It’s not what Florida Georgia Line said. It’s what they didn’t say, and what they felt compelled to answer when really nobody was asking any questions. Now many are wondering about the future of one of country music’s most popular and vilified duos.
On Friday evening, New Year’s Day 2021, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley released a Zoom video of the two talking about the future of Florida Georgia Line (see below). Much time is spent in the video trying to convince you that Florida Georgia Line is not breaking up, even though few were really talking about that ahead of time. “Just want to try to be really transparent,” Tyler Hubbard says multiple times in the video.
Hubbard and Kelley did recently have a spat that saw Tyler Hubbard and his wife unfollow Brian Kelley and his wife after an errant Instagram post about the U.S. Presidential election. But the duo came out later confirming a long-term touring deal, and assuring no split was in the works. Instead, they were making a musical together.
Just releasing a video such as the one they posted signals things are probably more tenuous than what they appear to be on the surface. The fact they released it on a Friday evening during a holiday weekend means they wanted the info to be out there, but also wanted to bury it in the news cycle, when most of music media and many fans were on vacation, just like many of your local health officials who are supposed to be coordinating COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.
In the video, the two talk a lot about “individuality” and “freedom,” and specifically, Brian Kelley conveys that he’s been writing songs by himself and working on a solo project beyond the Florida Georgia Line franchise. Kelley is planning to release the album this summer.
“I did a lot of soul searching. I didn’t know what I was searching for,” Kelley says about his time off during the pandemic. “Even got my [baseball] arm back in shape, thought I was going to start throwing again, start pitching again. Fished as much as I could. Where I landed was really falling in love with my guitar, and writing songs, even more than ever.”
Brian Kelley went on to talk about, “…creating some freedom for ourselves in addition to what we do with FGL.”
Tyler Hubbard concurred, saying the two wanted to “Have a voice of our own. Have an individuality. We’ve always been a package deal, which has been amazing. But I think there’s freedom at this age and in this time and where we’re at to not always be a package deal.”
Tyler Hubbard also implored, “FGL’s not breaking up. So anyone who says that you can just tell them from the mouth of Tyler and BK, we’re not breaking up. We’re just venturing out. We’re doing some individual things.”
That’s fortunate for their label Big Machine, because Florida Georgia Line’s new record Life Rolls On is scheduled to be released on February 12th, and they are planning to tour as soon as the pandemic is squashed. “We’re gonna be singing all the hits that you guys love,” they say.
So what is really going on here?
Tyler Hubbard has always been the Florida Georgia Line franchise. He’s the frontman, he’s the guy you hear singing in the mix, and Brian Kelley is mostly just there as a songwriter, and a guy to qualify the franchise for duo status so they can acquire more nominations for industry awards as a twosome. In the crowded country music field, the lane is more open for a duo compared to a solo artist, and Brian Kelley just probably doesn’t have a distinct enough voice to be able to break out as a mainstream country superstar.
Nobody understands this more palpably than Brian Kelley himself. It only makes sense he would want to express himself more since you rarely hear him in Florida Georgia Line, and that he finds the environment of the duo restrictive. For years I’ve been predicting that at some point in the future, Brian Kelley would be saying in interviews that he always believed the music of Florida Georgia Line was bunk, and he was just doing it for the money.
And money is the whole reason these two are staying together instead of shutting the FGL operation down, despite their sales being dramatically on the slide and their singles under-performing at radio. Their last three singles from their previous record ended up at #11 and #23 respectively, and their debut single from their new album stalled at #2, which is unusual for a debut single. FGL’s last record Can’t Say I Ain’t Country has just barely sold 100,000 copies.
But the name “Florida Georgia Line” can still command a hefty purse on the tour circuit. It’s their meal ticket, and even if they secretly hate each other, it’s still a lucrative endeavor to play nice for the cameras, and as they said, “sing all the hits.” Because that’s about all the Florida Georgia Line franchise is good for at this point. Switching producers from Joey Moi of Nickelback fame to Corey Crowder has so far not resulted in a resuscitation of their earlier commercial success.
What does all of this mean for country music? It means the outfit that is responsible in large part of the rise of Bro-Country is likely to only continue to slide further down the country music food chain as they focus their energies elsewhere, and then reunite for the cash grab of big summer tours. Interesting to note that Morgan Wallen made a name for himself collaborating with Florida Georgia Line on his first hit “Up Down.” Now it’s Morgan Wallen and Luke Combs reigning at the top of country, while Florida Georgia Line struggles along in the post-Bro era of country along with other sliding country stars like Luke Bryan. Arguably Tyler Childers is now bigger than either of these performers, at least when it comes to sales and streaming numbers. Touring is another story, for now.
Connoisseurs of quality music love to say that the bad stuff will never stand the test of time, and the good stuff will prevail. In truth, that’s not always the case. But in the case of Florida Georgia Line, it was always propped up by bad taste, trend chasing, and a terrible premise. They were also never really a duo. But as long as their is money to be made, the Florida Georgia Line name will likely continue to be todden out as a touring concern.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what Brian Kelley creates on his own. Expectations should remain low, but it’s hard to see it being any worse than was Florida Georgia Line does.
This may be a little long but it’s real and that’s what FGL is all about. We love our fans and want to share with you guys everything we are working on and excited about this year. Here’s to 2021 being the BEST YEAR YET. Let’s gooooo! pic.twitter.com/1tYzVGpLI6— Florida Georgia Line (@FLAGALine) January 2, 2021