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‘Strong’: Tyler Hubbard on Creating His Most Personal Album Yet

April 12, 2024 10:45 am GMT

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What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Strong’?

The title of the latest album from former Florida Georgia Line member and current multi-Platinum solo hitmaker, Tyler Hubbard, could conjure up a sense of fierce, teeth-gritted defiance - of staying Strong - in the face of negativity or criticism.

In reality, both when listening to Strong and when discussing the record with Tyler, it's clear this interpretation couldn't be further from the truth. The ‘5 Foot 9’ singer-songwriter is once again dancing to the beat of his own drum, lacing positivity into every lyric on the album. The strength he's referring to, then, is closer to the sentiment behind ‘Tough’ from his 2023 self-titled debut. Tyler Hubbard is talking about the inner strength and peace of mind that comes from his faith, his relationship and the pastoral gratitude that inspires so much of the new project.

“I'm in a really great place and I'm having a lot of fun”, Tyler explains, “A lot of these songs were channelled from the energy I was pulling from the fans. All this stuff was written on the road last year, so it was really fun to play the live show, essentially meet my fans for the first time, and draw from their energy and see what songs were connecting with them, and what was missing in the set”.

Tyler's audiences served as real-time gauges for the new music, helping him to hone the tracklist, “It's really fun to get directly off stage and go start writing songs. A lot of these songs are positive, with good energy. Even the songs with a little more heart and depth, they still have an undertone of joy - and I hope that's what this album brings people, and I hope people leave my live show feeling the same way”.

‘Joy’ feels like the keystone of the project. ‘80s pop colours the majority of the compositions, infusing a dose of rose-tinted nostalgia into the mix, with the warm, radiant guitar riffs and hazy, synth-backed beats cocooning Tyler Hubbard's easygoing drawl. From the sonic serotonin shot of ‘A Lot With A Little’ to the infectiously wistful ‘Back Then, Right Now’, Tyler compiles a vibrant collage of vignettes that all pivot around the unhurried, gentle contentment he exudes. This state of mind is a prized commodity in today's 100mph world.

Tyler muses, “I think in our culture, it's pretty easy to get wrapped up in the pace of life. There are so many things coming at you all the time. For me, it's important to make time to slow down, strip things back and simplify my life - just minimising the noise and the mess. If we're not careful, we can really overcomplicate life and get distracted. It's fun to remind myself through my music to do that, and to remember what life's about. Keep it simple, have fun with it and keep that a priority”.

Tyler Hubbard breaks the ice at the start of the record with idyllic, free-flowing snapshots of young love portrayed via playful, beat-driven jams, before peeling back the layers on introspective offerings such as ‘Take Me Back‘, ‘73 Beetle’ and ‘Strong’.

Tyler clearly relishes the opportunity to dig deeper as a solo artist, “It's been incredible to get to write some of these more vulnerable songs. Now I'm able to share my story. It takes away that dynamic of having a partner and being sensitive to our story as a duo, right? It's been freeing to be able to start writing songs like that, and be able to share those with the world. It's been therapeutic, and it's one of the blessings of being able to step into this solo career”.

The three core strands of Strong - the reverent positivity, the cosy nostalgia and the peacefully melancholic introspection - combine most lucidly on the unassuming yet beautiful ‘73 Beetle’, which revolves around the loss of Tyler's father, “That was just in a moment in time when I was really missing dad, in the same way that ‘Miss My Daddy’ came about, and I call this the second cousin to that song. It's the evolution of our story. It's a very personal song. I wrote it from the heart and wanted to highlight this car, which means so much to me - it's something me and dad worked on for years. It's a reminder of our time together, it's really special and definitely deserved a song - and maybe more songs. I hope, in some form or fashion, it can be healing for people, and let them in a little bit more on my story and my relationship with my dad. I hope it can be therapeutic”.

In a way, ‘therapeutic’ could rival ’strong’ and ‘joy’ as the best word to describe Tyler Hubbard's new album. Strong is the musical equivalent of Matt Haig's The Comfort Book, with Tyler cushioning every lyric with a homey, sunny ambience and velvety production. Throughout the record, the Georgia native sounds as assured, as charming and - perhaps most crucially of all - as happy as ever.

In addition, Tyler Hubbard delved into his dream collaborations, his decision to make ‘Strong’ the title-track, the main musical influences for the project and more:

On whether he still feels as though he has something to prove as a solo artist:

“I feel a little bit more relaxed, for sure. You know, I've tried my whole career to try not to put too much pressure on myself as far as reaching certain goals or accomplishments. It's pretty easy, especially with the momentum we have had since the very beginning, to try to step up and level up every time. But that's really not what it's about. I've been really blessed to have some big songs. I've had some songs that haven't been as big, but that I'm equally as proud of. I'm really proud of every song on the new album. I think it's important to always love your new album more than the last, and that's how I feel about Strong. I love my first album, and I think it served its purpose of introducing me as an individual to the world. But this album was really created for fun and for the live show”.

On choosing ‘Strong’ as the title-track:

“Yeah, that song is important, man. It's a reflection of my relationship with my wife, but it's also a reflection of a lot of the relationships in my life and the value that I find in those strong relationships, especially as I get older. Relationships that have taken work, relationships that you have to be intentional about - I don't think strong relationships happen overnight, I think it takes time and a lot of work and investment. As I look at my life, my marriage, my friends, my fans and the people around me, I'm really grateful to have relationships that feel really strong”.

On not including any collaborations on Strong & his dream collaborations:

“I've been fortunate enough to do a lot of collaborations over the years, and I love that whole process. But it was important for the first album to have no collaborations and be fully myself. Technically, I've collaborated with my duo partner my whole career, so it was really fun to step into an individual space and be creative on my own.

But I love making music with friends. I would say with the second album, it wasn't as intentional, it just worked out that way. Now, after the second album, I feel like I'm ready to dive back into doing some stuff with people if the song is right, and if the artist and their team is right, and if the strategy is aligned...It's gonna be fun to pursue. I know this is a little left of centre, but I've joked my whole life that it'd be fun to do a song with Lil Wayne. That'd be a dream collaboration for sure. I'm also a huge fan of Jack Harlow. So if I was doing something out of the genre, those two artists would definitely be dream collaborators”.

On experimenting with new styles and influences on Strong:

“Between ‘BNA’, ‘Wish You Would’ and ‘Summer Talkin’, there are a few that are really unique sonically. I really enjoy that, and it's fun with each project to bring something that's different and new. For this album, there's a vintage, ‘80s undertone on a lot of these songs. It makes me feel good. It makes me happy, and it's fun to blend worlds”.

On revisiting ‘Way Home’ from his debut album:

“Man, I love that song. It's got so much truth to it, and sometimes we forget that truth in this crazy world with the speed that everybody's living at and all the noise. Whenever I play ‘Way Home’ live, it's a good reminder of who's driving the car, and the freedom of being able to sit in the passenger seat. I think Carrie Underwood said it best, but let Jesus take the wheel and just be along for the ride. There's a lot of freedom in that, and sometimes I can forget that. That song has become that reminder for me, and hopefully for others as well”.

On whether he considers himself primarily a songwriter or an artist:

“I definitely think I'm a songwriter first and foremost. But I don't know about which one I enjoy the most, because they feed off one another, right? Even in the songwriting room, part of the excitement of creating a song is thinking about playing it live. And part of the joy of playing it live is thinking about the fact that this song just came from a room with two or three writers in it. Now we're out here performing it, and there are thousands of people singing the words. It's a full-circle moment for me. I'm really grateful I get to do that and call it my job”.

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Written by Maxim Mower
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