Hip-hop and rock-influenced remixes with Nelly and Jason Derulo: This is definitely not your father’s country music. And as a result, Florida Georgia Line (FGL)—a duo composed of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley)—is smoking hot. Here’s to the Good Times, their 2012 full-length two- times platinum debut, has so far tallied over 15.7 million tracks with their party anthem “Cruise” selling over seven million downloads alone. Their latest single, “Dirt,” from their upcoming full-length, hit No. 1 on the Country charts and debuted at No. 11 on the overall Billboard Hot 100, marking the highest entrance for a country duo in this chart’s nearly 56-year history. Having recently wrapped their second headlining outing, FGL are calling in from Pennsylvania where they are on the road with Jason Aldean on his “Burn It Down” tour. In this exclusive MC interview, Hubbard from Monroe, GA and Kelley from Ormond Beach, FL discuss their shared histories at Belmont University; how their initial signings as songwriters were a crucial key to their success; and the organic chemistry that currently makes Florida Georgia Line country’s brightest success story.
Music Connection: Your new single “Dirt” is reflective and thoughtful. It seems like a shift from the rowdy country party anthems on your debut.
Brian Kelley: Everyone is asking if “Dirt” is a departure, but I think it’s a return for Tyler and me. If you listen to a lot of early demos, or our older songs, it’s really more where we came from. It feels like country music, it feels like now, it feels like Florida Georgia Line, and like something that nobody else has. It’s a song that we just connect to. It’s such a live song. And we just felt a strong connection the first time that we heard it. It’s one of those songs that we call when we get to the chorus “chill bump city.” Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins wrote the hell out of it, it’s incredible to watch the crowd. The song hasn’t been out long, but it continues to get stronger and stronger. It’s just an emotional song and so fun to play.
MC: You were first signed not as artists, but as songwriters, correct?
Kelley: Yeah man, we’re writers at heart. We were writers before we were artists. That’s our passion. We will always be songwriters. We try to make time for it out here on the road. We write any time that we can.
MC: What are your diverse, or similar strengths in creating songs?
Kelley: I think the reason this is working so well––and it has right off the bat––is we’re both skilled enough to come up with melodies, lyrics, riffs and loops. We’ve both been in bands and we enjoy different genres. Our brains work in different ways, but we’re on the same wavelength. The thing about songwriting is that you never know when the idea is going to come, and where it is going to come from, so you have got to be ready for it. Whether that is writing an idea down, recording it on your phone, humming a line or holding onto it until you get with the right writers to write it with. That’s what is so addicting about songwriting and why it is a passion of ours.
MC: We know that Big Loud Shirt, the company founded by songwriter Craig Wiseman, originally signed you to publishing deals. What did Craig––a very successful writer––teach you about your craft?
Tyler Hubbard: How to write a big ‘ol hit! All joking aside, he’s just got a way of continuing to write commercial country hits, and he does it in his own style. He’s all over the song. One thing we both learned is that when Craig writes a song, he doesn’t wait for the producer, or a guitar player to come up with the riffs. He does it all himself, or it’s in the songwriting session. I think we’ve taken that into our process, to get our creativity out in every song. The goal is to have it as close to ready and done as it can be. Sometimes a song doesn’t need much production and sometimes it does.
MC: You co-wrote Jason Aldean’s current single, “Burning it Down.” What was the decision to have him record it, as opposed to FGL?
Hubbard: That’s a song we wrote a while back. We were going to record it, but it felt better for Jason. We pitched it and he wanted it. As songwriters, we’re always writing, either for ourselves or for someone else. We try to put the song in the best hands.