by Jane Roser
“It’s just what we were meant to do right now.” Brian Kelley, one half of beloved country band Florida Georgia Line, is speaking to me on a rainy Friday afternoon and I’m curious to know- if he wasn’t playing music what would he be doing, or was it never a question that this was always to be his destiny. “I dreamed of playing baseball professionally, but obviously that didn’t work out. Maybe I’d be coaching, but I love where I’m at and I’m very blessed. I just live in the moment.”
Kelley is very gracious, well- spoken and a true southern gentleman through and through. Having only been making waves in the country music scene for a few short years, Florida Georgia Line has shot to the top faster than most bands could ever come close to. Their accomplishments in the past year alone are the stuff dreams are made of- their single “Cruise” quickly climbed up the charts and earned Kelley and Tyler Hubbard a spot at #1 on the country charts, breaking the record for the longest #1 song on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs Chart. Their latest album, Here’s To The Good Times, had the highest debut album sales of 2012 for a new country artist and their song “Get Your Shine On” earned them a second consecutive, multi-week smash hit in the US and Canada.
Kelley, hailing from Ormond Beach, Florida and Hubbard, who calls Monroe, Georgia home, met in college and started playing music together immediately, performing at writer’s rounds at the Hotel Indigo in Nashville. “We’re best friends,” Kelley says. “We’re having fun, doing it well and people are digging it every step of the way.”
I ask Kelley about the perks and challenges, if any, of writing as a duo, rather than as solo artists. “Two is better than one. We each have diverse backgrounds and it helps to tell our stories. We both have a hard work ethic, we started from the bottom and did whatever it took to make it,” he says.
There’s a wonderful quote on the band’s website that I love because it’s so genuine and heartfelt: “The one thing that set us apart was the fact that we did work hard. Instead of looking for a deal, we were looking for fans.” And their fans are some of the most dedicated I’ve ever come across. When I ask my Georgian cousin, Becki Middlebrooks, why she connects so passionately with Florida Georgia Line’s music she tells me that “their songs are just fun and have great energy. My favorite song at the moment is ”Dayum, Baby”. I tried to get tickets to their Atlanta concert in June when they opened for Luke Bryan, but because I entered one digit of my credit card wrong I got kicked off [the ticket site], by the time I got back on, the show was sold out. That fast!” Fan Annette Stevens Watts concurs, “Their music makes you want to dance around the house. My five-year-old son plays “Cruise” over and over on my iPod.”
Does the band ever feel the need to have to explain their lyrics? “No, the fans, they get it,” says Kelley. “It’s not as much what the song is about, but the lyrics are real life. Our fans re-tweet our songs and sing along with us at our concerts, they’re really great.” And why does he think that country music has been seeing a surge of fans that, in the past, wouldn’t have necessarily listened to it? “Music is always evolving and country music isn’t what it was in the 50s or in the 70s, it can have some popular melodies and different things you might not expect in a country song and that’s the cool thing about music.”
And what started his love of country music? “My sister got me into it when I was little,” Kelley reminisces, “She got me on a country music high, but I love it all- hip-hop, Christian music, it’s all great. But my sister’s passion for country music changed my life.”
Florida Georgia Line is currently touring the country with Taylor Swift’s The Red Tour and Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour and will be in our neck of the woods this Friday, August 30th when they play the Allentown Fairgrounds with Bryan. Their fans have been clamoring for a Florida Georgia Line headline tour and as of October 3rd they’ll get their wish.
“It’s our show and we can play as long as we want and whatever songs we want to. We’re so excited to be playing with Dallas Smith and Tyler Farr and just can’t wait for everyone to rock out to it.” says Kelley of the upcoming tour.
But you better shake a tail feather if you are hoping to score tickets. Their first show on the tour, Chicago’s Sears Centre Arena, sold out in less than 5 minutes and as I’m writing this, 14 more shows have completely sold out. And that is what I call a dayum fine achievement, baby.