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Friday July 21, 2023 6:00 pm
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Tyler Hubbard's face and name are very familiar - and his voice is a staple on country music radio. He's accumulated 20 No. 1 hits with songs now woven into the fabric of music culture. However, he's never made a project bearing solely his name – telling his story – until now.
Hubbard cruised into country music a decade ago as the lead singer of multi-platinum selling duo Florida Georgia Line. The pair had hits including "Cruise," "H.O.L.Y." and "Meant To Be." Hubbard was a 24-year old when FGL took off. Now, he’s a married father of three. "I do hope that the FGL fans will hear this and know I'm still there for them," Hubbard says. While there's still plenty of fun and lighthearted music on Hubbard's debut album, there's also a depth that comes with growing up.
"I'm thankful for the last 10 years as one half of FGL," Hubbard says. "But there's a lot more layers to who I am. As a duo partner, you are respectful of one another's stories and stick to common ground. I wanted to make music that let the fans into my life on a little bit deeper level."
Tyler Hubbard, the debut solo album, releases January 27, 2023. Making a solo project was never part of Hubbard’s plan. As a songwriter who has had more than 100 songs recorded by artists including FGL, Jason Aldean, Chris Tomlin, Zac Brown and Kane Brown, Hubbard thought he could be happy as a songwriter for other artists. And he was, but the more Hubbard wrote, the more he realized many of the songs were telling his own story, through his music.
“The majority of songs on this project came from the last couple of years of writing, but I was in a different headspace then. I believed I was writing for other artists – I’m passionate about songwriting,” says Hubbard. “I would write and get the demos back and realize that I love these songs and there’s a part of me in them, something I connected with on a more personal level.” Eventually, Hubbard decided it was time to put out his own solo album.
Nine months later, he released his debut solo single “5 Foot 9,” written by Hubbard, Jaren Johnston and Chase McGill. By November of 2022, it became Hubbard’s 20th No. 1 hit.
"I really set out to write this album for the fans who have allowed me to do what I love," Hubbard says. "I wanted to make a country album that was authentic to who I am. I’m a husband, father, and man of faith, and these things all shape the stories I am telling through my music as a solo artist. I want to represent where I am today and where I’ve been as well.”
Hubbard says it was a two-step process determining what would actually land on the album. The first step was looking at songs he’d already written and what stood out as favorites. The second step was approaching new writing sessions with the intention of writing for himself and telling his story. Hubbard wrote or co-wrote all 18 songs on the album.
“It was a process – I narrowed it down to 35 or 40 songs. I was picky and asked myself, ‘Do I love this song as much as this other song?’ or ‘Do these songs serve a purpose?’” Ultimately, Hubbard says he put songs in categories that reflected who he was the most and those that fit his story.
Hubbard wanted to include songs that reflected his faith (“Way Home”) and others with an autobiographical theme (“Small Town Me,” “Me For Me”). There are songs that reflect him as a married man in love (“5 Foot 9,” “I’m The Only One”) and another that reflects him as a dad and his love for his kids (“Inside And Out”). He also wanted a rocker (“Out This Way”) and something a little unique, that felt different and authentic to him (“By The Way”). Adds Tyler, “All meet in the middle – with love, happiness and live music.”
Hubbard says he created the album to be listened to in its entirety, and he always kept the idea of playing the songs in front of an audience at the forefront. “I went with my gut on somewhere between what I would want a live set to be and how I would want my story to unfold. It’s a fun ride from top to bottom, and people really get to know me along the way. The track listing provokes a lot of emotion, and as a whole, I hope these songs make listeners feel something.”
Hubbard’s second single, “Dancin’ In The Country,” written by Hubbard, Keith Urban, Jon Nite, and Ross Copperman, is out now. The song was inspired by the nightly dance parties he and his wife have with their kids. “It was my first time writing with Keith Urban, and I wanted to write something that really felt good and would be fun to play live. I wanted to write something my kids and I could dance to and the fans could dance to as well."
Hubbard says the song that most incapsulates who he is, is “Small Town Me.” “I set out to express in this song how all those character traits and personality traits from growing up in a small town are universal. The same lifestyle that inspired this music is the same music that’s taken me all over the world where I have met other people who have grown up in small towns and have things in common with me. It’s a pretty powerful connection.”
The song “Leave Me Alone” is actually a love song, but it takes another approach. Hubbard considers it an important piece of the foundation of the music on the album. “I like to call it a driving song – it makes me want to get on the highway and drive fast. People can hear that sound and say, ‘Wow – there’s definitely some rock influence in Hubbard’s life along the way. At some point in time, he must have loved bands like this, or he must have gotten an electric guitar and learned a power chord.’"
“Me For Me” is a simple country song co-written with Thomas Rhett and Russell Dickerson. It's a song Hubbard says represents him through a lens of gratitude that his wife loves him for being who he is. “When I met Hayley, I felt like I could be myself, and she likes me just the way I am. That inspired me to be my best self, and I think that’s the heart behind this song.”
Another song which Hubbard says is an important one for the album is “Tough,” which was co-written by Jordan Schmidt and Bebe Rexha. At the time of their Nashville writing session, Hubbard was struggling with an injury, his third baby had just been born, Covid was in full swing, and the world was going through a hard time. This inspirational, timely song with a reggae backbeat gave Hubbard “hope and served as a reminder of the simple truth that what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger.”
One of the standout tracks on the album is “Miss My Daddy,” which Hubbard wrote by himself before he decided to make an album, while he was in quarantine, on his bus, during Covid. He actually didn’t think the song would ever see the light of day when he wrote it. For him, writing the song was just a way to release emotions and get real with himself. But he shared the song with a few close friends who had gone through similar losses.
“It was very therapeutic to write ‘Miss My Daddy,’ and I thought I would keep it under wraps and just share it with some friends. When I actually did share the song, my friends told me how encouraging it was and how real it was – that it meant a lot to them. When working with my team on the album, this song kept coming up as a powerful, emotional, vulnerable song, and we really didn’t have anything similar on the project. I decided that it was important for me to hopefully inspire and encourage people who have been through the same thing. I wanted to go a layer deeper with my music than I ever have before with this song.
In advance of the album, Hubbard not only released the six-song project, Dancin’ In The Country, to coincide with his first tour this past fall as a solo artist, but he also released three additional tracks and eight music videos. Hubbard is excited for the fans to hear his debut solo album and calls the experience of making his first solo project "really freeing." He says he’ll look back at the experience as a season of “self-exploration and self-discovery” and will look at this new chapter as a new beginning, which he can incorporate into his legacy. Tyler Hubbard’s debut solo album, Tyler Hubbard, will be released on January 27, 2023.