By Maxim Mower
While spending time on the other side of The Pond ahead of his Jags Country UK performance in London, Brian Kelley sat down with Holler to delve into topics that ranged from the importance of staying true to himself to the latest drop from Tribe Kelley, the US-based clothing brand he runs with his wife, Brittney.
Despite the conversation veering eclectically from unreleased music to mental health to fashion curation, it became clear that each string of the multi-hyphenate's formidable bow is glued together by Kelley's unmistakable drive and dedication to everything he pursues.
The Floridian speaks about his vault of upcoming songs with the same unbridled enthusiasm as when he muses on his ten-year marriage to Brittney. Although Brian Kelley underwent somewhat of a reinvention following the Florida Georgia Line break-up in 2022, in many ways, it still feels like you're talking to the same grounded yet ambitious songwriter that first moved to Nashville over a decade ago.
Brian Kelley's debut solo album, Sunshine State Of Mind, transported listeners to a Kenny Chesnian beachside escape, and served as a clear mission statement that Kelley would be steering his custom-built Sunny Briggs down the Gulf and Western route.
However, under a new label, Kelley is, in his own words, venturing away “from the beach to the woods and the country”. While Sunshine State Of Mind was permeated by the vibrant golds and crisp turquoises of summer, his latest single, ‘Dirt Cheap’, is a down-home anthem coloured by the warm chestnuts and pine greens of a rural idyll.
“You know, releasing ‘Dirt Cheap’, I didn't feel any pressure...The heart of the song, the message and the lyrics just hit me in the heart and slapped me in the face...This song goes along with the mindset that I've adopted over the past eight or nine months”.
Sunshine State Of Mind undoubtedly felt like Brian Kelley's passion project, one that invited listeners into his glass-half-full, rose-tinted world. But now, with the introduction of outside writers and new production flourishes, it feels like Kelley's world is really opening up.
“One of my goals on Sunshine State Of Mind was to be a writer on every single song - or a co-writer at least - and I've done that, I checked that off my list...But for me now, I'm taking the Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks approach, where sometimes you're the writer and the voice, and sometimes you're just the voice, and that's okay”.
While some know him as the laid-back ’Beach Cowboy’ - a moniker Kelley still proudly upholds - it's evident that beneath the tranquil, crystal clear surface runs a fiercely competitive current.
At the same time, though, there's a clear desire to balance his pursuit of hits - a quest that is well underway, with his 2023 single, ‘See You Next Summer’, already inside the Country Radio Top 30 - with the value he places on authenticity.
Kelley explains, “Everything I do is authentic. I'm not going to record a hit just because it's a hit, you know? I've got to find myself in every song. I've got to have lived it, or want to live it”.
Excitingly, it won't be long before fans will be able to hear more new music from Brian Kelley, with the bearded crooner teasing, “I've got a couple of songs we'll be launching in early November”.
Hopefully, these will include some of the unreleased tracks Kelley performed at Jags Country UK, with listeners already clamouring for the electrifying, ferocious, ‘How We Livin’, the swaying, loved-up ‘Dirt Road Date Night’ and the sweet, endearing ‘Queen Of My King Ranch’ to be given official releases sooner rather than later.
Although Brian Kelley talks about the uncertainties and “roadblocks” that have inevitably presented themselves since going solo, after spending time with the genial and infectiously optimistic Floridian, you can't help but feel the man known as ‘BK’ will achieve anything he puts his Sunshine State Of Mind towards.
@hollercountry “My goal was to do both and keep both things going and to see the big holistic picture of how everything can work…” @Brian Kelley shares details on the Florida Georgia Line split, and discusses the chances of the duo reforming in future. #briankelley #floridageorgialine ♬ original sound - Holler
In addition, Brian Kelley touched on the prospect of a Sunshine State Of Mind sequel, the new Tribe Kelley x Mossy Oak clothing collection and more.
“We're still working on it...I've got a pretty big batch of songs, and I'm looking at recording even more. Is it going to be [a case of releasing] a couple songs once a month, leading up to more songs coming out? How do we want to roll these out for the fans?...I'm looking at infiltrating the market with a bunch of songs this coming year for sure”.
“It's Brittney's brainchild...We found a couple of old patterns that we loved that looked kind of vintage, and they allowed us to do our thing with it. She's got some great pieces that she's designed, and it's been inspired by travel, the outdoors and our lifestyle.
It's one thing to get the pieces back and we can look at them [ourselves], but once you see them on the models and once you've seen the pictures, and once I saw them on her, I just felt fired up about it. I really do think this collection is going to be our best one yet”.
“I love the freedom of how I labelled it Sunshine State Of Mind: Season One. It just leaves it open. There will be more...I've got probably more than four or five songs that that didn't make it [onto the album]. I kept writing after the record came in. I was still in that zone, that mindset of ‘Sunshine State Of Mind’. I'm just not there right now.
That project is still getting found, it's still young...I'm super proud of that record. I'm forever grateful it opened the door for me to be here today...It set the scene for my solo career”.
“I think there are moments [of self-doubt] on every journey, where you're trying to figure out how to maximise the results...Coming from a duo and basically starting over, it's a new business - and in any new business, you're going to have moments of building, and that's okay.
I'm not going to stop. If it's not easy, that's okay, I'm still gonna hit it, I'm still gonna go to the gym, I'm still gonna work on my voice, I'm still gonna show up and write...FGL wasn't built overnight, there were years before we had hits, when I was driving my Tahoe, going in debt on my personal credit card. Fortunately for me, I've got an amazing wife of almost ten years, I've got a great team that have my back, and we're walking hand in hand, ready to take on the world”.
“I've been trying to sprinkle in some unreleased stuff and test them out on the fans and get them excited about it...Maybe seven or eight years ago, before social media and TikTok hit as hard as it has, you didn't want too much out there that wasn't already available for people to stream, and you didn't want people to get a video recording of it.
Now, it doesn't matter. I want people to hear my [unreleased] music...Some songs I hold back and I won't do them live, because I want it wrapped up in a bow of how the track sounds and the production...but some, I just can't help but play”.
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