“It’s really cool what’s going on in the music industry right now,” Florida Georgia Line‘s Brian Kelley said at the 2013 CMT Artists of the Year special Tuesday night (Dec. 3). “A lot of cool sounds are happening, and everybody’s kind of got their own brand of country music, and that’s what makes it special.”
Kelley and musical partner Tyler Hubbard were onstage accepting their honor as one of CMT’s 2013 Artists of the Year and were presented the award by legendary country group Alabama. Celebrating their amazingly successful debut, FGL’s breakout year included a chart-topping album (Here’s to the Good Times), a record-breaking No. 1 song (“Cruise” ) and the launch of their own headlining tour.
While taking the stage to collect their trophy, both Hubbard and Kelley expressed love for their presenters before thanking friends and fans.
“Freaking Alabama, huh?” Kelley joked.
“Thank you for believing in us,” Hubbard said to the fans watching live on CMT. “Thank you to all the artists that are here that we’ve looked up to our whole lives. We learned everything from you guys. We wouldn’t be here without you.”
“It’s been an amazing ride,” added Kelley.
Before accepting their honor, the duo showed their cross of country and modern-rock influences by performing their latest hit “Stay.”
Jamming with a full band behind them — complete with a lead guitarist sporting a two-toned mohawk — Kelley and Hubbard delivered the song with all the passion of a group at the top of their game. “Stay” currently sits at No. 2 on the Billboard country songs chart.
The duo received a well-deserved standing ovation after their performance, but perhaps the biggest compliment of the night came from Alabama’s Randy Owen.
“They remind us a lot of ourselves,” the front man said. “Because everybody hated our ass here in Nashville, [too].”