Editor’s Note: CMT Hot 20 Countdown takes a look back on 10 years of incredible music with Decade, a weekly segment that features a modern country classic that made its greatest impact between 2010 and 2019. This week, Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard talk about their 2012 single, “Cruise.”
CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs at 9/8c Saturday and Sunday mornings. Here’s FGL, in their own words:
Brian Kelley: I think we were in the middle of [writing] a whole other song, and our buddy said, “Let’s write something that makes you wanna feel good, something ‘feel good,’ and came up with the first line of the chorus. We did a rough version that day and we took it back to the studio and lived with it for a while. …
Our producer Joey Moi was challenging us to tighten it up and I think we added a little different bridge. It went from “Baby you like a song” to “Baby you a song.” Just editing it and really sharpening it, that’s what it took to make that song was big as it was.
It was really cool to be a part of that process for both of us, to create it, to record it, to take it out on the road, to watch it grow, watch it build and meet fans along the way, see their excitement. That’s the song that put us on the map in a huge way, in a really quick way, in a very humbling way. … Going on that ride, that whole wave, that’s something we’ll never forget and has set us up to let us release music how we like and to do our thing, so we’re forever grateful.
Tyler Hubbard: We knew it wasn’t ever going to be easy but I think at the time, it was all happening so fast and we were going a hundred miles an hour, and we had our heads down and grind grind grind. We didn’t even probably look up to really realize what was going on until later on. …
I’ll paint a picture for you. We were in the Country Throwdown Tour, if you remember that tour. It was the middle of summer and that was our first official tour we’ve ever been on. We were the baby band. There were a bunch of acts on this tour but we were the only band that didn’t have a tour bus — driving ourselves through the night, loading our own gear on to the tour semis.
We were the barbeque band so when we got done playing our set in the middle of the day, which was like a hundred degrees that summer, we would load our gear in the semi. Then we would crank up the grill that we pulled behind our van and we had to feed the whole tour — the whole crew and the entire band for the whole rest of the night. So needless to say, we were paying our dues that summer but that was the summer where every show kept building and building.
We were like the first act to play or the second, and we would look at each other like, “Look at all the people,” and then, “Look at how they are singing every word.” It was the first feeling that this is happening, man, this is about to take off. We should buckle up and we just kept our head down and kept working hard and now we’re watching them sing every song of the set and it’s so rewarding.
BK: There’s maybe one night when we were about to sign our deal, we got out of cooking because we were like, “We’re meeting with the record label and see if they want to cut a deal.” So we went to a steak house that night.
TH: That was the nicest meal we’ve ever had at that point probably.
TH: We were on the same record label as Nelly and we were big fans of Nelly. At that point we were signed and our label wanted to do a remix. And they wanted us to try to sing something differently and all that. And I’m like, “Guys, that doesn’t make any sense.” Me and BK were both like, “We’re not trying to get in the studio and do a remix of something that’s already working.” And then somebody had the idea … why don’t we just throw another artist on it and make a remix?
Well that makes more sense to us. Why don’t we throw Nelly in? That makes a lot of sense to us. Two days later, maybe three days later, the turnaround was really quick, he sent us a rough mix of, Hey, here’s a version with Nelly on it. We were in the bus, just had it cranked up. We were like, “This is amazing, this is really cool, this feels like the perfect fit.”
We love Nelly, Nelly is a big fan of this and what we’re doing, and it was all for the races from there. It was the perfect example of something happening pretty organically and being a fan of each other, just matching and working — and that’s important when you collaborate. It can’t feel forced, it can’t be forced, and this just happened, and it was easy. It led to a lot of other things with Nelly, a lot of shows, a lot of award shows and videos, a lot of other stuff. He’s become family to us.
BK: We didn’t think too hard on the criticism [after “Cruise”]. It didn’t really affect us. I think we put our head down and went to work and wrote more, and worked harder, played more shows, made more fans, made more money, worked our butts off, and directed our energy that way, instead of focusing on what the couple people that don’t matter, that aren’t in the same ballpark as what we’re doing, that just sit behind a [computer] keyboard and have some opinions… honestly, I think it fueled this whole thing, this rocket ship.
TH: It never feels good to hear mean words but it does kind of fuel us. We thrive in that environment. We thrive being the oddballs. We thrive doing not what everybody else is doing and trying to just do our thing. Whenever you’re doing something different, people are always going to have something to say. A lot of positive feedback, but the negative people are going to be really loud. That’s something we’ve learned over the years but we really do take that as fuel and pour it on the fire. Let’s keep rocking.
BK: You can also miss the present — miss so much by just getting worked up over some comments and let it take over even a minute of your time. And you can look at it, laugh about it, and get back to work. Focus on positive things and things that really matter, so I think that’s what we’ve done a good job at.
TH: I think that’s a huge compliment to say that we paved the way, or to say that we opened up a door. But you know a lot of doors opened up for us as well, so I think it’s part of the responsibility of being an act that’s becoming successful. I think that’s part of the role — pushing the boundaries, opening up doors for the next act and the next guy that comes along.
When we hear that we are trailblazers and that we are starting trends, it does feel good. I mean it’s kind of a pat on the back, but at the same time like I said, we take a lot of pride in just doing our thing and doing things differently and being untraditional in the country music scene and in the Nashville scene. So I think that naturally comes with the territory.