Hit The Dirt
July 10, 2014
Well, so much for a sophomore jinx.
Everything Florida Georgia Line (FGL) has touched in the last two years has turned to Gold, platinum or multi-Platinum. Now it looks like they're doing the same thing, even with "Dirt."
That's the title of the first single off their upcoming second album on Republic Nashville but if you're in radio, I didn't need to tell you that, right?
You're already playing the crap out of it and you've only had it four days as of this writing. Hell, the (ahem) "official" add date isn't 'til Monday, July 14th and radio is literally covered with "Dirt," which is nearing 2,000 spins and pacing in the top 30 so far.
Superstar acts -- and yes, FGL is one after just two years -- are ushered onto playlists with significant rotations when they bring new music because it's fundamentally the right thing to do. In the case of FGL, there's little doubt a fan base has been firmly established, what with sales from their debut album, "Here's To The Good Times," closing in on two million and its first single, "Cruise," about to surpass (Doing my best Dr. Evil imitation here), sales of seven meel-ee-yon digital downloads.
That sales mojo has only continued with "Dirt," as it quickly nabbed the #1 spot on both the iTunes all-genre and Country charts in in less than 12 hours.
But it's not just airplay or sales.
FGL's Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have been both credited with and (unfairly) criticized for spearheading an entire sub-genre in Country music known as ... wait for it ... "Bro-Country."
Country fans continue to drink "Bro-Country" by the gallon and still want more. Programmers and many industry pundits, on the other hand, have just about had it up to here with tan lines, tailgates, moonshine, bonfires, trucks, daisy dukes and Lord knows what other essential components of this sub-genre sensation I've left out here.
Personally, I'm more tired of the endless stream of think-pieces from Johnny-come-lately, non-Country fans who want to weigh in on what's good or bad with our format. It's sort of like the non-soccer fan, who watches three World Cup matches and decides to tell FIFA, the sport's governing body, how the game should be played and officiated, or why penalty kicks are so horrible. Shut up already; enjoy the music and/or the game, okay?
Actually, I don't know why I'm so worked up. The whole "Bro-Country" conversation doesn't seem to bother or offend Kelley and Hubbard.
"We could care less what you want to call it," said Hubbard. "I think music is bigger than putting a label on it. It's funny that Country music is coming out with all sorts of genres – but it is what it is. For us, our goal is to make the best music we can, throw the biggest party and sell the most tickets. If that's called 'Bro-Country,' then let's call it that – doesn't bother us at all."
And Kelley downplayed any supposed criticism of their music and the lifestyle it reflects. "Everybody has their opinions, but the majority of people like it and are showing up ready to party," he explained. "People like to have a good time. Country music is a lifestyle; how you go about your business and your family. Our albums represent that; we like to dream and have a good time. Music is always changing – we are just trying to do our brand of Country music and that's why it's so special."
As excited as radio has been about FGL, which -- sub-genre aside -- brought the format a completely different, sonic form of music that was organic, game-changing and unforseen, it's also fair to say programmers were curious to see what came next. Would album two be more of same? Is there more to these guys than uptempo, party-down music? Can they show us any depth?
Apparently, the answer is no, yes and yes.
Programmers seem thrilled to have "Dirt" on their hands. In every conversation about the song I've had, it's been universally praised for being different, substantive and self-challenging music from Hubbard and Kelley
Here's how KUPL/Portland APD B-Dub described "Dirt" to me: "The best song that's come out in a few years. A song for the core-- with an artist that owns the cume."
And from KTTS/Springfield, MO PD Mark Grantin: "It has soul and depth; it makes you think. This was the right one to come with. It's different; that's a plus. I really like it."
WGGY/Scranton, PA, MD Tanya Burko says the new single, "Solidifies their place; It was refreshing to me."
When I spoke to Hubbard and Kelley, a reserved confidence was present when talking about the first single and what the next album will sound like. If radio is pleasantly surprised at an evolving sound for FGL, they're not. Not in the least.
"I think 'Dirt' is gonna be a big impact song." said Hubbard. "It could change the game up even more and hopefully anybody who has, or does want to say anything negatively about what we're doing will get a reality check with this single. When stuff takes off and is successful, there are always people who want to doubt and degrade you. Honestly, it's something we learned early on. But if you don't have those people, you're not doing something right."
Both Hubbard and Kelley explained to me that prepping for the follow-up album has really been a continuous process, underway since the making of "Here's To The Good Times."
"What's most important to us is the songs." said Kelley. "We've been writing for record two since record one. Joey Moi [our producer] has been pushing us even harder and we feel we have songs that we feel are going to make a great album that picks up right where album one left off. It's a natural progression of where we are and where the music has taken us. We wanted to take chances, but retain the same FGL sound while covering a couple different topics; always pushing boundaries with lyrics and melodies."
You've probably heard the saying about authors, that they have their entire lives to write the first book and six months for the second one. I've heard artists and songwriters say the same thing about albums.
"We didn't really put a bunch or pressure on ourselves to be honest," Kelley told me. "We didn't feel rushed or pressured. We are songwriters at heart; having and picking songs for this one hasn't been an issue. It's all unfolded very nicely and his album should be bigger than the first one."