Bro-country’s premier duo finds their musical sweet spot naturally

Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard—the party-starting dudes behind the country juggernaut Florida Georgia Line—are taking a breather to look back on the monster year they’ve had. Their new album Anything Goes topped the charts—and their latest No.1 hit “Sun Daze” caps a series of chart-scorching hits. What’s more, their new tour landed a Top 3 spot on Billboard’s Hot Tours.

It’s proof that “bro-country”—their Jack-and-Coke combo of poppy hard rock and Nashville twang—is no passing fad. The two first met at Nashville’s Belmont University in 2008, but they didn’t release their first EP Anything Like Me until 2010. In the next couple of years they landed a publishing deal and a recording contract, then released another EP, followed by their debut record, Here’s to the Good Times.

From the beginning, Kelley and Hubbard presented themselves as gracious and easygoing—regular guys making feel-good music for folks just like them. Although some critics scoff at their lyrics about beer, Bacardi and pickups, the duo makes no apologies. As their massive popularity attests, the formula ain’t broke, so while recording Anything Goes, they didn’t necessarily try to fix anything.

“The thing for us, most importantly, was putting out music that’s exactly who we are, where we are and where we want to be,” says Kelley. “We spent the last couple of years writing and living out the songs that were on our last record, and we met a lot of amazing people and amazing fans. We heard a lot of their stories. We got to live out on the road and experience things not many people experience.”

That perspective found its way onto the new album, about half of which Florida native Kelley and Georgia native Hubbard co-wrote. Citing tunes like “Confession” and the heart-tugging hit “Dirt,” Kelley insists the band has matured. “Almost half the record is a little different for us,” he says. “It’s sonically in that groove of Florida Georgia Line, but lyrically it’s deeper, and the storytelling is a little better.”

One notable difference is the absence of special guests. The deluxe edition of Here’s to the Good Times featured a remix of the single “Cruise” that, thanks to a guest verse from rapper Nelly, reached the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. As easy as it would have been to grab another hip-hop artist and edge even closer to the mainstream, FGL won’t be following Taylor Swift into the straight-up pop realm.

“We’re right in the middle of country,” says Kelley. “That’s who we are. The thing for us is to make great music—music that’s real to us, real to other people.”

—Kenneth Partridge

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