Niagara Gazette

September 5, 2013

Catching up with rising country music stars Florida Georgia Line

By Thom Jennings
Night & Day

Night & Day — Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard were college friends studying at Belmont University in Nashville for careers in the music industry. In between classes, they wrote songs, and on the weekends they would perform in local clubs.

With Kelley from Florida, and Hubbard from Georgia, the group is aptly named Florida Georgia Line, and they are one of the hottest country music acts around. As a testament to that, their show at Braun’s Concert Cove tonight in Akron sold out in days. It is the hottest ticket in town.

On the strength of their debut single, “Cruise,” which has sold over 5 million units, the band landed a coveted spot opening up for another country superstar, Taylor Swift.

During a recent phone interview, I asked FGL’s Brian Kelley to talk about the experience.

“We did 11 dates with Taylor Swift earlier this year and we caught every one of her performances. We learned so much from her, she is a pro and that is why she plays to thousands and thousands of people every night.”

As FGL is poised to take their show to the next level as a major headliner, they have been taking mental notes of what other country superstars do.

“We are always dreaming and always wanting to create. Luke Bryan has an amazing show as well and we soaked up a lot of that as well,” Kelley said.

In just a few short years, the duo, sometimes compared to Big & Rich or Brooks & Dunn, has gone from playing small clubs to award winning country music stars.

“We’ve been touring since 2009, and since then a lot has changed. We just can’t talk enough about our fans and country music radio, they have been amazing. Everything that has happened just blows our minds. We started writing songs on the tailgate of Tyler’s truck, and now we have CMT awards and ACM awards, and now the amazing thing is that we feel like a part of the country music community.”

The country music community has embraced the young duo, and Kelley credits a few artists whose names you might recognize, for their help.

“Jake Owen was the first big believer in us. He gave us a lot of support and took us out on tour. Just as a buddy he is an amazing guy. He has a great family and the way he manages his business, well he is a giver, and that is something we want to be. Also Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan and Colt Ford, who we will be taking out on the road with us this fall.”

The band’s major label album debut, “It’z Just What We Do,” hit number 1 on the Billboard Country Album Chart this year. The album was produced by Joey Moi, who has worked with Nickleback and Jake Owen.

“It was a dream come true to work with Joey Moi and record an album in Nashville with a recording contract. It was awesome and we put everything we had into that album. We never settled and we fought for every song. Sometimes we fought for days over a single word, but Joey always said that better is better.”

Even though the band has a hit album, Brian Kelley says he and Tyler are still always looking for inspiration and new song ideas.

“We’ve been writing new stuff on the bus, we are always creating. The process is the same in the sense you never know where the song is coming from. We always have our phone or something close by in case a melody or lyric strikes us. We are always pushing to create and stay in that creative mindset.”

Next time they come around remember to get your tickets early, and if you are lucky enough to be attending tonight’s show, it will likely be the last time you can catch this country duo in a small venue.

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day