Tyler Hubbard drinks in the moment. He hasn’t always had time to be still and simply exist. Formerly one-half of Florida Georgia Line, Hubbard has toured the world and scored countless chart-topping hits. He’s so used to the hustle of his superstar career that he lost himself somewhere along the way.
If the last few years have taught him anything, it’s that life is too short to worry over things you can’t control; a long overdue lesson to slow down and be thankful. This gratitude and insight fuels his self-titled solo debut, an 18-stack record that imparts wisdom about life and what it means to “do a little more livin' than gettin' by,” as he sings on ‘35’s’.
Co-produced with Jordan Schmidt and Jesse Frasure, Tyler Hubbard feels, at times, to be a personal statement, one wrought through miles wracked up on the road and standing in the spotlight. “It’s kinda nice, I don't have to drive to end up where I'm supposed to go / At the end of the day, it's better this way,” he sings, relinquishing control to a higher power with the bookending ballad ‘Way Home’. He draws upon his faith to pronounce the self-examination of the last few years of his life.
“This song is a real reminder to stay in the passenger seat. So often, I find myself trying to jump over to the driver's seat and feel like I'm in control,” he says. “I think there's a lot of freedom in being able to just let someone else drive.”
When Brian Kelly approached him about wanting to explore a solo career, Hubbard decided he would become a songwriter in Nashville and a stay-at-home father. He did so for about six to eight months but began to grow anxious and yearn for his own creative endeavors. That’s when he realized there was “a big missing piece that I really love 一 and that's making albums and touring. With the help of my wife, a few friends and my team that I had started putting together, I felt encouraged, equipped and supported to make that leap of faith.”
His leap paid off, challenging him to evolve his songwriting to new levels. “I think once I decided to make an album there was a little bit more pressure. It was a new dynamic,” he remarks. “I'd get together with some of my best friends who could help me craft songs to tell my story. It was something new for me as a songwriter. I'm always trying to write great songs for anybody who wants to record them. I took on a different life as a writer.” But, writing and completing the solo record completely “exceeded my expectations,” he says. “It's been so fun, so life-giving, and energizing.”
As he pieced together the songs, something began to happen. An overarching theme about life’s ephemeral nature emerged, an unintentional by-product of such deeply personal reflection. “I've lived a lot of life and gone to a lot of places. Music has taken me on an incredible ride. There's times you have to be intentional about slowing down,” he considers. “Over a lot of the time that I was writing this album, I was just trying to be present and make the most of this time with my family and friends, of those months and years that were unknown.”
His self-discovery is most evident in songs like ‘Tough’, a co-write with Bebe Rexha and Schmidt. “The only way that we get stronger is get a little burnt, take a little fall / Hurts like hell when you're going through it all,” he sings over thumping drums and guitar. Born out of a dark place, Hubbard offers hope and encouragement, a creed that quickly becomes the album’s backbone.
With ‘Miss My Daddy’, the lone solo write, Hubbard was sitting on his tour bus when the song hit him like a bolt of lightning. He’d been going through a period of missing his father (who died aged 43 in a helicopter crash in 2007), so the song naturally stemmed from “a place of just raw vulnerability. One of my friends had lost her dad that previous week, and I just thought I was gonna write something for me and for her and for anyone else that had lost somebody.”
When much of the record leans into radio candy, it’s refreshing to hear Hubbard pull in the reins for a moment. “I never really thought it would ever see the light of day. I thought it would just be a therapeutic experience”, he continues. “But as I was putting this album together, it was an important piece of my story and part of who I am. I really wanted to showcase a little bit more of my vulnerable side that maybe I haven't before.”
Later, he admits that “there's sure been times it's hit me hard”, opening up about what it’s like to navigate the emotions that pounce upon him unexpectedly. “I try to sink into those emotions. I think it's okay to miss people, and I try to remember the good times. I use those moments as a time to be nostalgic and miss the people that we've lost,” he says. “There are a lot of times in life when I wish he was here to bounce ideas off of or to celebrate with. He's not and that's part of life. I try to make the most of it and use it to channel more good energy and be more appreciative of each day and the people that we do get to be around.”
Another emotional pillar, ‘Inside and Out’ turns attention to Hubbard’s daughter, as an ode about inner and outer beauty. “We were talking all the time about beauty and how important the inner beauty is and how beautiful she is. I really wanted to write a song that had some heart and some depth and was really a reminder that we're all beautiful. Oftentimes, I do look at my kids, and I'm just like, ‘man, it's such a gift that I get to have these kids in my life.’ It's a really special thing getting to be a parent now. She's now adopted that song as her own. It's a really important message that I'm glad I could put into a song that still fits on this album.”
Hubbard dives deeper into contemplation, offering up what he’s learned most from his kids. “I love their innocence. I love the way they look at life, their joy and excitement for the little things. I think we lose a lot of that luster when we get older,” he says. “We get too wrapped up in work and business and relationships. A lot of the noise of the world starts to creep in.”
“So it's been really fun to just watch a kid and channel my inner child a little bit 一 to go back to what that feels like and being excited about little things, like getting to go ice skating or riding around on your bicycle in the front yard. It's amazing how excited these kids get to live life,” he continues. “That's a really beautiful gift that we get as an adult 一 to be reminded of our childhood. I've learned a ton from our kids, and I continue to learn all the time. Parenting in itself is an ever-evolving challenge, and I'm always trying to learn how to be a better parent.”
Hubbard manages to balance home life and his career with ease. His songwriting has benefited most from his willingness to be present and reflect. Removed from the noise of the limelight, he was able to dig in and excavate those parts of himself he’d long buried and left unaddressed.
Through looking back at his youth, Hubbard has been able to cut to the core of himself in a way he never has before, with authenticity permeating every single syllable of his songwriting. It might not always work, but Hubbard is making music on his own terms. And that counts for something.
Tyler Hubbard's debut solo LP is out now.