By John Benson
If you’re looking for proof that Florida Georgia Line is a rising star in the country-music scene, look no further than the group’s Sunday show at Stambaugh Auditorium.
This date comes about four months after the country duo — Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard — sold out a gig at the Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown.
The Stambaugh date comes on a day off from the duo’s opening slot on Luke Bryan’s tour.
It’s been quite a year for Florida Georgia Line, which not only released its debut album, “Here’s to the Good Times,” but also watched its debut single, “Cruise,” sell more than 2 million copies. Now the act is touring its follow-up single, “Get Your Shine On.” So far, that track has sold more than 300,000 copies and is already in the top 20 on the country-radio charts.
The Vindicator talked to Kelley about the group’s sudden success, it’s unique hip-hop-meets-country sound and why the Covelli Centre is on his radar.
Q. Last time we saw you guys in our area, you were playing at The Dusty Armadillo. Any memories of the show?
A. I do remember that show. The ceiling was really low and the crowd was on fire. It was really hot and a good night.
Q. No offense, but how were you able to make the jump from a small club to a 2,400-seat theater in such a short time?
A. The power of radio and our fans, man. Our fans have kind of assembled like an army. We’re just two dudes who are lucky enough to get to do music and don’t take ourselves so seriously. We take the music seriously, but we’re just out to have a good time and work hard.
Q. Did you get a sense last year that this could happen?
A. Yeah, absolutely. Everybody felt the momentum after April when things were starting to change. It just kind of took off, and when shows were selling out really fast, you kind of start thinking the next time we’re here, we’ll probably have to be in a bigger room. We love every room we play. It’s just we want this party to get bigger and bigger, so I guess the buildings are going to get bigger.
Q. So what is it about “Cruise” that connected with so many folks across the country?
A. There ain’t nothing better than back-roading with your baby and cranking up the radio. I think everybody can kind of agree on that. It’s just a simple feel-good song. We got lucky on that one. The songwriting gods were smiling down on the day we wrote it.
Q. So far the story surrounding Florida Georgia Line is the fact you’re a hip-hop-influenced country band. A few years ago, that would have been considered an oxymoron. How are you able to make that world work?
A. Tyler and I grew up listening to mix tapes with everything from Lil Wayne to Alabama to Garth Books to Eminem. Everything was on there. And our fans are just like us. If we made those mix tapes, then they probably made those mix tapes, too. So they kind of want to hear it all. That’s definitely opened some eyes and ears, but we’re not trying to impress anybody in Nashville. We’re just out trying to build a solid fan base.
Q. If that Northeast Ohio fan base gets any bigger, next time you come through Youngstown you’ll be playing the Covelli Centre.
A. If our fans want us there, I think they’ll make it known. So fingers crossed — we’ll see.