Pop country's hottest duo Florida Georgia Line cruised right into the hearts of millions with their breakout hit "Cruise," which topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs for 22-straight weeks and nabbed them the honor of the top-selling digital country song of all time. It seems the duo – made up of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley— have tapped into a new audience that can't seem to get enough of the pop and rock-riddled beats mixed with boot-stompin' lyrics.
"Cruise," which owes some of its success to a remix featuring rapper Nelly, also drove them into the center of the long-running debate about what's considered country music and what isn't.
"All I am going to say about that is that we're fans of music, too. Either like it or don't like it. It is getting old with everyone trying to analyze what country music is. If you look back from day one, it has always evolved," Brian Kelley told Yahoo Music at an event for Outnumber Hunger on April 30. "You talk about sprinkling different genres and other genres – you look at Johnny Cash and Elvis, they're both rock 'n' roll. They're both in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Realistically, dabbling in multiple genres is what brought the pop country duo to the podium at the Academy of Country Music Awards, the CMT Music Awards, and the American Music Awards this year, beating out longtime greats like Sugarland and Big & Rich. On Monday, the pair was lauded once more and scooped up five fan-voted 2014 CMT Music Award nominations, placing them in a pack with A-list company like Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert.
While their hit song may have ruffled a few feathers along the way with the rap bridge, Kelley says their fans love the Florida Georgia Line sound.
"We have the most amazing fans in the entire world and country radio has got our back and we feel the support," Kelley dished before adding that their fans can expect more of the same sound on their sophomore studio album.
"We're more than halfway in. We have some songs that are getting close to being done. That same FGL feel, same brand," Kelley shared. "We don't really feel [the pressure on the second album]. We feel like we already got a ton of amazing songs ready for record two. We've probably recorded 7, 8, or 9 songs by track."
And while he wouldn't reveal if any of their new tunes involve crossover collaborations, Kelley said they aren't ruling out any big names to add to the album.
"We're definitely open to it. I think this album wouldn't be complete if we didn't do something like that. Garth Brooks is one [person we'd like to work with]; Ronnie Dunn would be another. Outside the genre, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna, but you never know."
Batting around names of that caliber on your second time on the music merry-go-round is pretty impressive. Then again, for a duo that's been together for less than four years, and was already named Vocal Duo of the Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards, we wouldn't expect anything less.
For more information on Florida Georgia Line's commitment to Feeding America, check out Outnumber Hunger.
- Arts & Entertainment