Florida Georgia Line have driven their breakthrough hit “Cruise” to platinum-selling status at the top of Billboard‘s country airplay chart, but don’t expect this exciting duo to coast on the momentum of their remarkable debut.
Bandmates Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard — from Ormond Beach, Fla., and Monroe, Ga., respectively — are still crossing state lines with Jake Owen and Love and Theft on CMT on Tour . They’re also gearing up to join Luke Bryan on his Dirt Road Diaries tour in January and just released their first full-length album,Here’s to the Good Times.
That new album features “Cruise” and the five other tracks on their It’z Just What We Do EP, as well as six brand-new songs to get your motor running.
When the guys stopped by CMT recently, they were riding high on their successful single and cracking jokes like the college buddies they are. In this interview, they show off their playful personalities, explain how they hid their rap music collections from their parents and let fans know what to expect if they pick up a copy of Here’s to the Good Times.
CMT: How did you guys meet?
Brian Kelley: I transferred to Belmont University [in Nashville] and was in a third-year writing class with [Tyler's] roommate, and he was like “Hey, my buddy does music, too, and you guys would get along.” So we met and hit it off and started writing together. Next thing you know, we’re playing out as much as we could.
Tyler Hubbard: It kind of worked out.
Were you in separate bands before that?
Hubbard: Just the general youth church band.
Kelley: We both started playing music in church. I definitely learned a lot from helping out in church. It definitely correlates to how to run a show and keep the crowd involved.
What do you guys like to do when you’re not playing music?
Kelley: Write more music, I guess. (laughs)
Hubbard: Honestly anything outside. We like any kind of sports, hunting, fishing or camping. My kind of getaway is riding motorcycles. That’s my thing, I love doing that. We are really outdoorsy. We like to be active. BK likes to work out, but I would rather eat a cheeseburger. (laughs)
If you were not musicians, what would you be doing to make a living?
Hubbard: I would like to say that I could race motorcycles and make a living.
Kelley: I would probably be a baseball coach — try and be a pitching coach.
Those are very interesting since you could still rise to the top of your field. Maybe you guys just have a certain drive to excel.
Hubbard: Maybe we just don’t want real jobs. (laughs) Maybe that’s the case. I never liked real jobs.
“Cruise” is blowing up. What were you trying to draw on when you guys wrote that?
Kelley: I think we both still love to go drive around back roads. That’s my favorite thing to do when we are listening to songs we just wrote — go out in Franklin [Tenn.] and roll the windows down and enjoy it. I don’t think when we were writing we were necessarily trying to craft anything. I think it was one of those things where lines are flying around. It wasn’t like “Let’s try to write a hit song.”
Where does that hip-hop influence come from?
Hubbard: Growing up, we always listened to country music and rap music, and I thought that was completely normal. We just grew up around it. I’m a big hip-hop fan, and I grew up in the middle of the country, so I can relate to both. Put them together and our influences are very diverse, but I think that’s what makes our music different, cool and fresh.
Kelley: Both of us were the kids in the backseat with our headphones on sneaking in …
Hubbard: Sneaking in some Juvenile! (laughs)
Kelley: Eminem, Juvenile, some Big Tymers. I would go to Walmart and get a Casting Crowns CD or something like that, and then I would go to the mall and get another CD. My parents would think I was listening to something else, but I would really be listening to rap.
Does the new record have a bunch of fun songs just like “Cruise”?
Hubbard: They all have a similar sound but are all different in a sense, too. I think for the next six [songs], we are trying to round off the party mix, round off a good record. We have so many influences and so much diversity in our life, we want to kind of bring some other areas in to the record, too, not just “Tip It Back.” There is some different stuff on there that’s fresh and really cool.
Hubbard: It kind of takes me back to when we first started. Like when we would get excited about 30 people coming to watch us play. That was not that long ago. It’s really happening fast, and it’s crazy to look out and see 8,000 or 10,000 people.
You joined CMT on Tour with Jake Owen. A lot of artists have gone out to do great things after that. How does that make you feel?
Kelley: It is definitely an honor to be a part of this tour. It’s unbelievable to go from where we were a year ago to now on the CMT tour with Jake Owen and Love and Theft, who are good buddies.
Hubbard: Jake did the CMT tour a few years back [as an opening act], and it’s cool to see where he’s at now, headlining. Hopefully we can do that, too … keeping my fingers crossed!