Florida Georgia Line come to Southaven's Landers Center on Saturday night as the third band on the bill behind Thompson Square and headliner Luke Bryan, but those acts should show some deference to the ascendant country duo, whose No. 1 single "Cruise," off their recently released debut album, has been sitting at the top of the Billboard country chart most of the winter.
"It's been great, though we haven't gotten to enjoy it much" says Brian Kelley of the pair's Here's to the Good Times, which has sold more than 200,000 in less than two months. "We've been on the road. We finished up the CMT tour with Jake Owen in December, took a couple of weeks off, and now we're back on the ground with Luke Bryan. But watching the sales numbers go up is a cool thing, man."
Kelley and musical partner Tyler Hubbard's rise has been surprisingly quick. The two met while students at Nashville's Belmont University. Though neither had ever considered their music careers going in a duo direction, their chemistry proved hard to ignore.
"We started writing together and couldn't deny what was going on musically and creatively between us," says Kelley. "You take music away and we're still friends and we 'get' each other. Not to sound too cliché, but I definitely think it's a God thing. I think we felt something in ourselves that we knew we had to do music with each other."
Naming themselves after the border separating their hometowns — Hubbard, 25, is from Monroe, Ga., and Kelley, 27, is from Ormond Beach, Fla. — in 2010 Florida Georgia Line self-released their debut EP Anything Like Me. The disc contained the song "Black Tears," which would be covered by Jason Aldean two years later.
A second EP, It'z Just What We Do, featuring the first appearance of "Cruise," came out last summer. That track, with its combination of infectious country harmonies and a bouncing hip hop beat, earned Hubbard and Bryan such high profile fans as Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, sold 100,000 copies, and landed the two their record deal with Republic Nashville.
"We grew up listening to hip hop and rock and country. We both grew up playing in church, too," says Hubbard of the unique twist they bring to their music. "With all of our influences, we bring them all to the table when writing. That's what makes it fun, getting to write songs that are out of the box a little bit and hopefully bring something fresh to country music."
For much of the first half of 2013, they'll be bringing that "something fresh" to venues across the country, augmenting the 75 dates they're doing on Bryan's tour with their own headlining shows, including another Mid-South appearance scheduled for March 15 at Memphis' Minglewood Hall with special guest Sam Hunt.
"Hopefully we'll get back to writing a little bit," says Hubbard of their hectic schedule. "That's one of our favorite things to do is write songs. It always has been. It just works. We both bring everything to the table and just put it out there and try to write the best songs we can."