Tyler Hubbard will release his debut solo album in January.
Last month, Florida Georgia Line played their final show as an award-winning duo. Closing their set with an emotional rendition of their 2012 breakout hit Cruise, members Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley hugged before exiting the stage on opposite sides. Over the course of a decade, the duo released five albums, accrued over five million sales, and achieved 17 number one singles on country radio.
While it seems like the end of an era and there’s always a possibility of reunion, for now, the duo is happily working on their own solo careers.
Kelley released his album Sunshine State Of Mind in 2021, formed his own label called Nashville South Records and created the country musical May We All, which is expected to be extended into a movie and concept album. Hubbard previously worked with Tim McGraw on the hit single, Undivided, as well as on My Way with breakout TikTok star Lathan Warlick, and has an 18-track album slated for release on January 27, 2023.
But fans didn’t have to wait that long to hear more new music – as well as his current single 5 Foot 9 and tracks 35’s and Way Home, Hubbard recently dropped a six track EP titled Dancin’ In The Country, giving fans an overview of new music in advance of him joining Keith Urban on the US leg his Speed of Now tour (September through November).
Hubbard says, “I didn't want to wait till January to get any music out, so putting out a project with five new songs for the fans – songs they can get to know and sing them with me on the Keith Urban tour. I'm excited about it, but I just ultimately didn't want the fans to have to wait.”
“I also think it's good to let people digest songs for a little while before you put too much on their plate. 18 songs is quite a bit and I didn't want to give it all at one time,” he adds. “I feel like being able to digest these songs and get to know me with each song was important as well. A lot of thought went in behind this project – all very strategic – so, it's something I'm really proud of.”
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Apart from Hubbard’s collaborations with McGraw and Warlick, Kelley was the first of the duo to get solo music out. Referring to himself as a “Beach Cowboy”, he released his EP, BK’s Wave Park in April and his debut album on June 25. The beach-inspired project saw him truly embrace his Floridian roots in the 17-track collection.
I ask Hubbard if he made a conscious decision to differentiate himself from the music styles of Kelley and of Florida Georgia Line, who are credited in part for helping to pioneer the “bro-country” style of country music, which incorporates elements from rock and hip-hop and tends to cover subject matter such as partying, drinking, driving trucks and sexual attraction.
“I wanted to be authentic and true to who I am and part of that is FGL. I can't change that, and I don't want to change that. I'm proud of FGL’s music and sound and I take that with me in my voice,” Hubbard says. “But at the same time, I did want to differentiate this music and make sure that it stood on its own.”
“BK put out his album last year, so I definitely knew [my music] wasn't in the same ballpark of what he was wanting to do. I didn't overthink it too much. I think we're just different in that way,” he says. “But like I said, I already had context and knew what BK was putting out, and it was sonically and lyrically quite different than what I was doing so it was special in that way. Honestly, it's cool because now there's double the music for the fans.”
“Mine's less beach, if you want to call it that. Mine has a little bit more country feel to it, I would say. Hopefully it’s relatable. I’m excited and proud to continue to elevate and always get better, that’s kind of the M.O.”
Hubbard grew up in Georgia and spent his free time making music with his friends and learning to play guitar. He moved to Nashville after high school and was introduced to Kelley at Belmont University by a mutual friend in 2007. The pair soon began writing songs together and selling out shows at local venues. Three years later, they recorded their first EP, Anything Like Me and followed up with their second, It’z Just What We Do in 2012.
Having been friends for fifteen years and playing music together for thirteen, Hubbard admits he didn’t send any of his solo music to Kelley before release, nor vice versa, but says there’s no bad blood between them – despite the rumours that have surrounded the duo ever since their political feud during the 2020 election.
“I actually don't send [my music] to too many people,” he concedes. “We are giving each other space to create our individual music and hear it as it comes out. He put out an album and didn't send any of it to me, so that was sort of the, I guess, just kind of the expectation. That's where we're at. But I mean, there's no animosity there. I think we're just really enjoying having space and being able to create on our own.”
“I'm happy for him that he's getting to do his solo thing and create music that makes him happy. And that's what I've done is create music that makes me happy,” he adds.
The process of creating his own music, however, while exciting, was also a vulnerable and personal experience and forced Hubbard to reflect on who he is, not only as an artist but also as a person with a story to tell.
Hubbard says, “It has forced me to explore and get to know me a little bit more as I really dive in and think about what I want my music to say, how I want to tell my story and let the fans in on who I am on a more personal level. It's been fun to venture and get out of my comfort zone a little bit and do this solo thing.”
“It's been important for us to have our individuality, and to be able to tell our own personal story outside of the band and outside of the brand,” he adds. “I have an incredible team who helps me strategize and think through everything, every decision made now, which has been really cool. Being a solo artist was relatively unexpected, but I'm loving it. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
Hubbard is currently on Urban’s Speed Of Now tour with special guest, Ingrid Andress through to November 5, before Urban returns to Australia in December. He is keen to play his solo music on the road, like 5 Foot 9 which peaked at #32 on the Countrytown Hot 50 Country Airplay Chart, but he also wants to embrace his Florida Georgia Line roots and play some of his favourites tracks across their repertoire.
“I play some FGL songs as well – songs I'm really proud of, songs that I've written and songs that are part of my story. I wouldn't be able to do this solo thing if it wasn't for FGL. It's a big part of my life and the fans’ life.”
For now, though, Hubbard is just happy doing his own thing.
“I actually get referred to as Florida Georgia Line a lot as a person,” he laughs. “I'm like, ‘Well, I'm Tyler. Thank you, good to meet you.’ But the more that I hear, ‘Hey, are you Tyler Hubbard?,’ there’s something about that I do enjoy.”
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