Two guys -- one from Florida, one from Georgia -- have changed the way people feel about country music with their record-breaking crossover song, "Cruise." The song not only topped the Country Music charts, but a version featuring Nelly nabbed the number four spot on Billboard's Hot 100.
The two dudes we're talking about, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, make up the band Florida Georgia Line. The pair recently took home the title of Vocal Duo of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards, altering industry perceptions of country music. With tracks like "Get Your Shine On," "Round Here," "Stay" and "This Is How We Roll," Kelley and Hubbard have shifted the focus to be on their songs, rather than the music genre they're a part of.
Not to mention the guys have huge and humble hearts: They're currently the face of this year's Outnumber Hunger campaign, which brings meals to people and families in need in local communities with the help of Feeding America, Big Machine Label Group and General Mills.
HuffPost Entertainment had the chance to discuss the success of Florida Georgia Line with Brian Kelley at the Outnumber Hunger lunch event at Hill Country Barbecue Market in New York City on April 30. (Sadly, his partner Hubbard was suffering from the flu, but managed to get up on stage and perform a few songs for a good cause.)
I heard Tyler isn’t feeling too well …
I've never seen him this sick before.
He killed it on stage just now though.
Yeah, he did good at "The View" today, too, even though he was so sick. I have experienced that -- more so alcohol-related -- luckily thats not the issue with Tyler.
You guys have changed the way people view country music with your hit “Cruise.” How does that make you feel?
It's crazy to be on this ride that we've been on and that we're currently on. We just honestly wanted to write songs and never knew how big it could be. Changing country music history, it's very, very humbling. We could talk about Florida Georgia Line all day, but the coolest thing for Tyler and I is that country music in general is on fire and there are so many other great artists that I think we've all beat down a big ole door for -- just like Jason Aldean has done and Alabama did. For us, it's just humbling to be with a great mix of artists and be on the radio ... its the coolest thing in the world.
You’ve collaborated with Nelly and Luke Bryan, as well as some others. Who do you want to work with in the future? Maybe Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift?
No, not Miley. [Laughs] You never know. I know Taylor’s got an album coming out pretty soon and she’d be amazing to collaborate with. She already has some really good collaborations, so you can’t go wrong with her. For us, country wise, Ronnie Dunn and Garth Brooks would be at the top of our list, Drake, Rihanna, Wiz Khalifa outside of that would probably be fun.
You’re touring with Jason Aldean now. Do you guys ever have any jam sessions?
Yeah a little bit. He actually cut one of our songs we wrote called “Burning It Down” and he named the tour after the song. So maybe that will be a single, maybe not, but having a song on his record is a dream come true as songwriters. And he’s an incredible guy, Jason. He’s badass.
What’s it like being in the tight-knit country community? Taylor Swift's dancing to your songs, Jake Owen's supporting you ... It must be great to have other artists getting your music out there.
It's cool because for so long it didn't seem like anybody was rooting for us, but now it’s pretty crazy. I mean, Jake Owen has been extremely instrumental in getting us to where we are today. He took us on tour, got us more Twitter followers ... he’s been everything for us and just a great friend, great person. That's what country music is all about -- having that support, that brotherhood, that family kind of thing going on. We heard about that and when we got into the mix, it’s been nothing but that. It's cool to get in touch with people through emails and just have that encouragement. That’s something for us to carry on to help out younger artists and be encouraging and as open and cool as we can. We’re the luckiest guys in the world to be on this ride.
To win Vocal Duo of the Year at the ACMs must have been really exciting for you.
It felt like the past five years kind of flashed before our eyes. You're walking up and you're seeing Hotel Indigo, your seeing the roads of Nashville, riding around in our Tahoe, just all these things kind of coming together. Again, very surreal and very humbling. The awards are just a cherry on top for us and when we’re in the studio we’re not thinking about the awards, we’re just trying to get on country radio.
And what’s next for you guys, do you have a new album coming out?
Album two, yeah! Rocking out! We have seven or eight songs getting closer to being done and obviously we’ll do a couple more. We’re touring with Nelly doing baseball parks with him for “This Is How We Roll" Summer Series. We did some live shows and award shows with him and he and his crew are just such amazing people to work with.
Yeah, how do you guys mesh?
It’s like we all went to middle school together, it’s that kind of connection. And now we’re going on tour together and we’ll see how it goes. So we’re excited. And Chris Lane, our new buddy who’s got some music coming out here shortly, is an incredible performer and singer. Him and his band have been working with us for a while, so he'll be on tour too.
What would you say to all those people who haven’t given country music a shot?
For some people, the phrase "country music" can be a bad thing because they don’t know about it. They’ve been listening to one type of music. You know, it’s not what it used to be and that’s not a bad thing. Music is evolving, no matter the genre. So, I would say no matter whether it’s country music or pop or rap, there’s a lot of great music out there currently, so be open-minded and give it a chance. Crank our music up a little bit and it might blow your speakers out! But no, we love our fans and encourage everybody to be lovers of music, not haters.
Florida Georgia Line is currently touring with Jason Aldean, and will tour with Nelly and Chris Lane this summer.