FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE
In country music, there are the rule breakers and the rule makers – artists who defy trends to pave something new, something original, something maybe a little shocking at the time. Johnny Cash. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Alabama. Waylon Jennings. Garth Brooks. These are the forces who took the bones of an American musical legacy and burst through with their own unique voice – leaving, in their wake, the seeds of the future. And now, on the tail end of a whirlwind few years that catapulted them to the top of the charts and to the center of fans' hearts across the world, is Florida Georgia Line, claiming their spot in the grand tradition of these Music Row renegades. How'd they do it? One simple mantra, really.
"ANYTHING GOES," says the Georgia half of FGL, Tyler Hubbard. "It says it all. No boundaries, no genre, no rules." Living according to their own doctrine, in their own completely singular creative space, has become the lifeblood of Florida Georgia Line. So much so, that when it became time make the follow-up to their smash trendsetting – not to mention chart-topping, 2X Platinum debut – HERE'S TO THE GOOD TIMES, there was only one option: ANYTHING GOES.
"There's a little something for everybody in there," says Hubbard. "If that helps shape where country is heading, or breaks down walls, then great. But it's just what Florida Georgia Line has always done."
Since forming in 2010, Florida Georgia Line has taken the songwriter skills honed from their early days in Nashville and shredded them to bits, all while simultaneously using the deep roots of country music to build something new and totally thrilling. From the most raucous party moments to unexpected self-reflective odes, FGL is an unstoppable powerhouse only looking to answer to themselves, and, perhaps most importantly, their fans.
"We've always been comfortable doing something that may or may not be accepted," says Brian Kelley, the Florida side.
And ever since the two met while attending Belmont University, they've been following that credo – going from songwriting workrooms with nothing more than an acoustic guitar or two, to a headlining tour, crisscrossing the nation, collecting awards, bringing people up when they need to "Cruise," lifting them out when they're deep in the "Dirt."
Except, of course, their music wasn't just haphazardly accepted: it was embraced with open arms. Their signature anthem "Cruise" was certified 8X platinum and became the best-selling Country single ever (according to SoundScan) – and the remix with Nelly rocked both the charts and eager genre-taggers. With their Republic Nashville debut, FGL is the only artist in history to join legends Brooks & Dunn in achieving four back-to-back, multi-week #1 singles. They've taken the "anything goes" approach with them from day one – never once, however, compromising their vision.
"We've built this from the ground up," says Kelley. "That's something we never take for granted. Tyler and I are hands on with it all, from set list to email. Everything we do, we have put the FGL stamp on it. This is our love and our passion. We run it as a business...and a party."
And FGL is indeed a party. ANYTHING GOES is full of odes to the good times, from the twang-reggae "Sun Daze," to the wickedly delicious "Good Good" to the rowdy title track that's both rock and bluegrass. But that doesn't mean there aren't more serious, sincere moments: take the lead single "Dirt," for one.
"It's a little unexpected, sure," says Hubbard. "But I think we we're at a spot in our life where we wanted to show that side to people. It's how we started as songwriters. We felt it was time to release something like that." The fans agreed: it's already been certified platinum for over one million downloads sold and topped both Country radio charts to become their fifth #1 single.
It's some personal moments and milestones – marriage, engagements, loss and mourning – that spurred some of ANYTHING GOES' contemplative notes, like "Angel" or "Like You Ain't Even Gone." But it's all part of FGL's mission to show a complete package to their fans, and to be with them at every moment in their lives, from the good to the bad.
"We like to be serious, and we like to take people to church on a Wednesday night in our live set," says Hubbard. "We like to have songs that mean something, that make you feel something. And, of course, we like to have it be party."
Adds Kelley, "you can tell by listening that we felt no pressure. We wanted to push ourselves lyrically and vocally. It's very evident in the sound and the vibe. We took the confidence that country radio and the fans gave us, and made it into something that is pure FGL."
From coast to coast with national TV appearances, the FGL machine has been rolling nonstop, and sees no sign of slowing down. At the core, is the brotherhood between best friends and creative partners Hubbard and Kelley – theirs is a bond that exists past the musical realm. At the same time, they love to embrace the most thrilling minds working in Nashville today as writing partners, and recruited names like Rodney Clawson, Ross Copperman, Dallas Davidson, Chris Tompkins and Chris DeStefano to help pen the hits on ANYTHING GOES.
"The biggest thing for us was just staying in the creative zone," says Kelley. "From the best writers in town, to a producer (longtime collaborator Joey Moi) who is like a wizard on steroids. Nothing was stopping us. This record is a representation of exactly where we are in our lives. Want to know me and Tyler more? Just listen to ANYTHING GOES."
And, of course, they kept those country music renegades – Cash, Alabama, Skynyrd, Jennings – top of mind. But like those brilliant creative outlaws before them, the best way they could pay tribute to the rule-breaking tradition is just by being completely themselves.
"When you get in a creative space and you know your influences, that's when you let your natural talent come out in ways that are organic," says Kelley. "That's when the freshness comes."
Fresh, new: that's ANYTHING GOES – a new force for Nashville, a new life for country music. And a duo that is totally unafraid to take risks and innovate, every step of the way.
"There are party moments, there's loss, there are odes to amazing times on ANYTHING GOES," Kelley adds. "Just lots of real life. Now THAT is country music."