It’s hard to fathom that after 20 number-one hits — including the second-biggest country digital song of all time, “Cruise” — seven studio albums, countless sold-out arena shows and a mantle full of awards, Tyler Hubbard isn’t a household name.
But the lead singer of Florida Georgia Line, country music’s most popular duo for the past decade, feels like he’s starting over now that he and his partner Brian Kelley, or BK, have gone their separate ways.
After the news broke last year that FGL was splitting up, Hubbard did a lot of soul searching to plot his next chapter. His first thought was to go back to songwriting, what he calls his 9-to-5 job, but that didn’t last long.
“There was a while where I had decided I wasn’t going to do the artist thing, I would just write songs — I really enjoy the songwriting. That’s my heart and soul,” he says. “And then pretty quickly, I felt like there were a lot of missing pieces — from making records to being on tour and watching the songs connect with the fans. Personally, that’s something I really, really missed.”
So he made the decision to launch a solo career. On Friday, he released an 18-song album titled simply, “Tyler Hubbard,” that is intended to introduce himself to the world.
“All I’ve ever known is being in a band and having a partner,” Hubbard says. “Those were some of the best years of my life. And I learned so much. We really were just clicking and running on all cylinders and it was amazing. But after 10 years of doing that, I really feel this solo work and stepping into this next season of my career has reenergized and inspired me.”
He says this new chapter “almost felt necessary, not only for BK and myself, but also for the fans. I think we had gone about as deep as we could go within the dynamic of a band.”
On “Tyler Hubbard,” the artist lays bare all parts of his life. From songs that reflect his faith (“Way Home”), his Georgia roots (“Small Town Me,” “Me For Me”), his love for his wife (“5 Foot 9,” “I’m The Only One”) and his three kids (“Inside And Out”), to the loss of his father, who died in a helicopter crash (“Miss My Daddy”).
“I wanted to be really open about where I came from and the more personal sides of who I am,” he says. “It really excites me to introduce myself as more than Georgia. I’m Tyler Hubbard now and I get to be myself and share my story and my heart.”
In fact, Hubbard says that sometimes, fans would just call him Georgia rather than by his given name, a function of the duo marketing itself as Florida Georgia Line rather than as individual artists. He’s from Monroe, Georgia, and Kelley is from Ormond Beach, Florida, and they met while students at Nashville’s Belmont University in 2008.
“We never really put a lot of branding on our names,” Hubbard says. “It was always Florida Georgia Line. That was great for the time, but I feel like it was also an excuse to almost compartmentalize thing — say: ‘This is an FGL song,’ or ‘This is an FGL show.’ But when you put your name on something, it really forces you into another layer of intentionality and self-discovery. I’m super proud of every single note on this album because it’s got my name attached to it.”
On the solo project, Hubbard worked with some high-profile Nashville cowriters including Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Russell Dickerson, Canaan Smith and Corey Crowder.
“I really had some great people around me. And they sat in the room with me knowing that FGL wouldn’t make any more records and trusted me as a songwriter as well. So that was big.”
And so far, so good. He already took his first single, “5 Foot 9,” to number one with 289 million global streams and the second, “Dancin’ In The Country,” on which Urban has cowriting credits, has 38 million streams and is rapidly climbing the charts.
Hubbard also made several videos in advance of the album release, including one he filmed in the Nashville men’s store McPherson’s, as well as another in a rollerskating rink and the one for “Dancin’ In The Country,” which features a dance-off in a bar starring Terry Crews of “America’s Got Talent.”
The videos are another tactic Hubbard used to introduce himself to fans. They also serve to showcase his personal style. For his visit to WWD, his stylist Krista Roser dressed him in a Theory sweater and jacket, Mother jeans and Vince boots.
“I like being comfortable, but I also love fashion,” he says. “Over the years a lot of fashion influences infiltrated my closet, but I’ve stepped it back to the basics. There have been seasons where I’ve overcomplicated things and cluttered up my closet with all kinds of cool pieces, but I’ve really found that just one nice stand-alone piece is great. My wife is very fashion-forward so she has a lot of fun buying me things and I’m pretty open-minded — I’ll try anything. But when it comes to me just picking out my outfit for the day, it’s probably just gonna be jeans, a T-shirt and maybe a cool sneaker or something. Just something simple.”
Hubbard has a similar attitude when he ponders his future. His goals for his solo career include a media blitz to promote the new album, release events and a robust touring schedule of headlining shows, fairs and festivals over the course of the year. All of this while he and his wife Hayley raise their kids and rejuvenate by spending time outdoors in nature, hiking and enjoying life to the fullest.
“I just want to continue to do what I’m doing, playing shows and writing songs,” Hubbard says. “Right now I feel like I’m sort at capacity. A lot of creatives like myself can dip into other things like acting, but right now I’m feeling content and happy. It’s been fun to rebuild this. I really thrive in an environment where I’m building something. So who knows, maybe five or 10 years down the road I can think of other outlets, but right now, I’m having fun where I am.”
When asked the inevitable question of whether he and Kelley would ever reunite, he says: “In the last few years, I’ve learned it’s really hard to predict the future. So I say, never say never. But at the same time, I’m extremely happy and fulfilled in the role that I’m playing right now. This is a career shift and a transition for me, not just a side project or a one-off. And it’s not going to be short-lived. I plan on being a solo artist. And so, that being said, I’m going to continue what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.”