Tyler Hubbard Calls His Sophomore Solo Album ‘Strong’ ‘Live-Driven and Fan-Inspired’

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With his second solo album, Strong, set to release April 12 via EMI Nashville, Tyler Hubbard says he feels “a little more established, found a little bit more of a rhythm. Until last year, I didn’t know who my fanbase really was, but I got to know them, being on the road so much last year. I know who my fanbase is, so this feels like the first project that I’ve written with my fans in mind.”

Within little more than a decade’s span, as part of his former duo Florida Georgia Line (alongside Brian Kelley), Hubbard sent 16 songs to the pinnacle of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and earned two massive, top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Meant to Be” and “Cruise.” Both of those songs reached even loftier heights, joining an elite group of compositions that have earned RIAA Diamond status. The duo also saw four albums peak at No. 1 on the top country albums chart.

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Hubbard’s 2023 self-titled project represented the singer-songwriter forging a transition from duo member to sharing his own perspective and sound as a solo artist. With that project, Hubbard added to his arsenal of hits, notching a Country Airplay chart-topper with the light-hearted, love-filled and RIAA double platinum-certified “5 Foot 9,” and a No. 2 hit on the same chart with “Dancin’ in the Country,” which was certified platinum.

“The first solo album was more introducing me to the world, but this is a bit deeper, more fun, more live-driven and fan-inspired, for sure,” he says. To be sure, the new album features more songs of love and good times, but meshed with songs that delve deeper into themes drawn from various moments on his life journey, drawing on themes of nostalgia and family.

He’s previewed his upcoming project with “Turn” and “Wish You Would,” as well as his nostalgic radio single “Back Then Right Now,” which currently resides at No. 7 on Country Airplay. Elsewhere, “Take Me Back” offers a nuanced look at his relationship with his hometown of Monroe, Georgia.

“I’m sure a lot of people have the same kind of story where they grew up, moved away and maybe didn’t come back as much as they would have liked, or left home indefinitely,” he says. “That’s sort of what I did. I’m proud of where I came from, but also don’t have a whole lot of reasons, other than a few friends and my brother, that are still there to really go back to. I haven’t spent a lot of time there and it was cool to try to channel that for a song concept. We write so many songs in country music about being proud of where we come from, as if we still live there, when some of us love our hometowns, but don’t live there. So this is the truth of the dynamic between me and where I came from.”

“’73 Beetle,” a solo write from Hubbard, was inspired by a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle that Hubbard and his father had worked on when Hubbard was a teenager. Hubbard says writing the song was “a nostalgic, therapeutic experience,” but hadn’t planned on releasing it, until he realized “’73 Beetle” served as a complement to “Miss My Daddy,” a song he’d written about his late father that appeared on his previous album.

“This lets fans more under the hood on that relationship and the stories and memories that I have with him through that car. It’s from a vulnerable and real place and it’s great to be able to go there as a solo artist and channel that a bit,” he says.

Hubbard still has that ’73 Beetle, with plans to finish restoring it someday.

“It’s in the shop and still needs to be completed. It’s a keepsake and reminds me of my dad. We took the ’73 Beetle and completely rebuilt it, every aspect of it, so it’s super custom. We just wanted to build something kind of crazy. We went to a lot of car shows back in the day — the VW car shows, specifically — and we wanted to build something that had never been done. That’s hopefully what this car will be when it’s finished.”

He collaborated with The Cadillac Three member and songwriter Jaren Johnston on writing “American Mellencamp,” one of a few songs that Hubbard wrote at Ryan Tedder’s writing space in Los Angeles.

“This has Jaren’s fingerprints all over it. You can almost hear Jaren singing on it, for sure. I’m a big fan of Jaren and The Cadillac Three and he’s an amazing writer. We wrote this thinking about the live show and wanting something that rocks, was fun and checked all those boxes. When I’m out in L.A. working, I usually hit Ryan up and he has a house fully dedicated to writing and studio space, so I’ll usually borrow his pool house, which is a small writing place and just have time to be creative and get inspired.”

For the new album, the Borman Entertainment-managed Hubbard reunited with co-producer Jordan Schmidt, whom he worked with on his previous outing, and again worked with many co-writers from his self-titled album, such as Andy Albert, Chris LaCorte, and Corey Crowder.

Several songs on the new album, including “Wish You Would” and “Vegas,” were written over the past year or so, while Hubbard was on the road over the past year, which included opening shows for Keith Urban (this year, Hubbard has been opening concerts on Kane Brown’s Into the Air tour).

“I don’t really write for projects. I just write all the time and then when it’s time to make an album, I look at what I have and figure out what fits best,” he says, noting that album track “A Lot With a Little” was considered for his self-titled album. “I wrote a lot before my first album came out and I thought about putting this song on that, but at some point I had to call that album a completed project. When I started looking at songs for this album, that was the first one I decided to put on this.”

Hubbard’s ascent into solo stardom comes at a time when country music is experiencing sweeping popularity among music’s greater scope, with major pop stars like Beyoncé and Post Malone making forays into country music. Hubbard sees one of the key benefits of the influx of pop artists is deeper involvement in Nashville’s songwriting circles.

“I feel like the genre’s in a cool season right now,” he says. “People from pop and everywhere else are wanting to be part of the genre and come to Nashville, which I think is cool. You see some artists coming to Nashville and really diving into the songwriting part of what we do, which I think fundamentally sets us apart. That’s one of my favorite parts of our community.”

Hubbard, of course, has been involved in Nashville’s songwriting and publishing community since the beginning of his career, as a writer not only nearly all of the songs he’s recorded as a solo artist and as part of FGL, but also hits recorded by Jason Aldean (“You Make It Easy”), Little Big Town (“Hell Yeah”), and Cole Swindell (“Hope You Get Lonely Tonight”). Having previously launched the publishing company Tree Vibez during his time as part of FGL, Hubbard has continued championing songwriters via the launch of his own publishing company HAYLO Music, led by general manager Josh Saxe.

“I wanted to create a culture that supports songwriters and that can be a creative space for songwriters to thrive and collaborate,” he says. “I really fell in love with publishing over the past eight years or so, watching Tree Vibez do what it did and grow the way it did. I wanted to build another infrastructure around songwriters.”

While that inclination for collaboration rules the writing rooms, fans won’t find a plethora of vocal collabs filling this new album, as Hubbard further cements his status as a solo artist apart from his work with his former FGL co-hort Kelley. “I’m wishing him the best and am excited for both of us,” he says of his former bandmate. “I’m excited to be where I’m at and doing what I’m doing. I’m feeling a lot of creative energy and I’m having fun with it.”

Strong culminates with its title track, a song he wrote with Matt Dragstrem and Josh Miller, in which Hubbard compares a solid romantic relationship to all manner of things that have demonstrated their heartiness and endurance over the years, from steel-toed work boots to hundred-year-old oak trees and calloused hands shaped by years of work.

“I love what the song stands for,” Hubbard says, who notes the song is a reflection of the strength of his marriage to his wife Hayley, whom he wed in 2015. “But ‘Strong’ is a word that has a lot of depth, a lot of dynamic. It means something different for everyone — it can mean spiritually strong, mentally strong, physically strong. We kept referring to a lot of the processes on this album being strong, whether it was a mix or a take or a photo shoot or any of the things that happened along the way. And so when it came time to name the album, ‘Strong’ really kind of fundamentally encompasses it all.”

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