Tyler Hubbard stormed into a Brazilian steakhouse inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun, Mexico, plopped himself down at a dinner table, and tried to act sober TEN YEARS AGO THIS WEEK. It was a failure. I was there to interview Hubbard and Florida Georgia Line bandmate Brian Kelley for Country Weekly magazine (RIP).
Still, the singer, who was only 25 then, was unprepared for the interview due to a long day of filming for “Get Your Shine On,” which Hubbard claims were FGL’s most expensive music video ever. He was escorted out of the room, made to eat, and ordered to take a walk around the grounds by his handlers. Hubbard had to perform Florida Georgia Line’s set for hotel VIPs at a seaside concert in a few hours. He did, somehow.
The show was successfully staged that evening. Someone handed me a roll or piece of bread and instructed me to walk the resort three times before returning. Am I that twisted up right now? I recalled thinking. Hubbard claims this day. At the time, I guess, I liked to take on challenges. On this January morning in Nashville, the Hubbard sitting across from me is very different from the one.
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Hubbard, now 35 and wearing a blaze-orange Filson hat and a camouflage sweater, has clear eyes and speaks slowly and thoughtfully. He also has a solo career, and last week he released his self-titled debut album, capping off his tenure with Florida Georgia Line and presenting himself to country music fans.
Hubbard and Kelley performed their last show as Florida Georgia Line in August on the unlucky stage of the Minnesota State Fair. FGL, the sleeveless “Bro Country” era kings with massive radio songs like “Cruise,” “Round Here,” and “Sun Daze,” spent the majority of the previous two years pretending their breakup wasn’t happening as they limped toward the inevitable.
Hubbard and Kelley were the subjects of conflict rumors, much of which were said to be the result of political disagreements and social media disputes. Hubbard acknowledges that those conditions may have contributed to the FGL dissolution. Still, he ultimately attributes the divorce to a problem that has plagued bands for ages: dreams for a solo career.
According to Hubbard, “I’d be naive to claim it had nothing to do with differences of opinion, disparities in geographic location, or anything related to social media, but the decision would have been the same, regardless.” “BK approached me and explained what she was doing.
He begged for my help when he decided to go alone. I promised BK that after you take the necessary steps to ensure your happiness, I’ll figure out what I’m doing. But if we were going to do solo stuff, I wasn’t eager to keep making FGL recordings and sign another FGL deal. I lacked the resources for both.
Kelley’s decision to pursue a solo career had already set the stage for Florida Georgia Line‘s amicable breakup. As he did with “Undivided,” the song about unity he composed for Tim McGraw and sang on President Biden’s inauguration TV special, Hubbard initially planned to concentrate on writing and perhaps “jump on a song” as a featured artist.
But the choice to conceal FGL’s approaching separation rubbed him the wrong way and contributed to the gossipy turmoil that dominated the couple’s last act. Hubbard shifts in his seat and adds, “Here’s the terrible part.” We decided not to overshare and not to divulge anything since it was [Kelley] who started it, and he didn’t want to be overly upfront with the fans about what was going on because it would have meant [the breakup] was happening.
It wasn’t straightforward to keep quiet since I didn’t feel it was my tale to share. However, that encouraged everyone to develop their own stories. It was simple to blame politics because “our wives aren’t getting along” or unfollow in our divisive culture. However, do you believe that a single Instagram post will cause our entire organization to fail?
Hubbard claims that he eventually experienced the same urge for a solo career as his former bandmate and began the process of self-reinvention. He took the stage at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena to kick off Keith Urban’s The Speed of Now Tour less than a month after Florida Georgia Line’s previous performance. There were none of the catwalks, pyrotechnics, trampolines, or onstage Fireball shots that were present at Hubbard and Kelley’s headline performances.
Instead, Hubbard and his band huddled close to Urban’s draped-off equipment to connect with a crowd that may have recognized him from the stage, even if they weren’t yet familiar with solo hits like “I’m the Only One” or “Everybody Needs a Bar.” Hubbard’s attempt to win over the crowd was an exercise in humility, which isn’t frequently used to describe FGL when they were at the height of their glory.
2013 saw Tyler HubTodayand Brian Kelley perform as Florida Georgia Line on NBC’s “Today. It was humbling when I first entered the stage, Hubbard claims. “At the Keith concerts, spectators made connections as the act continued. I would attend in person. Where do I recognize this guy from? I overheard some individuals asking throughout the first three or four songs.
It served as a reminder that it might be another year or longer before everyone’s lights come on. But when he’d play “Cruise,” an epiphany would sweep the entire arena, and soon after that came his first solo Number One, “5 Foot 9,” a song Hubbard co-wrote with Chase McGill and Jaren Johnston about his wife of over eight years, Hayley.
Since 2011, Johnston, a master of Music Row songwriting and the singer-guitarist of Nashville legends the Cadillac Three, has been friends with Hubbard. He also toured with Florida Georgia Line when they were only a simple van and trailer band. Tyler Hubbard Detailing was written on the trailer, along with his cell phone number; Johnston chuckles.
Since then, he has seen Hubbard develop from a fame-obsessed “hillToday rock star” to a wise parent and husband. You speak to him today and in 2011 and think, “This must be the dude’s older brother.”Hubbard confesses, “I had nothing to lose and no obligations.” However, I have completed personal, emotional, mental, and spiritual work.
When Johnston’s father passed away last year, Hubbard was there to comfort and keep him afloat. At the age of 20, Hubbard had witnessed his father’s death in a helicopter crash in their backyard. According to Johnston, “Tyler would send me texts that he loved me and was thinking about me, and that shit goes a long way.” “Because most individuals shy away from friends or acquaintances in the music industry who are mourning.
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People don’t want to be involved with that at all. Even though it has been sixteen years since Hubbard’s father passed away, the pain is still raw, and he decides to draw inspiration from it. He explains, “In a way, I’m grateful for the viewpoint I’ve been providing.
In the brand-new song “Miss My Daddy,” he pays homage to his father, painting a startlingly sensitive portrayal of a man who, at the age of 30, still keenly laments his father’s absence. You will be destroyed by hearing him sing, “I just miss my daddy, I just miss my dad.” Hubbard might not have composed this intensely personal song while he was a member of the Florida Georgia Line.
According to Johnston, a frequent co-writer, “They were writing ‘Cruise’ and ‘Round Here’ and all these hits, but there wasn’t as much heart as in what he’s doing these days.” He is caring and thinking about it more. However, the 18-track Tyler Hubbard doesn’t attempt to disassociate Hubbard from his time with Florida Georgia Line.
While “Everybody Needs a Bar” is a party song, songs like “Out Here” and “Small Town Me” have a “Round Here” feel to them. Put another way; you can take Georgia out of Florida Georgia Line but not Hubbard. He claims, “I am still half of FGL.”
It’s important to note that Hubbard followed through on the Cancun interview in 2013, arriving for breakfast the next morning bright and early to respond to queries about the pressure Florida Georgia Line felt to match the enormous success of “Cruise.”
He likely had no idea that ten years later, he would be asked about the broader effects of his band’s breakup, like what occurs with FGL. It is still operational, and nothing has changed, according to Hubbard. “I suppose it’s now a part of history. However, we still sell a lot of cheeseburgers, which makes me proud of it.
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