Florida Georgia Line sailed to the top of the Country Airplay charts 10 days after “Cruise” was released last December. With a remake featuring Nelly, “Cruise” pushed full steam ahead on the pop charts, too.
So has the duo’s career.
Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are selling out arenas wherever they go — and set a record in Cedar Rapids by selling out the U.S. Cellular Center in 3 minutes on Sept. 13. Fans snapped up 6,000 seats during the fastest sell-out in the arena’s 34-year history.
Tickets sold so well for Jason Aldean’s Jan. 18 concert at the I Wireless Center, featuring Florida Georgia Line, that a second show was added Jan. 19 at the Moline arena. Aldean’s career is hot, but Florida Georgia’s is red-hot-hotter.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hubbard, 26, says by phone from a recent tour stop in Muncie, Ind. “We’ve been working hard at this for a while, so for things to take off like they have, has just been awesome. We’re loving every day of it — it just makes us want to work even harder. We’re having a good time with it and it’s definitely an awesome part of our career.”
- Florida Georgia Line
- Cedar Rapids: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (11/2), U.S. Cellular Center, with opening acts Colt Ford and Tyler Farr; SOLD OUT
- Moline, Ill.: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 (sold out) and Jan. 19, I Wireless Center; opening with Tyler Farr for Jason Aldean; $28.75 and $54.75
- Artist’s website: Floridageorgialine.com
Their new-found fame has put them in the eye of the media whirlwind, hitting digital, newsprint and the talk-show circuit.
“We try not to focus on all that too much,” Hubbard says. “It definitely takes some adjusting and we do have to pinch ourselves quite often — it’s like we’re living in a dream. We’re just trying to make the best of it and have fun and take it all in.”
It’s a lot to take in for the two college friends — Kelley from Ormond Beach, Fla., and Hubbard from Monroe, Ga. They now live in Nashville and on the road.
Hubbard isn’t sure why he and his buddy have stuck it big and rich on the country-crossover scene.
“I think we’re just real dudes and people can sense that,” he says. “We’re just doing what we love. I just think people have a special connection with us. We try to be transparent with who we are onstage and writing songs, so people … feel like they know us.”
Gone are the days of blending into the crowd as they walk down the street.
“It’s happening more and more — we get recognized quite a bit, but it’s part of it, and that’s not a bad thing,” he says.
Fans will recognize what they hear onstage, as well.
The Florida Georgia boys will play all of the songs off their wildly successful “Here’s to the Good Times” certified gold debut album, including the quadruple platinum single “Cruise,” which topped Billboard’s country charts for 19 weeks — longer than any song in the past five decades.
“We’re gonna play whole album, we’re gonna bring the party and it’s gonna be a good time,” Hubbard says. “I think everybody will leave feeling pretty good.”
Joining them onstage will be their band, which Hubbard says has become like family. The lineup features two guitars, bass, drums and keyboard.
“They’re like our brothers and we just live out here to get on the road and all get to do what we love, so it’s great,” he says.
All perform amidst a swirl of flashy fun.
“It’s as much lights and smoke and everything that we can afford right now,” Hubbard says. “We pretty much put on a rock show — high energy, lights and video. We’re really enjoying building the show.”
Even though he sees a mix of ages in the audience — and enjoys seeing how different ages react to their music — he says he’s surprised by the number of young kids in the crowd.
“We like to drink and have a good time, so it might not quite be appropriate for young kids, but some kids still love it,” he says of the concert experience. “They love to listen to the radio and buy our CDs, so it’s a good thing.”
The dynamic duo met at Belmont University in Nashville, where Hubbard majored in music business and Kelley majored in entertainment industry studies, which they’re putting into practice.
Hubbard “grew up riding motorcycles” instead of taking a musical route like piano or guitar lessons. He listened to a wide variety of music, from hip-hop to country and rock, and picked up a guitar in his mid-teens. What really sparked his interest, however, was becoming a worship leader around age 16.
“I felt an emotional connection with music,” he says. “It was something I really loved. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life for a career, so I went to Nashville because I like the city, I like Belmont, and it was a good opportunity to explore music and how it works. I just continued to pursue that and songwriting first, then the artist-thing came.
“It’s been a fun journey.”
The duo graduated in 2009 and embarked on their career path. Hubbard’s mom supported his decision, but “wanted to know what Plan B was.” He’s never had one. Instead, he and Kelley spent a couple years of playing wherever they could, drawing songwriting inspiration from life experiences.
“You never know where you’re going to pull inspiration from, and that’s kind of the beautiful thing about it,” he says.
A steep learning curve has come with the duo’s career trajectory.
“The biggest thing we’ve learned is just being ourselves and how important that is,” he says, “pursuing what we love and writing the music that we love, and now, using our platform to get to touch people’s lives and make people happy.
“It’s been really cool to see things grow. People start looking at you differently, and it gives you an opportunity to be good to people, love people and set a good example. We’re really loving that part of this whole thing now.”
And sorry ladies, both guys have girlfriends.
One big piece of Hubbard’s life is missing — his father died while Hubbard was in college, but he keeps his memory close in his heart.
“I think he’s in heaven, watching me, looking down,” Hubbard says. “He was a big fan of music and what I was doing and chasing my dreams. I think about him all the time and I think he’d be proud of us and where we’re at. Wish he could be here, miss him every day, but you know what? It’s part of life and you’ve gotta move on and be strong, so that’s what we do.”