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Brian Kelley reintroduces self with new solo album

Life after Florida Georgia Line: ‘Tennessee Truth’

By MARIA SHERMAN, Associated Press
Published: May 23, 2024, 6:01am
2 Photos
Brian Kelley kisses a fish he caught from a pond outside his cabin April 17 in Nashville, Tenn.
Brian Kelley kisses a fish he caught from a pond outside his cabin April 17 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photos by George Walker IV/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

NEW YORK — Allow Brian Kelley to reintroduce himself.

Best known as one-half of the country duo Florida Georgia Line, Kelley will release a solo album, “Tennessee Truth,” on Friday. It is a collection of 12 anthemic country songs ripe for a road trip and tailgate in equal measure.

For “Tennessee Truth,” produced by Dann Huff, Kelley says he aimed to “dive into the music I grew up on — obviously the music I love and themes of just country living, rural living, hard work, good times, outdoors, love,” he told The Associated Press from his home in Nashville.

Good songwriting, Kelley says, is a lot like fishing — you need patience. “I wrote probably over 100 songs for this record.”

Eight of the 12 songs on the album were written by Kelley, and he worked with whomever he could on others, trying to get outside his comfort zone. “Every song gets you to the next song,” he says.

“I think it’s a fun record,” he says, adding that the creative process was dependent on these tracks translating live.

Geography still plays a prominent role in the music Kelley makes. Throughout “Tennessee Truth” are beaches in Florida, farms in Nashville, his wife’s family farm in Georgia. Hunting, sitting on the porch drinking sweet tea and eating peanuts, conversations with loved ones — that’s the kind of life he hopes comes across on the album. “Just being free,” he says.

Fans looking for more coastal country from Kelley — like what was found on “Sunshine State of Mind,” released in 2020 — will want to skip over to “10 O’Clock On The Dock.”

“It was a passion project,” he says of “Sunshine State of Mind.” “It was supposed to just be its own little thing.”

Kelley says he also made that record with the thought that he would record solo and with Florida Georgia Line. “I made it with a sonic respect to what we were, what we had done and what we had built. So, I didn’t want to tread on anything even close to that, out of respect, you know?”

He says he considers “Tennessee Truth” his true solo debut.

In 2022, Florida Georgia Line embarked on an indefinite hiatus. At that point, the duo of Kelley and Tyler Hubbard had been together more than a decade, and whether you were a fan of their bro country sound or not, their music ( “Cruise,” “Meant to Be,” “Round Here”) set the tone for a generation of country fans. The following year, Hubbard released a self-titled debut solo record.

“I’m thankful that (Brian) had the courage to step into this new space and to make that decision that ultimately kind of pushed me to make the same decision and lead me to where I’m at now,” Hubbard told AP at the time. “I had quite a few people tell me that it couldn’t be done and that I should definitely continue with FGL, and it sort of lit a spark in me, a fire.”

The closing song on “Tennessee Truth” is feisty “Kiss My Boots,” which features Kelley delivering vinegary lyrics like: “Want the world to know that you did me wrong / I don’t know how you act sweet, after how you did me / Here’s a middle finger to you through a song.” Some fans theorize it is a direct message to Hubbard.

“I’ve read some of that, too,” Kelley says, adding that he understands people might make associations in order to find meaning.

“But at the end of the day,” he says, the song means a lot of different things for his collaborators, “And it really means a lot of different things for me. I really put that song out because I wanted people to know that I’m a real human, and I’m not just some face on social media or some somebody that’s had some success.”