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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 5 years ago

Florida Georgia Line: Brian Kelley goes national

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Did you know that Mayor Ed Kelley’s son is one half of a platinum-selling country music duo? Florida Georgia Line was featured last month on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR

Between seasons playing Ormond Beach Wave baseball as a kid, Brian Kelley joined the Seabreeze High School band, where he took up keyboard. That’s when he realized he had a knack for this music thing.

It wasn’t until he moved on to Tennessee's Belmont University, though, and met Tyler Hubbard, that his “passion for melodies and lyrics” got serious.

Today, the duo, playing as the Florida Georgia Line, has become the foremost up-and-coming band in all of country music, selling more than 1 million digital copies of its No. 1 country single, “Cruise,” since its release last May. Their debut album, “Here’s to the Good Times,” was also the highest selling album from a new country artist for 2012, selling almost 63,000 copies in its first week.

Kelley and Hubbard’s popularity earned them a spot playing in the sold-out Country Music Tour with Jake Owen, as well. And they’re now on the road as part of Luke Bryan’s Dirt Road Diaries Tour, and will play in Orlando Jan. 26.

“Music was kind of it for (us),” Kelley said. “We both just wanted to write songs, and there’s nothing really better than playing the music you’ve written, and playing for people.”

The two were so committed to playing music for a living that, after graduation, they decided to set out with their guitars and play whatever stages they could book, whenever they could book them. At the time, they say, it was more important to gain fans than the attention of a recording studio.

And that theory paid off.

Before even releasing a full-length album, country star Jason Aldean covered a song from their 2010 independently released EP, “Anything Like Me,” on his gold-selling “Night Train” record.

“We just made a decision one day to give it a go,” Kelley said. But giving it a go had its setbacks.

For about two years, Hubbard and Kelley worked odd jobs during the day while playing gigs at night. They painted cars, put up bathroom stalls, did construction work, cut grass.

For about two years, they struggled.

“(But) we kind of knew we had something special,” Hubbard said. “We just stuck with our gut feeling.”

And, looking back, they feel like that work helped mold them into who they are today.

“Every job we did was pretty rough — manual labor and that sort of thing,” Kelley said. “But we didn’t really have an option. We were on the grind, man.”

But even now, after playing sold-out concerts and appearing on national television, not much feels all that different to the two singer-songwriters.

“It still just kind of feels like Tyler and me doing music,” Kelley said, “but it’s on a bigger scale. It’s just everything we dreamed of, and we’re not going to stop until we have a stadium of people singing back at us.”

Kelley says it’s always been a dream to play the band shell at Ocean Walk, in Daytona Beach, or in the Ocean Center. And as his fame grows, that goal is becoming more and more of a possibility. Currently, the two are planning a headliner tour for this fall, during which Kelley hopes to make a stop back home.

“I think the cool thing about our music,” he added,” is there’s a lot of our lives in every song. ... But you don’t have to be from a certain place to get it and understand it.”

For his family and his friends back in Ormond Beach, though, watching and listening as he and Hubbard become stars, it definitely helps.

Achievements

Since independently releasing their debut EP in December 2010, Florida Georgia Line has made a massive splash on the country music scene. Some of the band’s achievements are listed as follows:

  • Their debut LP, “Here’s to the Good Times,” which released last December, entered the sales charts at No. 3 on the Billboard Country Albums list, and No. 10 on the Billboard Top 200.
  • Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” FOX & Friends” and the 2012 American Music Awards.
  • Their debut single, “Cruise,” has sold more than 1 million digital copies, taking the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Country Singles Chart and entering the Top 10 all-genre iTunes Singles Chart. It is also certified platinum and was the fastest-rising debut single for a new duo since Brooks & Dunn reached the Top 10 with “Brand New Man,” in 1991.
  • Their follow-up single, “Get Your Shine On,” has sold nearly 150,000 copies and has made it onto country radio’s Top 40.

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