If they didn’t have their first full-length album arriving next month, the guys of Florida Georgia Line would probably be mourning the end of 2012.
The duo of Tyler Hubbard, a native of Monroe, Ga., and college pal Brian Kelley, of Ormond Beach, Florida, are still giddy over the success of their catchy single, “Cruise,” which, well, cruised to the No. 3 spot on Billboard’s country chart but also instigated a flood of well-wisher tweets from peers such as Taylor Swift and Jennifer Nettles.
The guys have released a pair of EPs since 2010, one containing the song “Black Tears,” which Hubbard co-wrote and Jason Aldean recently snagged for his “Night Train” album.
Next year, Florida Georgia Line will hit the road with fellow Georgian Luke Bryan, but first, they’re storming the country on the CMT Tour with headliner Jake Owen, a show that comes to Wild Bill’s on Friday.
The pair recently phoned in from their base of Nashville to discuss their roots (Hubbard’s mom and siblings still live in Monroe), their awe at being accepted so readily into the country universe and why they love Lil Wayne.
Q. Tyler, tell me about growing up in Monroe. How did that shape your musical tastes?
A. We grew up listening to country and rap. I had a lot of influences, from rock to rap to Christian, a little of everything. But I grew up playing sports and riding motorcycles, not playing music. I went to high school at Loganville Christian Academy, then moved to Nashville.
Q. And Brian, your part of Florida is close to Daytona Beach, right? How about your early influences?
A. It’s basically Daytona Beach, yeah. I started guitar at 16, with the church youth band and moved on to Florida State [University] for two years and helped out with church there.
Q. You guys met at school. Were you doing music separately before finding each other?
A. [Tyler] I’d say we had similar tastes and respect for each other’s songwriting. We had a special connection musically. We always wrote good songs together and wound up being good friends and moved in together.
Q. How did you settle on the band’s name?
A. [Brian] I remember like it was yesterday. We lived together for two years in Nashville and were hanging out in the hall and decided to take this music thing seriously and wanted to represent where we came from. Orange Peach was an early suggestion, then it got moved to Florida Georgia Line. We’re proud of that name. It totally represents us both.
Q. “Cruise” has gotten a lot of notice from your peers in the industry. Does it freak you out to see a tweet from Taylor Swift or Jennifer Nettles name-checking your song?
A. [Brian] That’s something that is amazing, a testament to the brotherhood, the family thing that is going on in country. It’s been amazing to see the support our peers have shown us, like Tyler getting a tweet from Keith Urban [he called "Cruise" a "Crazy cool toon!!!!!"]. Hopefully we’ll be like that one day and help out upcoming artists.
[Tyler] It’s been really cool, and country is cool to see the camaraderie and support that everybody gives. It’s been a humbling thing. A lot of our peers have become buddies. We’ve had lots of support.
Q. So how did you get involved in the CMT tour?
A. [Brian] Jake Owen has been a believer of us and shown us support since day one before people knew who we were and we thought it was cool that he fought for us to be on the bill. At the time, we didn’t have a record deal or a video, so it was cool to see him fight for what he believes in. [The tour] has been nothing but good times. Memories are being made every night.
Q. You mention a lot of influences ranging from country to rap to Christian – how does all of that factor into your sound for your debut album?
A. [Brian] It’s kind of more of the same, some good party songs, but there’s more serious songs, relationship songs, life songs. Whether it’s uptempo or mid-tempo, our goal is to have people bob their heads and have a good time with the music. We cut some songs that we didn’t write but we wanted songs we felt our fans would relate to.
[Tyler] I think it’s kind of a challenge to mix up the game a little bit and get out of the box. We’re not scared. We just do what we love. We like what we like and most people gravitate toward it. Music is ever evolving and we don’t want to stay the same and be boring.
[Brian] If you look at Hank Sr. to Johnny Cash, it’s ever evolving. We love to do what we do, and challenge ourselves to write better songs. People, I think, are wanting fresh music that doesn’t sound like everybody else on the radio. We want to sound like Florida Georgia Line.
Q. Who is on your wish list of artists to perform with?
A. [Tyler] There’s a lot of big artists, but one of my goals in life is to do a song with Lil Wayne. I’ve always been a big fan of him.
[Brian] I 100 percent support that. I love him and Wiz Khalifa, and Garth Brooks is one of my all time faves, so any of them would be cool.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene