With their latest single, “Long Live,” as well as their most recent release, 6-Pack, country superstar duo Florida Georgia Line continue to display the upbeat attitude that has been their signature since their 2012 debut single, “Cruise.” Even though their songs often sound carefree, co-frontmen Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard say that a lot of thought and effort goes into their music.
Videos by American Songwriter
“We’re really trying to hone in on our craft of songwriting and always elevate and evolve,” Hubbard says, “and then it’s just a little strategy as far as, what do we want this particular package to be? Do we want it to be a mixture of different feels and vibes or do we want it to have a specific message?’” For the 6-Pack EP, released just before Memorial Day, “We were like, ‘Let’s let it be a set of songs that everyone can listen to outside and enjoy being with their friends and having a good time.’ So we really hope that we were able to do that, especially in these times and this year.”
“With each album, I think we kept pushing and creating and experimenting and honing in on our sound,” Kelley says. “Just trying to be us, and create our own lane of music instead of trying to sound like anybody else. I think we both have worked hard to create a sound that sounds different, but it’s also fun.”
Both Kelley and Hubbard agree that songwriting is at the very heart of what they do. “What we love the most about the whole process is writing and creating,” Hubbard says. “So for us, we’re always doing that, and then we have a huge list of songs.” He says they’ve followed this “songwriting first” approach right from the start: “BK and I moved to Nashville to pursue the career of songwriting. That was what our goal was – and then the artist side kind of evolved and emerged from songwriting and from our songs,” he says.
Although they take their songwriting seriously, they’ve also been open to collaborating with other writers, and recording others’ songs. “We don’t particularly have to write every song on our album or project,” Hubbard says. “Occasionally, we get a song that just beats everything else and we’re like, ‘We’ve got to cut that song even though we didn’t write it.’ That’s actually something we’re really proud of, supporting the songwriting community and the craft itself, and still cutting outside songs is a big part of who we are.”
Hubbard and Kelley first joined the Nashville songwriting community when they moved to the city to attend Belmont University, where they met. “I think we were fans of each other’s music abilities and writing abilities,” Hubbard says, “and then I think we just both felt called from the Lord to do music together and pursue it. That was all it took for us was to say, ‘Yeah, let’s see what God’s got in store for us.’
“Not to get too spiritual, but I think this journey has been anointed and kind of ordained by God,” Hubbard continues. “I think He’s just getting started. I think He has a few plans for both of us. We just felt that way since the day BK saw me at a songwriting round and I saw him leading worship at our campus at Belmont. We both felt kind of called, so we just ran with it.
Kelley agrees that their career together seemed meant to be. “I just think it was put in us: falling in love with music, and moving to Nashville, and Tyler and I meeting and us both taking a chance on each other,” he says. “To see where that initial dream has taken us, there’s no doubt that God’s involved. It’s an unbelievable ride.”
A lot of their success has also likely been due to their high work ethic. “We put a lot of energy into everything that we were doing, songs that we were writing, everybody that we were meeting,” Kelley says. “Even before we had a record deal, we put out an independent EP [2010’s Anything Like Me]. We felt like we were onto something. We carried that energy around. Not cocky or anything, but you have the energy that you put in the music and those visions of what could be if everything aligns and these dots start to connect. So the more we felt like, ‘Hey, let’s keep writing songs and keep showing up,’ day by day, dreams kept coming true.”
Their debut single, “Cruise,” certainly proved that they were onto something special. Released in 2012, it went all the way to the top spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and it marked them as the first country act to be awarded RIAA’s Diamond certification for a single. That was the first of many hits that each of them has written: Hubbard has been a songwriter on thirteen #1 singles, and Kelley has done the same on eleven #1 singles. Some of these songs, such as “Sun Daze” (which they both co-wrote) became Florida Georgia Line songs, though others were recorded by the likes of Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell, Kane Brown, and Billy Currington, among many others.
As for why their songs resonate so strongly with listeners, Hubbard says it has to do with “The way we grew up and the way we do things and what we like to do and what we like to drink and how we like to sing – we write from real life experience. We write from the heart, so it just naturally connects with the fans. I guess it’s just an organic way to get to know us better. You feel like you know us, and we feel we know the fans, and it’s just a special connection.”
Kelley says it might also have to do with their unique sound, which grew out of their open-minded musical tastes. “I think we have a lot of different influences that we grew up on, all across the board. Christian music, rap music, country music, rock music, acoustic music. We love it all,” he says. “I think there’s a time and a place for every kind of music.”
Hubbard and Kelley say goodbye so they can get off this conference call and get back to work, which they say is a never-ending process. “Whenever we drop an album, we [say], ‘All right, let’s start writing for the next one!’” Hubbard says, adding, “It’s all good. I like working.” This means, no doubt, that Florida Georgia Line fans will have more hit singles to help brighten 2021 and beyond.