Florida Georgia Line Love ’90s Country

John Anderson's "Money in the Bank" Among Favorites

The latest song Tyler Hubbard downloaded was more than 20 years old. And it was country. Very, very country.

I found this out when I was catching up with the guys from Florida Georgia Line when they were in Chicago on Saturday (Aug. 9). Hubbard showed his iPhone to his bandmate Brian Kelley and me. There it was. John Anderson’s “Money in the Bank” from all the way back in 1993.

Hubbard sang a couple seconds of it before admitting he wasn’t the best at mimicking Anderson’s twangy vocals. “Jake Owen does the best John Anderson I’ve ever heard,” he said.

Despite Florida Georgia Line’s rock-leaning country sound, both Hubbard and Kelley grew up on ’90s country.

Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Blackhawk, Alabama. Man, we love all that stuff. That music is timeless. That is country music,” Kelley told me.

But when the two were getting to know each other at Belmont University, their mix of music was a little broader than that.

“It was hip-hop, country and rock in college. We probably had iPod playlists with all three of those genres, as loud as they could go,” Hubbard added. “I’d say that would probably cover our Friday nights.”

Kelley said that even as far back as high school, he remembers making similar multi-genre mixes with Eminem, Alabama, Brooks and Lil’ Wayne all on one CD.

Kelley went on to compare traditional country fans’ reaction to Florida Georgia Line to their reaction to Alabama when they first debuted in the ’70s.

“We relate to them, and they said they relate to us,” Kelley said about the guys from Alabama. “People said they weren’t country when they first came out, when they were playing bars and playing their instruments and rocking out. But that’s the cool thing about country music. There are just so many different sounds. Anything’s possible, and that’s so cool.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.