Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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July 20, 2013

Florida Georgia Line set to 'Cruise' into town

Band plays the Elkhart County Fair Monday

— Two college buddies armed with guitars were ready to make it big in Nashville.

Six months after their first studio album dropped, they’re the hottest thing in country music and weeks away from starting their own headlining tour.

Sound like a dream? Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line would agree with you.

“It’s all happened so fast,” Kelley said. “It makes us want to work that much harder with all the successes we’ve had.”

Those accomplishments include two Academy of Country Music Awards, two CMT Music Awards, and the first act in 21 years to top the country airplay charts with their first two singles, with their third single on the chart and rising.

“It’s all humbling, it’s all amazing,” Kelley said. “It’s one of those things you have to pinch yourself.”

The group takes the stage at the Elkhart County Fair Monday.

Kelley, a native of Ormond Beach, Fla., and Tyler Hubbard, of Monroe, Ga., met through a mutual friend at Belmont University in Nashville. The pair became best friends and soon they were playing guitar and writing songs together.

“The first time we wrote together we knew we had something special,” Kelley said.

They would play their songs together at local clubs, and each time, their audience would grow and grow, and soon they had fans singing along.

“We said, ‘We’re better off together than apart, so let’s do this thing,’” Kelley said.

The pair put their heads together and came up with their debut studio album, “Here’s to the Good Times.” And don’t ask Kelley to pick a favorite song.

“Every song is kind of our baby,” he said. “We put our heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into them.”

The first single, “Cruise,” has hit quadruple platinum and is the fastest-rising debut single for a duo since Brooks & Dunn more than two decades ago.

“Cruise” was so popular that the duo was approached by pop radio station execs who wanted a pop version to play. Kelley said they knew they didn’t want to change the song, especially given its popularity, but would be okay with a remix.

“We’ve always been huge fans of Nelly,” he said. “It was one of those things no one saw coming and we jumped on it. We couldn’t be more proud of it.”

Yes, you read that right. Both Kelley and Hubbard credit musicians from all genres in influencing their sound, from Garth Brooks to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Lil’ Wayne.

“We are pulling from all over the place when we are writing,” he said. “Our goal for our music is to try to push the boundaries and create our own brand of country music. When you turn on the radio, we want you to know who it is.”

Kelley and Hubbard are wrapping up shows with Taylor Swift and Luke Bryan’s tours before starting their own Here’s to the Good Times Tour this fall. It’s all about having a party on stage so they can help their fans kick back and have fun at their shows, Kelley said.

“When you look around at the end of the day, the fans have given you that,” he said. “This is a special time and there is nothing we are going to take for granted. Without them we would be just another band in a van, riding around playing for nobody.”

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