Florida Georgia Line: From “Cruise” to “H.O.L.Y.”

What a Difference Four Years Makes

Four years ago, most of us had never even heard of Florida Georgia Line. Then “Cruise” was released in the summer 2012, and suddenly, everyone was singing along.

(Even Taylor Swift. Remember when she enthusiastically danced and sang along when the duo performed the song at the 2013 CMT Music Awards?)

Almost overnight, Florida Georgia Line became a fixture of mainstream country music.

The media dubbed them bro-country, and the label stuck. But the band’s last two songs — “Confession” and now “H.O.L.Y.” — are showing a much different side of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard.

Hubbard and I had a chance to talk about the latest song and where the new direction came from.

“It just kind of happened organically,” he explained. “When 2012 rolled around, when we were starting out, we had no idea where we’d be in 2016. But everything’s changed now. We’ve grown up, and we’ve bought houses, and we’ve gotten married. Our lives have changed. And our music will change.

“There’s a natural progression for BK and I. We grew up in church playing music, so we want fans to know the full spectrum of who were are — from the party songs to the love songs to the rock to the rap to the acoustic stuff. There’s a spot for everything.”

But first, this song “H.O.L.Y.” — an acronym for the lyric in the chorus “high on loving you” — had to pass Hubbard and Kelley’s truck test.

“We knew it was a hit song,” Hubbard told me. “We just didn’t know if it was a hit song for us at first listen. But then after giving it the ol’ truck test — driving around and listening to it for a few days — we kind of fell in love with it. I remember thinking, ‘Man, this song feels big.'”

It was a chance, he said, to show the fans another side of who they are.

Even though this was an outside cut from songwriters Busbee, Nate Cyphert and William Wiik Larsen, Hubbard thinks it gets the job done and fits the band’s vibe.

And as a love song, it sends the message they want to send right now.

“There’s something to be said for sharing your life with someone. We’re officially a team now. We’re building something together,” he said of he and his wife Hayley and of Kelley and his wife Brittney. “I think people can see our love for our wives and the passion that we have for being good husbands in this song.

“That’s the key,” Hubbard said. “We’re both madly in love, and our world revolves around our wives and our music.”

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