Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line are well aware of the arena-filling popularity they have reached in a short time.
But every once in awhile something tangible happens to hammer home just how much has happened since the hit single “Cruise” started rocketing the duo to the front ranks of the country music scene in 2012.
One such moment occurred when Kelley and Hubbard arrived at production rehearsals for their current “Dig Your Roots” tour, and for the first time they saw the stage set they’ll use.
“We showed up and it was like, ‘Man, I guess we are kind of in the big leagues,’ ” Kelley said in a recent phone interview. “This thing is huge. I mean, the production’s massive. So it’s something that the fans, and I say that because it’s all for the fans. It’s not just for us to toot our own horn. We create this because we love our fans and we want to give them something they’ve never seen before.”
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Country music hasn’t seen many duos catch fire the way Florida Georgia Line has since its major label debut album, “Here’s to the Good Times,” arrived in 2012.
That album’s first single, the aforementioned “Cruise,” broke the record for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the “Billboard” Hot Country Songs chart and has gone on to become the best selling digital single of all time, with more than 10 million downloads. The duo got a second chart-topper out of that 2012 album with “Stay,” before “This Is How We Roll,” added a third No. 1 single to the their resume.
The second album, 2014’s “Anything Goes,” was another massive hit, debuting at No. 1 on “Billboard’s” all-genre album chart. It notched four No. 1 singles in “Sun Daze,” “Dirt,” “Confession” and “Sippin’ on Fire.” The duo’s third album, “Dig Your Roots,” has added two more No. 1 Country Airplay singles to the Florida Georgia Line catalog — “H.O.L.Y.” and “May We All.”
The impact of Florida Georgia Line, though, extends well beyond sales numbers and chart positions. The duo is widely considered primary instigators of the so-called “bro-country” movement, with a sound that mixes large doses of rock and hip-hop with country and lyrics about partying, girls and sharing the good times with buddies, with plenty of references to trucks, back roads and other standard country music settings.
For his part, Kelley is weary of seeing music categorized and thinks people should just let the music of any artist speak for itself.
“I think it’s time to get over this bro-country and all this labeling of the music, man,” he said. “The artists put out music that they love. Let’s enjoy it, man. I think the labeling of music is old news, man. For me, it’s tough to label good music. If I’m listening to something, I don’t care about labeling it. I like it or I don’t like it. Everybody has a magnifying glass on every song, and it’s getting a little old, man. ... We live in a (country music) format where all things are possible, so let’s be positive and encourage that.”
Kelley thinks that “Dig Your Roots,” shows some new dimensions that signal a bit of a shift in the duo’s music — particularly when it comes to lyrics.
“I think this album is deeper. I think it’s more spiritual. I think it’s more personal. I think it’s more mature,” Kelley said. “There are some more love songs. There are some spiritual songs, some songs that make you think, make you want to call home and tell your dad you love him.”
Kelley also feels the group’s sound has taken a turn that fits with the intentions of the lyrics, with a little less production applied to the songs to help spotlight the honesty and emotion of lyrics.
“I think (on) some songs, less is more,” he said. “I think on production, we’re conscious of our sound and aware of the records and the singles that we’ve put out. It’s very intentional. So it was time to take a turn and make this third album and first single (the song “H.O.L.Y.,” which is a love song the duo has recorded) move, and at the same time, make it genuine and make it real.”
Kelley said fans can expect to hear a sampling of the latest album on tour this spring, as well as plenty of familiar hits. The show itself, he said, will have plenty of visual production to go with the music.
“I don’t want to ruin it for anybody, but it’s just bigger and better,” Kelley said of the show. “We put a lot of time in making it create a couple of different vibes. So we’re taking the fans on a journey of how we grew up and what we like, how we like to party, how we like to feel. So we’re super excited. We have some things we’ve never had before.”
Florida Georgia Line will perform at the Bryce Jordan Center on March 25 with special guests Dustin Lynch and Chris Lane.
IF YOU GO
- What: Florida Georgia Line
- When: 7 p.m. March 25
- Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park
- Info: www.bjc.psu.edu