By John Benson
There’s something odd about the name of one of the fastest-rising country bands Florida Georgia Line.
Music aside – and really, the duo is something special – the moniker is tantamount to some local Northeast Ohio group calling itself Ohio-PA Line.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our name,” said Brian Kelley, calling from Miami. “It brings it all together. I’m from Florida, Tyler [Hubbard] is from Georgia, and the line is where we meet. It’s not so much a line on the map but kind of where we come together creatively as friends and as a duo. So it represents who we are completely.”
As crazy as it has been, you get a sense that the guys in Florida Georgia Line are just, well, normal dudes.
In addition to the fact the band’s promotional material lists Kelley as having only three tattoos to Hubbard’s seven (why this is noted remains unknown), the Florida native naturally expresses loyalty to the Florida State Seminoles.
But what happens when FSU plays the Georgia Bulldogs, which is Hubbard’s team?
“Fist fights,” said Kelley, laughing. “At that point, we stay out of each other’s way. We have a 24-hour, no-eye-contact rule.”
Luckily that doesn’t happen too often for the group, which was formed in 2009 and has been on one wild ride over the last year.
“There’s been so much stuff that’s happened,” Kelley said. “From selling out shows to selling 500,000 copies of our single ‘Cruise’ and having our record in the top 10 at iTunes. Then there was playing the Opry and Ryman, signing a record deal and going on tour with Jake Owen. It’s been a pretty crazy year all the way around.”
What the group represents is a breath of fresh air in the country music scene. Look no further than Kelley’s promotional material, which lists rapper Wiz Khalifa as one of the artists to which he’s currently listening. He said his favorite tracks from the Pittsburgh MC are “This Plane” and “California.”
Sure, the hip-hop-meets-country motif has been slowly gaining steam in recent years (Colt Ford and Bubba Sparxx, we’re looking your way), but it appears that Florida Georgia Line could be the act that takes it mainstream.
For proof, give the title track of the twosome’s most recently released EP “It’z Just What We Do” a spin and you’ll hear a hip-hop-influenced lyrical display on top of a country aesthetic.
Up next for the act is the Dec. 4 release of its full-length debut, which is actually “It’z Just What We Do” with five new songs. Fans attending the band’s sold-out Saturday show at the Dusty Armadillo will get a chance to hear some new tunes, including the group favorite “Stay” and the mid- tempo “Here’s to the Good Time.”
“Man, I think we just kind of made it our goal from day one for Florida Georgia Line to kind of have our own brand of country music and not put it into this kind of country,” Kelley said.
“Just really push yourselves to create something fresh and something new and something that our fans are going to love for years and years to come, whether it’s an up-tempo rocking song or a ballad. We want people to be bobbing their heads and having a good time with it.”