Florida Georgia Line Celebrate First No. 1

Five Songwriters "Cruise" to the Top in the Same Boat

“We really shouldn’t be here,” Tim Fink declared as he kicked off a party celebrating Florida Georgia Line ’s hit song “Cruise” Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 29) at the Country Music Association building in Nashville.

Fink, who represents the SESAC performance rights organization, then proceeded to explain to the crowd how stacked the odds are against anyone reaching the top of the charts — much less a new act’s first single from its first album going No. 1 in Billboard and staying there for multiple weeks, as “Cruise” had done.

Only 34 country songs hit No. 1 in 2012, Fink continued. Of these, only 16 stayed at the top for more than a week.

“Cruise” was jointly composed by five songwriters — Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (the duo that constitutes Florida Georgia Line), Joey Moi, Chase Rice and Jesse Rice. Jesse Rice is a SESAC writer, and the other four are affiliated with the BMI performance rights group, which sponsored the celebration.

Moi is also the duo’s producer.

All the songwriters were on hand to receive a profusion of awards and enjoy loud and repeated cheers from the throng of family, friends and music industry insiders.

Speaker after speaker praised Florida Georgia Line’s work ethic, noting that Hubbard and Kelley write on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and tour on the weekends, routinely hustling their own sound equipment.

Jimmy Harnen, president of Republic Nashville, the duo’s record label, presented Hubbard and Kelley platinum plaques certifying that “Cruise” has shipped more than 1 million copies.

Scott Borchetta, whose Big Machine Label Group includes Republic Nashville, likened the talent and career prospects for Florida Georgia Line to such other legendary country duos as the Judds and Brooks & Dunn .

Looking over all the awards that had been dispensed, Borchetta turned to the crowd and asserted happily, “Get used to it.”

“From day one, we prayed before every show,” Hubbard said, choking back tears when it came his turn to speak. He called his mother to the stage to present her a plaque for all the support and encouragement she’s provided him.

Kelley continued with the family theme, beckoning his mother, father and sister forward to join him.

“It’s cool to be able to share this [celebration] with you,” he told them.

He recalled taking Florida Georgia Line’s first songs to BMI and being told, “You’re kind of the light beer of country music. … Bring me some dark beer.”

Surveying all the awards surrounding him, Kelley said, “I think we got our dark beer.”

View photos from the No. 1 party.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.