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Tyler Hubbard Looks at Life After Florida Georgia Line on His Solo Album: ‘I Have a Voice. I’m More Than Just Georgia.’

todayJanuary 27, 2023

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Tyler Hubbard is sporting new ink. On the back of his hand are five butterflies of assorted sizes. The “Georgia” half of Florida Georgia Line got the tattoos in November after “5 Foot 9,” the first single from his self-titled debut solo album, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. 


“The butterflies represent my family,” he says, one each for Hubbard, his wife and their three children. “But also this new season and rebirth and new life and new energy. After the song went to No. 1, that’s one of the ways we celebrated. Just channeling that next chapter.” 

After being half of one of the most successful duos in country music, Hubbard and FGL’s Brian Kelley hit pause following a decade-long run that included 13 No. 1s on Country Airplay, including “Cruise,” “Dirt,” “H.O.L.Y.” and “Long Live,” Hubbard is eager to show a different, more personal side of himself. Tyler Hubbard, out today (Jan. 27) through EMI Music, follows an August EP that introduced six songs from the 18-track album and gave Hubbard material to perform while he opened for Keith Urban last fall. Second single “Dancin’ in the Country” is already climbing Country Airplay, standing at 31 on the chart dated Jan. 28.

Hubbard talked to Billboard about making the new album, how educating himself during the pandemic affected him as a husband, human and artist, whether Kelley has heard his new music and the future of FGL.

When FGL went on pause, you thought about becoming a full-time songwriter — given that you’ve had songs recorded by Kane Brown, Jason Aldean and Zac Brown, among others. How long before you realized you also wanted to continue as an artist? 

I did that for six or eight months. I love songwriting more than any part of the process. I realized pretty quickly, “This is fun, I do love being able to be home with the family and work 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. as a songwriter,” but I definitely felt like there was a missing piece: Part of who I am as an artist and part of who I am as someone who wants to connect with people and make records and go on tour and do all that stuff. I’m excited that now I get to do both again. 

How hard was it for you to wrap your head around going from a “we” to a “me?”

There are a lot of pluses, there are a few negatives. I have to take full responsibility for every decision, full responsibility for my own destiny, which is really a plus. I don’t have anybody else to blame anything on. There’s a lot of freedom in stepping into this new season, especially after 12 years of being a “we,” and now having more of an individuality and ultimately connect with people on a more personal level. You can go even deeper when it’s just you personally, and so it’s been really fun to step into and experience that.

That shows on songs like “Miss My Daddy,” which is probably not a song you would have done on an FGL album.

Yes. You take that song, you take “Me for Me,” “Small Town Me,” you can even take “Way Home” — they’re very autobiographical, very on-the-head personal, telling my story almost directly. Those types of songs I’ve never had the opportunity to explore writing, just due to the dynamic of being in a band, and so it’s a cool opportunity that I really didn’t expect or see coming.

That’s because Brian was the first to say he wanted to release solo material, right? 

I actually understand more fully why BK had the calling and the urge to initiate this, because he felt the same way that I felt a year later. It took me a minute to wrap my head around it. But once I did, I fully got it, and felt like, “Now I want to do that. I have a voice. I have a story. I’m an individual and I’m more than just Georgia.” 

Is FGL on just a pause or a stop? 

Well, it’s hard to say. If we have learned anything over the last three years, it’s that we can’t predict the future, right? But for me, it’s a stop. I’d never say never, and I’ll continue to say that because I feel like you never know. But I’ll follow that up by saying I’m extremely happy and fulfilled in the role that I’m in. This is not a one-off for me. This is a long play. This is a career shift.

Have you sent BK the new album? 

I haven’t. 

You wrote or co-wrote all 18 tracks, some of which are very personal. Was it hard to make yourself that vulnerable? 

I think so, but also necessary and really important. I’ve found over the years that it’s easier to connect on our struggles and our weaknesses than it is on our strengths. I wanted to channel some of that. In “Tough,” I wanted to talk about [how] it’s been rough lately. It was 2021 [when] I wrote that song, and we were all going through a hard time and didn’t know the future. Instead of always talking about having a good time and things I enjoy, it’s nice to be really authentic and showcase more than just a few sides of who I am.

When “5 Foot 9” went to No. 1 in November, did you breathe a sigh of relief that fans were accepting you as a solo artist?

Yeah, that was in the back of my head. And it felt really, really good. It really took me back to 2012. I felt like a brand new artist again — and I do still at times. It’s re-energizing. I didn’t expect it to feel so much like it did at the beginning. I’ve found out that I really enjoy the build in the journey almost more than then reaching the goal. 

Are there other things you’re realizing this time around that you may not have appreciated when FGL was climbing?

I realized multiple things, [including] that the stars have to align so much for this type of stuff to happen — and so I have a new gratitude for every little piece of success. I’ve reminded myself the second go-round to slow down and really celebrate the little victories, and not just think about the ultimate goal, or see how quickly I can get to stadiums. It’s like, “Let’s enjoy this ride, because it’s the fun part.” I feel like I’m a little more mature than I was at 25 years old, so to get to have that life experience — and to get to come home to three beautiful kids and a wife — it’s just a really sweet spot I’m in in life right now. 

What has it been like figuring out how to command a stage by yourself? 

I feel like it’s been surprisingly easy, easier than maybe I expected, to adjust to just being me on stage. I don’t have BK with me on stage, but I do have an incredible band, guys that I love that have been with me forever, so there’s still that comfortable commonality. It feels slightly different without BK, but I’ve gotten used to it and I’m really enjoying it.

What FGL songs are you doing in your set? 

I don’t know if I’ll ever not be able to sing “Cruise,” because it’s such a big part of why I’m even here today and I love taking fans back 10 years and listening to them sing. So, I’ll probably always incorporate that, “Meant to Be”, and songs that I’ve written that have really been impactful in my career.

After George Floyd’s murder, you posted on your Instagram about systemic racism and about “becoming more educated around racism and the social injustices in our communities.” Talk about that work and where it’s led you. 

For me, the last few years have been big growth years, personally, emotionally, mentally. I really dove into doing a lot of personal work, mental work, emotional work, work on my marriage, work on being a dad and just trying to be more culturally aware. I feel like the last few years have been so divisive and so polarizing and so hard to understand. So, for me, I did want to understand as much as I could and try to wrap my head around it and then try [to] make an effort from my heart to potentially bring people back together.

But I had to become educated on what it is that divides people. Why are we having these silly conversations? Why are these conversations being taken so seriously and literally dividing families, even my own family? And so I wanted to become more educated, aware. 

Did that education inform this album in some way? There’s nothing on here that obviously addresses the division like your 2020 song with Tim McGraw, “Undivided.”

Yeah, I think so. Deep down, I think it’s made me a more aware person — and probably a better songwriter, if for no other reason of just being aware how certain words may be interpreted by certain people, or may be offensive or not offensive. My wife has really helped me become more aware of things where I’ll say something and she’s like, “Tyler, you can’t say that,” and I’m like, “You’re right. That wasn’t very thoughtful or conscious of the situation.”

So, between the culture we’re in these days, having an incredible wife and the desire and open-mindedness to want to educate myself, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve grown a lot. And I do think it comes through the music as well.

Though your Instagram account is still very active, you turned it over to your team to handle in September. Why did you make the decision to leave social media?

There are multiple layers. I’m extremely addicted to it when it is on my phone. It consumes a lot of my time, and so I’m like, “This is not healthy.” I want to connect with my fans, but now I finally have an incredible team that can help me run my socials without me having to do it all myself or have it on my phone. It’s been several months and I feel a lot more freedom and a lot more creativity … I’m not scrolling, looking at a bunch of people and comparing myself and judging other social posts and all that anymore like I used to. Now the only time I interact with people is in person. 

There are no collaborations on this album. Why? 

it was intentional. If it were up to me, I’d probably always make music with friends, but I felt like it was important if I wanted to introduce myself to the world as an artist and an individual to be an individual. I have always made music with a partner, so it was a unique thing for me. For this first project, I want to introduce Tyler Hubbard by myself, to give the fans a clearer perspective and a clear introduction. And then after that, I can get back into what I love so much in doing collaborations and features. It was hard for me. I had to say no to a lot of friends and to a lot of great songs. I was just like, “Give me a year and a half. I’ve really got to stick to the strategy here.”

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todayJanuary 27, 2023

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