Exclusive: Brian Kelley Talks “Brave” Choice to Release “Kiss My Boots” and Getting Dann Huff’s Blessing

As someone who spent a decade in the spotlight as half of the most popular duo in the country genre, Brian Kelley had to figure out what he wanted to say when recording his debut solo album.

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Florida Georgia Line, comprised of Kelley and his duo partner Tyler Hubbard, shot to fame in 2012 on the skyrocket that was “Cruise.” The duo’s genre-challenging production and song choices won No. 1 albums, record-setting streaming numbers, and arenas full of fans—but didn’t receive much critical acclaim. 

After FGL announced their split in 2022—a choice he maintains wasn’t his—Kelley had to decide who he wanted to be as a solo artist. He dropped his Sunshine State Of Mind passion project in 2021—after Hubbard released his Tim McGraw duet “Undivided.” Then Kelley took time to consider what he wanted to say and what he would sound like as a solo artist.

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley Wrote for Other Artists]

He figured it out. Kelley released his debut solo album, Tennessee Truth, on May 10. 

“I love country music,” Kelley tells American Songwriter. “I love the country community, and I’m grateful to be a piece of that.”

When iconic producer and guitar player Dann Huff joined the project to play and produce, Kelley felt added responsibility to get it right.

“That Was a Big Fricking Deal To Get His Blessing”

“That was a big fricking deal to get his blessing to say, ‘Hey, yeah, I’d love to produce this record,'” Kelley says. “He’s a legend producer, a legendary guitar player, and so to have him on some solos was a big freaking deal.”

They assembled an all-star country band, including Paul Franklin, Jenee Fleenor, Derek Wells, and Jimmie Lee Sloas, and then the group got to work.  

“Piecing together this album, it went by the songs and what I was feeling and what felt fun to sing,” Kelley said. “But sonically, it was important for me to have these obviously country elements to make it authentic and just next level for me.”

Kelley is grateful for how the project came together. “I wanted it to feel real and not too overthought out and not too complicated,” he says.

Brian Kelley Wanted His Debut Solo Album To Feel Real

The album’s closing track, “Kiss My Boots,” which Kelley wrote with Dylan Guthro, raised eyebrows with its contentious lyrics. Listeners theorized the verbal daggers were aimed at Hubbard.

Kelley sings: I’m crankin’ Hank, drinkin’ Jack, airin’ out the past | Want the world to know that you did me wrong | I don’t how you act sweet, after how you did me | Here’s a middle finger to you through a song | Comes out in the whiskey, comes out when I’m tipsy | I can’t help but tell that Tennessee truth.

[RELATED: The Best Takeaways From Brian Kelley’s CMA Fest Q&A with American Songwriter: “It’s a Really Special Time in my Life” ]

Writing the song felt healing and empowering. Releasing it was brave, Kelley said.

“People could make it about anything they want, and that can be good or bad,” Brian Kelley said. “Being vulnerable and letting people know, ‘Hey, I’ve been through a tough time at a point in my life. I’ve struggled in a relationship and dealing with that.’ Putting that down on paper and to music, to a song and recording it, putting it out to the world, I think that’s a big deal.”

Featured Image via Ben Christensen Big Machine Records

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