.'

Written by Chris Parton
Make-A-Wish Kid Ethan Payne Pens a Musical Thank You to Luke Bryan
Ethan Payne; Photo Credit: Cameron Packee

Ethan Payne is one of the countless young country fans who’ve been moved and inspired by Luke Bryan. But his story goes farther than most, and a new video premiering on Sounds Like Nashville shows how.

For a little backstory, Payne was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease Cystic Fibrosis at 18 months old — but he’s a fighter, and that tends to attract attention. At 13, the Make-A-Wish Foundation helped Payne meet his idol at a concert in Dallas. Instead of just smiling for the photo, though, Payne showed the country star his skills.

Picking up his guitar and playing Bryan a rendition of his first Number One, “Do I,” Payne impressed Bryan so much that he was now the one getting inspired. Bryan invited his new friend to play the song again that night, this time in front of a sold-out arena, and then gifted Payne his guitar. Since then Payne’s used that guitar to pursue his dreams, and wrote his hero a thank-you song fittingly titled, “Luke’s Guitar.”

“Luke has been through so much and given so much to me, and I felt he deserved a gift that keeps on giving as it does to me,” Payne tells SLN about the song.

Co-written by the young artist with Michael August and Jon D’Agostino, the tender track is all about how that guitar is more than a few pieces of wood and steel. It’s a machine for hope and proof that dreams really can come true, and Payne captures the sentiment in a touching new video.

Ethan Payne with Luke Bryan; Photo courtesy of Ethan Payne

“It really didn’t take that long to shoot, it was about a half-day shoot at the Grand Opera House in my hometown of Macon, Georgia,” he says of the clip. “It’s a performance video that I think captures the song really well. We did add a lot of cool extra elements to the visuals — like the phone call I received from Luke when he first heard the song. I think that makes it really sentimental and personal and grabs the viewers attention.” 

“When life’s too hard and all my stars are out of reach / I’m in too deep, I just can’t stop sinking / I start to play and all my pain just fades away / I don’t break, when I’m hanging on by the last string / It’s crazy how it saves my hopeless heart / Luke’s guitar,” goes the heartfelt chorus.

Payne also appeared on the 17th season of ABC’s American Idol on ABC in 2019, where he reunited with Bryan to perform “Do I” once again. He has since been making trips to Nashville and co-writing songs for an upcoming album project.