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 a while something tangible occurs 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 this year’s “Dig Your Roots” tour, and for the first time they saw the stage set they’ll use.
“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 for the fans, and I say that because it’s all for the fans. It’s not just for us to toot our own horn.”
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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 group 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 duo’s résumé.
The next 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 surprisingly tender love song, “H.O.L.Y.,” from the newly released “Dig Your Roots,” has spent 18 weeks atop the Hot Country Songs chart, while the new single “May We All” (featuring a guest vocal from Tim McGraw) has reached No. 7 on that same chart.
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. … 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. Let’s be positive. Let’s be encouraging. Everybody can exist. We live in a (country music) format where all things are possible, so let’s be positive and encourage that.”
Kelley said, though, that their latest album shows some new dimensions – particularly when it comes to lyrics.
“I think this album is deeper. I think it’s more spiritual. I think it’s more personal … more mature,” Kelley said of “Dig Your Roots,” which was released Aug. 26.
“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 suggested the group has applied a little less production to the songs to help spotlight the honesty and emotion of the lyrics.
“It was time to take a turn and make this third album and first single (“H.O.L.Y.”) move, and at the same time, make it genuine and make it real. And I think that’s what we’ve done.”
Even before “Dig Your Roots” was released, fans were hearing a sampling of the new album on Florida Georgia Line’s summer tour. The show itself, Kelley 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,” he 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.”