Success that feels just right

Chart-topping Florida Georgia Line bringing its sound to AVA Sunday
2013-07-25T00:00:00Z 2013-07-25T21:05:08Z Success that feels just rightCathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Some artists wait years before they see their name in the No. 1 spot on Billboard or atop the marquee.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley did it in a year.

Last July the duo, Florida Georgia Line, signed a Nashville label deal. Last week, almost exactly a year later, they announced plans for their first headlining tour.

Too fast?

"Naw, we love it," Hubbard said during a phone interview last week from a tour stop with Luke Bryan in Delaware. "We've been working hard for the last year. It's definitely taken some getting used to as far as adjusting and stuff like that, but we're loving every minute of it."

The pair owe their seemingly overnight success to "Cruise," their chart-topping, genre-bending song that took them from virtual unknowns to bona fide stars in a matter of months.

"We knew we had something special. We didn't know how big it was going to be, but it was just one of those days in the writing room where everything was going good," Hubbard recalled of penning "Cruise," the pair's debut single that has been sitting atop Billboard's country singles charts since last spring and flirting with the Top 5 of Billboard's pop charts. "It felt like it just fell out of the sky. It was one of those good days."

FGL included "Cruise" and the follow-up single "Shine On" on their second self-produced EP "It'z Just What We Do," released in May 2012. The EP sold 100,000 copies, which brought Republic Nashville, the Big Machine imprint, to their door in July 2012.

"Labels see numbers like that, they want to come running after you," said Hubbard.

The song, which peaked at No. 1 in the weeks after it was released in December, got a second wind last spring, when hip-hop star Nelly, a Big Machine label mate, offered a pop remix.

"We jumped at the opportunity," Hubbard said. "We've been big fans of Nelly for years and years. He did a great job on it. We wouldn't want anybody else on it."

The hip-hop version, with its boundless energy and Nelly's solid raps, pairs nicely with the more acoustically inclined country version. Ask Hubbard which one he prefers and he is unapologetic in his choice: hands down, the remix.

"I just like it because it's fresh and different," he explained. "We played that thing probably a hundred times when we got it back on the bus."

Of course, it's going to be hard to replicate Nelly's part in FGL's live show, which pulls into Casino del Sol's AVA on Sunday.

"Sometimes I do the rap version before we get into the song, but we do the country version of the song when we're doing it by ourselves," he said.

Hubbard said he hopes the Nelly collaboration is the first of many with artists in other genres.

"The box is definitely open, and people are less scared to get outside the country music box a little bit," said Hubbard, whose musical influences and those of his duo partner run the gamut of rock, pop, gospel and country.

"It's kind of going in a cool direction. I think it's great, and I think it's attracting a lot more fans and more people (to country music). Country is becoming the biggest genre in music," he said.

The pair, both in their mid-20s, met at Belmont University in Nashville and have been performing together since 2010.

"Working with other artists is great, and I think artists should do it more," he added. "It's cool to get out of the box. … We're enjoying it."

If you go

• What: Florida Georgia Line in concert.

• When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Casino del Sol's AVA, 5655 W. Valencia Road.

• Tickets: Only lawn seats ($15) are available at tickets.solcasinos.com

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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