Press-Republican

FYI...

October 3, 2013

Changing country music, one party song at a time

RICHMOND — At first glance, it looks like things come pretty easily for Florida Georgia Line, the fastest-rising act in country music. Even if it's just acquiring a chilled beverage on a hot summer afternoon.

"I could use a cold brewski," Brian Kelley (known as B.K.) announces as he walks into the front lounge of a stuffy tour bus on a stifling August day. No problem. He opens a small sliding door, and as if by magic, reveals several beer bottles packed in ice.

Hovering over six feet tall, Kelley, 28, sits down, leans back and props his legs up on a small counter across the aisle as his duo partner, Tyler Hubbard, appears. Hubbard, 26, grabs a granola bar out of a makeshift kitchen cabinet and takes a seat. Just a couple of everyday guys, hanging out before taking the stage in Richmond in front of 6,000 screaming fans. Fifteen months ago, these dudes didn't have a record deal. Now they're shattering music records while taking Nashville by storm.

On Sunday, the 20,000-plus expected to gather at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the annual Sunday in the Country festival will see Kelley and Hubbard right before they graduate to the next level of stardom: their first national headlining tour, which kicks off Thursday. Fans will pack in to hear feel-good party songs from the duo's platinum-selling debut album, "Here's to the Good Times," and especially the inescapable crossover smash "Cruise," which recently spent 22 weeks at No. 1, making Billboard country chart history. As Florida Georgia Line keeps ascending, the duo is also being credited - or blamed, depending on whom you ask - for helping to change the sound of modern country music.

The band's rise may seem rapid, but as everyone around them emphasizes, it's the result of years of tough, behind-the-scenes work. Plus, it's triumphant proof that doing things a little differently - even if you start outside of the Nashville star-making machine, which has a methodical process of transforming singers into superstars - can lead to success.

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