HARRINGTON — Back in December, when the Delaware State Fair announced that Florida Georgia Line would open for country superstar Luke Bryan on the fair’s first night, the duo’s first studio album “Here’s to the Good Times” had just barely been released and their eventual megahit single “Cruise” was still climbing the charts.
Seven months later, “Here’s to the Good Times” has gone gold, earning the highest debut album sales of 2012 for a new country artist.
“Cruise” is the fastest-rising debut single for a new duo since Brooks & Dunn’s “Brand New Man” two decades ago, hitting No. 1 on the country charts and Top 5 on the pop charts. Combined with its remix with rapper Nelly, the song has sold more than 4 million downloads, becoming the best-selling song by a country duo in digital history.
Add in American Country Music awards for New Artist of the Year and New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year in 2013 and you get a sold-out show at the fair tonight at 7:30.
Not bad for a couple of guys who met through a mutual friend at Belmont University in Nashville and decided to write some songs together.
“We became close friends quickly,” said Tyler Hubbard, the Monroe, Ga., half of Florida Georgia Line, of his bandmate Brian Kelley from Ormond Beach, Fla. “We started writing songs and made an instant connection.
We lived in the same house with a couple of other guys and just wrote songs most of the day.
“It couldn’t have been a better matchup. There’s nothing better than being able to live this dream with your best friend.”
As FGL fans know by now, the dream started one day as they just decided to set out in Mr. Kelley’s Tahoe, at first doing acoustic gigs, and later with a band. In the meantime, a variety of day jobs were able to pay the bills and keep that dream alive.
The dream has currently taken them on tour with not only Mr. Bryan but also Taylor Swift.
“We’re having a blast on the road,” said Mr. Hubbard by phone last week on his way to play in Charlotte, N.C., another stop on Mr. Bryan’s headlining tour. “It’s been great — a big party and lots of fun.”
After two EPs, their party-infused “Here’s to the Good Times” recently scored the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart following their initial chart debut, catapulting the breakout duo into an elite bracket as one of just three artists in the past six years to accomplish the feat.
“We’re very blessed to be able to play music for a living,” said the 26-year-old Mr. Hubbard. “It’s crazy and a testament to the devotion of our fans and country radio that has been playing our songs.”
One of those songs, “Cruise” — although released almost a year ago as the first single from their EP “It’z Just What We Do” and then added to the most recent album — is still on the charts and hotter than ever thanks to the Nelly remix.
“What songs are going to be popular is really hard to predict,” Mr. Hubbard said. “We knew we had something special with it.”
The straight country version reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country airplay chart at the end of last year in only its 19th week, achieving the fastest climb to the top of the chart for a debut single since Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” topped the list in October 2006.
Studio executives suggested they bring in Nelly to give it more crossover appeal, a plan that has apparently worked to perfection.
That version is currently No. 4 on the Billboard pop charts.
“It was just a cool opportunity to get Nelly in on it,” Mr. Hubbard said. “He has really brought it to life again.
We were pumped to have him involved. We’ve both been big fans of his since middle school and I don’t think anyone could have done it any better.”
Next up for the duo is a headlining tour of their own, which will run from Oct. 3 through Dec. 14 and feature guest opening acts Colt Ford, Tyler Farr and, on select dates, Dallas Smith.
There’s not much time after they get off the road with Mr. Bryan until they are back out on the new tour. Mr. Hubbard said the pair wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are real excited about taking the next step,” he said. “It really can’t get here fast enough.
“We don’t take too many breaks. We like to stay busy. That’s what it’s all about — taking advantage of a situation that’s out there for us and just trying to hit a home run every night.”
Features editor Craig Horleman can be reached at 741-8224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.