This is one of the biggest differences between interviewing country stars and interviewing rock stars: Rock stars will complain all day, given the slightest provocation. Country stars never complain. About anything, ever. Life is an Instagrammed picture of everything that is wonderful and fine (hashtag: #blessed).
You would be wise not to believe them, unless you're talking to Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, who has lately regarded the country music charts the way Godzilla regarded Japan. "We wake up every day with a smile on our faces," says Kelley. In 2012, Kelley and partner Tyler Hubbard released their full-length debut, "Here's to the Good Times." Its first single, "Cruise," climbed the charts twice; in its original incarnation and in a ridiculous and perfect remix featuring rapper Nelly.
The latter version launched the duo into the stratosphere, where it remains. Kelley and Hubbard's new No. 1 ballad, "Dirt," is the first single from their almost-completed sophomore disc (release date and title TBD). They're opening for Jason Aldean in Tinley Park Saturday night, though FGL's recent sales have far outstripped his, with the exception of Aldean's new hit "Burnin' it Down"; Kelley and Hubbard co-wrote it.
FGL are often accused of representing the worst instincts of "bro country," which objectifies the mythical Girl In Bare Feet And Cut-Offs Who Will Bring You A Beer Without Being Asked. All-female duo Maddie and Tae skewer this phenomenon in their new hit "Girl in a Country Song," which couldn't have been aimed more directly at FGL if they'd called it "Girl in a Florida Georgia Line Song." Maddie and Tae questions are the only ones Kelley, in a recent phoner, doesn't sound happy to answer.
The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Q: "Dirt" is a No. 1 hit. How relieved are you right now?
A: It's doing what we thought it would do, which is really surreal. It's humbling. We knew it the first time we heard it. When we got to the end of the chorus, it was chill-bump city. People ask if it's a departure for FGL, and we say, actually, it's a return. There's a lot of songs people haven't heard from us that are in that vein. That song feels like FGL, and it's country music to the core. You can't argue with dirt.
Q: Do you think there was a group of traditionalists who didn't take you as seriously as they could have with the first album?
A: You know, I don't know. We didn't really feel that. Our debut album sold I think over two million records. The traditionalists are traditionalists for a reason. They may not like it, but from what we've heard, a lot of people loved it. ... We never set out to change country music. We love country music, that's why we're doing it. That's why country music is so hot, because you can have different sounds. Country music is on fire.
Q: Do you ever watch Jason Aldean performing "Burnin' it Down" and think, we should have kept that song for ourselves?
A: We love that song, but it's one of those songs where you feel okay giving it to a guy like Jason Aldean. He's the only one we would've given it to. At the time, we were just done with the re-package of our album last November and that didn't make it, just because it didn't fit. We pitched it to Jason Aldean that day, and he put it on hold and ended up cutting it. You don't look back-that's a dream come true. That's a good thing. That's why we moved to Nashville ... It makes you feel like a little kid.
Q: What's thing that surprised you the most about getting famous? What's different from what you thought it would be?
A: I don't know how we thought it would be. That's the thing, you don't know how it's gonna be. You just try to react in the way that you were brought up, in your faith, and try to be a good person with everything that comes. Our families are real supportive and raised us really well, Tyler and I both. We're busy, busy, busy, and there were days when we were dreaming of being busy as hell in Nashville, and touring and writing. We wouldn't trade this for the world.
Q: You're probably from the first generation of country singers who grew up on both hip-hop and country.
Q: So putting Nelly on a remix probably felt natural to you, but was there a sense that it might be a risk?
A: To us it didn't feel like a risk, it felt like a hit. But we thought, if nobody liked it at the end of the day, "Cruise" had already had its regular success, so it would've been the cherry on top. So if it tanks, which we don't think it will, we can at least play it for our friends who ride around in our truck and think it's cool. ... Hearing Nelly's parts (played) back, it was just like, damn, we can't not put that out and take a chance with it. That's what music's for. If you're not taking a chance with it, you're just going to be left in the dust.
Q: Have you heard the Maddie and Tae song, "Girl in a Country Song"?
A: I'm not really familiar with that.
Q: They sing it from the point of view of the girl in the cut-off jeans, who never gets to talk? You've never heard that song?
A: All I'm gonna say about that is, I don't know one girl who doesn't want to be a girl in a country song. That's all I'm gonna say to you. That's it.
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland, Tinley Park
Tickets: $29.75-$59.50; 800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com