Fresh from the freezing winter’s day that Toronto is known for, Tyler Hubbard walks into the country bar, Rock ‘N’ Horse, with a smile on his face. When I ask him how he’s finding the cold weather, he answers with a laugh and says, “Surprisingly, it’s not that bad!” It was that bad. He’s just got a great attitude. Observing him interact with his team and discuss his upcoming promotional plans, it becomes obvious that he’s been waiting for moments like these and is absorbed by them. Some of you may know Tyler Hubbard as one half of Florida Georgia Line, and while he’s very much still a part of the band, he’s been empowered to express himself musically and share what he has to say with the world on a more personal level.
Tyler Hubbard tells me he is in a great season of his life—he has a wife and three young children and emerged from the pandemic determined never to take anything for granted. In the 10+ years he’s been releasing music, he’s seen 19 No.1 singles on country radio, countless awards, and sold-out tours. His self-titled debut solo album, Tyler Hubbard was released in January and drew influence from his upbringing, his faith, and the deep love he feels for his family. The debut song “5 Foot 9” hit the number one spot on the radio soon after it was released and is the kind of song that feels like it was made to be sung to a live audience. Holding 18 tracks that tell his story from different eras of his life, Tyler is ready to show the world what he’s all about. Below, he discusses differentiating himself as a solo artist, the lessons he’s learned from other country artists, and where he’s going next.
Congratulations on your first album as a solo artist! What’s different about Tyler Hubbard as a solo artist versus Tyler Hubbard, the ‘Georgia’ part of Florida Georgia Line?
It’s been an awesome experience. It’s given me the opportunity to be more personal with the fans, be an individual and tell my story. It has re-energized me, and I’m just so excited for what’s to come next.
“5 Foot 9” and “Dancin’ In The Country” have become huge successes. When you’re in the studio making music, do you have a sense of which songs are going to be hits?
If I’m recording it, I hope it’s going to be a hit from the get-go! It’s usually in the writing room and that part of the process, but you never really know until it’s out. You just hope for the best and go with your gut. I write a lot of songs, so writing some bad songs also helps you to differentiate. Sometimes I’m writing a song, and I can just tell that it has something special and feels right. That’s part of the process that I really enjoy—the filtering of songs and music to find the stuff that really shines.
Your album totals 18 songs. What was the process of narrowing it down to the ones you wanted on the album?
I had to cut out a lot. I’ve written over 100 songs over the last year and a half—it’s what I love to do. Not all of those songs are great like I said, so I first took a look at everything and cut out those first. Then, I took a closer look at what I had left and picked the songs that were the best at telling my story, that I could picture playing live forever, and, ultimately, that the fans would connect with. It was probably one of the more difficult parts of the process, but I had a great team and a great producer to help be a sounding board.
You’ve spoken a lot about how you want this debut album to serve as an introduction to you as a solo artist. Is there something, in particular, you want your fans to know about you after this album?
I think each song, in some form or fashion, tells my story, whether it’s directly or indirectly. When I listen to this album in its entirety, I want people to know that I still like having a good time. I was listening to “Out This Way” on the way to this interview, and I was thinking about how it makes me want to party. And some of the other ones like “Me For Me,” “Small Town Me,” or other songs like that are very nail on the head about how and where I grew up. I think each song serves a purpose in a different way.
The overall mood of your album is happy and upbeat. Did you know that was the tone you wanted it to have when you first started or did that happen organically?
I love that music can make you feel many different emotions, but I especially love the music that can make you feel good. I’m in a great season in life—I have three young kids and an amazing wife, and our life is pretty energetic and happy most of the time. They love to listen to music that makes them feel good, so I wanted this record to feel good. Also, right now, we all want music that makes us feel good. We’ve had a tough few years, and so there was a bit of intentionality behind that for sure. Although the album takes the fans on a journey of a few different emotions, I hope it leaves them feeling good.
In “Way Home” you speak about your faith and how it drives you toward where you’re supposed to be. What role has your faith had in your life?
Taking that song specifically, it’s a great reminder of the freedom of being in the passenger seat. I’ve been guilty of feeling like I need to be in control a lot of times when in reality, we’re not in control. I wrote that song from the standpoint of knowing that but also reminding myself and my fans of that. Even in real-life scenarios, I try to let my faith guide me and be my source of energy. It’s a big part of who I am, so it’s nice to be able to write from that place and showcase that a little bit.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in country music like Keith Urban and Tim McGraw. What are some lessons that you’ve learned from these artists?
I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve been so fortunate in that way. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the dedication and professionalism artists like Keith & Tim show. People that have been around for a long time and have done amazing things but are still relevant. That takes intentionality and commitment to their craft and their art. I think it’s cool how they take it really seriously and treat their people well. I’ve been taking notes for years on the people I look up to, and I’m fortunate to be in a genre that has a lot of amazing artists to who I can look up. I hope that I can be that for the up-and-coming artists one of these days.
You’ve seen so much success over the last 10 years. What are some of the most notable lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve learned a ton, but the thing I’m clinging to is a new perspective and a new level of gratitude. After the pandemic and after everything was taken away, I think we sometimes get complacent and take day-to-day things for granted. For me, playing shows was my greatest joy over the last ten years, and I thought it would be that way forever, but it was taken away in the blink of an eye. We need to remember that life is fragile. I’ve learned to lead with gratitude and thankfulness for the gifts that I have and the fact that I get to do what I love. I’m trying to channel that every day.
What do you want your next 10 years to look like?
It’s really hard to say. I hope to be doing what I love still—writing songs, making music, and ultimately just impacting the world for the better. I hope to do it on a global scale. I love being here in Canada, so I want to continue doing things like that and traveling around the world.
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