Our series “How I became a …” digs into the stories of accomplished and influential people, finding out how they got to where they are in their careers.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
When they met as students at Belmont University, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley wrote songs in between classes and played in local clubs at night, unaware of the superstardom that awaited them as Florida Georgia Line.
Today, after stadium tours, over 7.8 billion streams, a Grammy nomination, 16 No. 1 hits, and 106 cumulative weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, it’s safe to say Florida Georgia Line isn’t slowing down any time soon.
With the recent release of their fourth studio album, “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country,” along with their business ventures, the country pair has cemented their spot as one of the biggest tastemakers in country music.
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USA TODAY caught up with the duo to talk about everything from balancing career and family to chasing dreams and embracing the journey that has gotten them to where they are today.
Question: What does a typical day look like?
Hubbard: I like to wake up, spend a little time in prayer, and (I) might even do a little meditation. Then, I like to hit the gym, have a good breakfast, and if I could just plan the perfect day, I’d probably go to the studio and write until maybe 3 or 4 p.m. Then I’d go home, go for a walk with my family, and I might have a couple friends over, have dinner at the house, maybe build a little fire and hang out, go to bed early and do it all over again. Our days change so often that we don’t know where we’re at or what’s going on, but that would be a typical off day and somewhat of a workday.
Kelley: I wake up pretty early, 6:30-6:45 a.m., make some coffee, hang out with and feed the dogs, and spend time with myself, whether in meditation or listening to some podcasts – kind of taking some personal time. I’ll probably start moving around, eating some breakfast – a little stretching, maybe some yoga, either a bike ride or a walk with the dogs and my wife, Brittney.
It honestly depends where we’re at, in Florida or Nashville or on the road. I’ll either be writing that day or I’ll be making a bunch of calls, working on Old Camp (Florida Georgia Line’s whiskey brand) or some other businesses, or helping out with Tribe Kelley (Kelley and his wife’s clothing brand), talking on a bunch of phone calls. Usually I try to schedule writing until 3 or 4 p.m., and we’ll head home probably 4:30 or 5 p.m. and go hang with the dogs. Ideally we love to cook at the house, sometimes we’ll go out and enjoy the food in Florida or, if we’re in Nashville, we love eating out there, too. On the non-tour nights, you can find us on the couch and in bed by 8:30 or 9 p.m., hopefully. That’s ideal.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a musician?
Hubbard: It’s really cool that we get to travel and that we get to meet so many great people. It’s cool that we get to create music that will be here forever, to connect and change people’s lives.
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Q: When you look back on Florida Georgia Line’s journey, what have been the highs and lows?
Kelley: The low point – and it wasn’t low, because I think we’ve enjoyed every step of the way, truly and honestly – was, a lot of wondering. (Before we had our record deal), it wasn’t a low point, it was a launching pad, because we knew we just wanted to go make fans. We had this sound in our head of what we wanted to be, and this vision of what we could be, and we just needed the right team.
The high point is filling out stadiums, getting married, and for Tyler, obviously having a kid. The whole ride has been a blast. It’s been a big, giant learning experience as well. We run this thing as a business, and the way we pick songs, the way we record, the way we release things, the way we tour – it’s all methodical. It’s very intentional. We’re not just putting stuff out just to throw it out there. We’re doing it for a reason, and so it’s been fun every step of the way. I couldn’t say there’s a low point because it’s all been fun. We’ve been very blessed with the way radio has taken us under their arms, the fans have really, really hung on to us. We’ve got a bunch of lifers out there and with every song we release it feels like we’re gaining more fans, so that’s even more inspiring as well.
We’re in a place of gratitude and thankfulness, and there’s nothing cooler than hearing our songs on the radio, still, to this day. Even some of our older stuff. It’s very special, so it’s just that time when you want to soak it up, you want to savor it and realize just how special this is, because it doesn’t happen to everybody. No low points – it’s all a launching pad, it’s all good. I think that’s a lesson.
Q: How do you balance family life with a crazy schedule?
Hubbard: It’s just critical that you make time for family. A lot of the times, we’ll bring our whole family wherever we go. We’ll bring Olivia (Hubbard’s daughter), Harley the dog, and we’ll bring a nanny to help us out. I do feel like it’s also vitally important to have a really good team around you – a lot of people that you trust, a lot of people that think the way that you think and get your vision and kind of help you maintain the speed of life and also relax and be calm at times, as well, and keep a good balance. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be balance. We like to work really hard when we’re working, but then we like to recharge well after that. It’s just critical that we spend time with our family and invest in those relationships.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a musician?
Hubbard: If you want to do music, you’ve got to move to Nashville. That’s always my first piece of advice – move to Nashville. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but follow your heart and let your heart lead you. Pursue your passion, pursue your music, do it the way you want to do it, and it will work out. Do whatever makes you happy. But, I think a key component to that on a successful commercial level is being in Nashville around so many amazing artists, songwriters and people that can help you pursue your dreams.
Kelley: Be yourself. Don’t chase anything you hear on the radio. Just follow your heart, find your own voice and don’t take no for an answer – just, on to the next door.
What’s your coffee order?
- Hubbard: An Americano, black, or an almond milk latte.
- Kelley: Medium hot Americano with almond milk and a dash of hazelnut.
What’s your favorite song?
- Hubbard: I like the song by HARDY, “SIGNED, SOBER YOU.”
- Kelley: I’m gonna go with “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)” by John Michael Montgomery.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
- Hubbard: For me, it’s probably having a kid. I mean, I didn’t have the kid… But once my wife had the kid, it was pretty amazing.
- Kelley: Everything. I mean, just the whole journey. It’s led me to meeting my wife, it’s led to playing music with Tyler, to writing songs and just saying yes to the dream.