Florida Georgia Line’s Roots Include Tim McGraw and the Backstreet Boys

"The Backstreet Boys was my first concert in sixth grade," says FGL's Brian Kelley.

By Brian Ives

“It’s cool to be honest with what you’ve been through and where you come from,” Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley tells Radio.com. He’s talking about a few things at once: he’s referencing the fact that he and bandmate Tyler Hubbard appreciate their southern background and upbringing.  But he’s also discussing their musical influences, some of whom pop up on the duo’s new album, Dig Your Roots.

Related: 5 Best Songs on Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots’

Tyler Hubbard elaborates, “I think diggin’ our roots means… it’s just about taking a look back at the way we were raised, the things we learned, it’s making sure we’re being the men we want to be, presently, and looking towards the future. That encompasses the whole concept of the album, and of our tour, and really the last couple years of our life.”

Kelley continues: “I think we’ve always tried to dig our roots, and be as real as we can be. I think country music is [about] where you’re at, and being as transparent as you can be.  When we put out ‘Cruise,’ that’s exactly where we were at, when we put out ‘Dirt,’ that was exactly where we were at.”

Kelley says that some of the songs on the album have been written for a few years, but they didn’t fit on FGL’s prior two albums: “There’s some songs on this album that we dug out of the woodwork: ‘While He’s Still Around,’ ‘Grow Old,’ some other songs that we needed to hit, some themes, some messages that we thought were important, there’s so many sides to who we are, and it’s hard to get it out in two or three albums. This third album has many different dynamics, and it’s cool to show those sides and be a bit more vulnerable with our fans.”

The album’s second single, “May We All,” features one of the duo’s biggest influences: Tim McGraw.

“‘May We All’ is a song, if ‘Dirt’ and ‘Round Here’ had a musical baby, it’d probably be ‘May We All,'” Kelley jokes. “It’s a good anthem, it’s a deep song, it makes you think, it’s got a little spiritual element as well. It just kind of hits you in the heart a little bit. Working with Tim on that song is a dream come true for both of us, he’s someone who we’ve always looked up to. Tim is the man. He’s a legend in his own right.”

McGraw’s skills also came in handy when it was time to shoot the video: “Also, [he’s] an amazing actor. So when it came time to shoot the video, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that he’s had a lot of success with acting, it’s something that we wanted to get into. So, why not dream a little and do something different for our fans’ sake, we’re always trying to keep it fresh, and give them new looks of what we can do. Our fans are so good about accepting us and letting us take chances, and dream a little bit. It’s a cool place to be.”

The song’s lyric “The sound of a quarter rollin’ down a jukebox/Play the Travis Tritt right above the Tupac” recalls an earlier one in “This is How We Roll”: “The mix tape’s got a little Hank, little Drake.”

Hubbard says, “That combination of music is a very common thing with our generation; you could have a country CD, and a Juvenile CD or a Tupac CD or a DMX CD and a Three Doors Down CD. That’s how our CD collections looked, it was very diverse.”

But did Tim McGraw ask why he wasn’t name-dropped, instead of Travis Tritt? Kelley and Hubbard laugh, and Kelley says, “Travis’s name fit in easier.  He’s a big influence on us too, he’s as country as it gets.”

FGL also collaborated with the Backstreet Boys on “God, Your Mama and Me,” and Kelley notes,  “The Backstreet Boys was my first concert in sixth grade. That was an amazing experience for me. Tyler, it was one of his first CDs growing up. It’s just diggin’ your roots!”

He adds, “Nick [Carter of the Backstreet Boys] was kinda reaching out to me, he was trying to get involved with Nashville, and I was hooking him up with some songs and some people. We played the song for him and he fell in love with it. All along we had said ‘This sounds like a modern day Backstreet Boys song.’ We ended up cutting it at the last minute and it made it on the record.”

The Backstreet Boys have co-headlined tours in the past with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men. Could a FGL/BSB tour happen in the future?

“Maybe if they call us and twist our arm we might do a tour together!” Hubbard says.

For now, Florida Georgia Line is currently on their own tour. Check out their dates at Eventful.

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