Cruisin’ up the charts

Florida Georgia Line released its debut album late last year and went on a “Cruise” all the way to the top of the country singles chart.

“Cruise” spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard country chart earlier this year, and it was the fastest rising debut single by a country duo since “Brand New Man” by Brooks & Dunn, a group that proved to have some staying power in the genre.

The duo of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard will spend the next several months on the road opening for Luke Bryan on his “Dirt Road Diaries Tour,” but Florida Georgia Line will take a detour Sunday to headline its own show at Stambaugh Auditorium that is presented by the venue and radio station K-105.

During a telephone interview from Oxford, Ohio, Hubbard said the headlining shows are a nice change of pace compared to the dates with Bryan.

“There’s more time to work with the crowd,” he said. “With Luke, it’s a high-energy, 25-minute party on stage. With the headlining shows, it’s more like a journey, ups and downs. We’re playing all of our songs and adding a few covers in there, some choruses of some old songs.”

Playing some covers is a new experience for the duo. Unlike many musicians, neither Hubbard nor Kelley spent much time playing in cover bands before getting their break in Nashville. Their interest in songwriting is one of the things that brought them together when they were both students at Belmont University.

“We just became best friends,” Hubbard said. “We had a real connection as songwriters. Sometimes you meet those people that you really write well with. We just decided we were better off together than by ourselves. I can’t imagine doing it by myself.”

Playing original songs in Nashville helped Florida Georgia Line (Kelley is from Ormond Beach, Fla.; Hubbard is from Monroe, Ga.) build an audience before the duo looked for a label.

“We didn’t go out looking for record deals; we went out looking for fans,” Hubbard said. “Once you do that, the labels come on board, and that gives you a little leeway to do what you want, to write with who we want to write with.”

Hubbard and Kelley co-wrote six of the 11 songs on “Here’s to the Good Times,” including that debut single “Cruise.”

“Cruise” was the first song recorded for the album, and they knew it was special in the studio.

“We were so into it, by the time we were finished, it was like, ‘Let’s put this one out first’,” he said. “It captures who we are.”

The party vibe of the song not only clicked with country fans, it connected with other country artists. Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland are among the country stars who tweeted their love of the song.

The single sold nearly 2 million copies and helped “Here’s to the Good Times” sell more copies in its first week than any other debut release in 2012. Republic Nashville threw a party for the band when “Cruise” hit No. 1.

“That was really special for us, a really cool day,” he said. “It was a cool moment for us to be able to live it up, sit back and take it all in.”

The follow up single, “Get Your Shine On,” currently is in the top 20, and the band just finished a video for the song that was shot in Cancun, Mexico. Hubbard said it features jet skis, motorcycles and midget wrestlers.

“We wanted something that had the same kind of vibe (as ‘Cruise’) but was a little different,” Hubbard said. “We feel really confident about ‘Get Your Shine On.’ For the third single, we’ll probably mix it up a little bit.”