After dreaming of performing at the bandshell in high school, Brian Kelley began his solo tour there

Q+A with the Seabreeze High School alumnus

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Brian Kelley’s first show as a solo artist couldn’t have been at a more perfect location: the Daytona Beach Bandshell. Even before he became a superstar as part of Florida Georgia Line, he used to run from the pier to the bandshell and dream of playing a show there. On April 25, after the second show on his tour promoting his first solo album, “Sunshine State of Mind,” he spoke with the Ormond Beach Observer over the phone about the tour and what it feels like to have a new creative outlet, in addition to his continuing tour with FGL.

[Read the review of that first concert here.]


So how do you feel about the beginning of the new tour?

I'm still on cloud nine. I'm just mind-blown, to watch the seeds that I planted a year or two ago really start to bloom and blossom. I'm just I'm grateful for everybody that showed up and bought tickets and everybody that's streaming my music, incorporating the music in their lives, in their good times.

I’m ready to hit the road this week. We had an off-day yesterday, so we're back home for a couple of days, and I was like, “I wish we had a show tonight. I wish I had a show tomorrow night.”

I've been dreaming of this for a while, having this extra outlet and doing some things on my own, and it truly is surreal being in Daytona Beach at the bandshell for my first solo headline show. 

In high school and in college, anytime I was home, I would go down and park in Daytona right by the pier and then run all the way down to the bandshell, get some exercise, and nonstop I’d have music going. I'd be dreaming, “One day, I'd love to play that.” I never had any idea that the first time I played that would be as a solo artist. I figured somewhere along the way Tyler [Hubbard, of Florida Georgia Line] and I would play that, and it just never panned out.

Dreams do come true, with a lot of hard work. I couldn't have planned this better if I tried. There’s something bigger at play here; I'd say God is really orchestrating all of this for me. I really feel whole; I feel more like myself than ever. 

"It's spiritual to me, the connection that my music is having with fans. I'm so happy."


It's a testament to keeping that dream alive. Sometimes it takes 10 or 12 years or longer. It's a testament to keeping your head down, keeping your hopes up and never letting that dream burn out. Me and my wife love building, and so this is piece by piece, fan by fan.

With two years off the road because of COVID, it's incredible to get out there and shake hands and have that human experience. It's spiritual to me, the connection that my music is having with fans. I'm so happy.


I met one person in the audience before the show started at the bandshell, and she was hoping you would play Florida Georgia Line songs. What is your relationship like with those songs now? 

It's great. We [Florida Georgia Line] just played a festival in Arizona [on April 10] for 24,000 people, something like that. And that was magic as well. Those songs were more alive than ever. And so to me, that's where they live. They live on an FGL set.


One song on your new album, “Don't Take Much,” starts out with: “Coming up on seven years of marriage now / I spent the last one living in a carriage house.” At the bandshell, you said that was a real-life story, about your experience during the pandemic. What do hyperspecific details like that do for a country song?

I mean, they make up country songs. That's the content, is real life stories. When people are listening to my album, with each song they're getting to know a layer of who I am, what I love, what I believe. I have a hard time writing something I'm not really familiar with.


You sing, in “Highway on the Water,” that bananas are bad luck on the water. Is that really true?

(Laughs) Man, you pretty much ask anyone. It's not a good thing. You want to keep all bananas on the shore. We had a funny experience with our first boat, three or four years ago. We were headed to an FGL show, our maiden voyage on our 36-foot Scout in the gulf, and the gas meter was read wrong, so the boat wasn't filled up. We ran out of gas in the Gulf a couple hours away. We made it into Pensacola to fill up, but for a second there, we were just sitting there, rocking. And there was bananas on board. Somebody had brought bananas.


That's proof.

If the bananas aren’t on board, would we have run out of gas? You never know.


When you're writing a song, can you tell if it’s going to be a hit?

It's hard, man. More than knowing it’s a hit, I'd probably say, “This is going to connect, this is going to resonate.” And whatever happens, happens. There’s been songs, “Burnin’ It Down,” which Jason Aldean cut [written by Brian Kelley, Chris Thompkins, Rodney Clawson and Tyler Hubbard], and we felt like that had a good chance to go on the radio, and it did. Some of that’s luck, man. There's a lot of great songs that never make it to radio or are never considered a hit. I think it comes down to timing. So you count your blessings when it happens.

“Cruise,” for example: We thought that was extra special. We tweaked it, recorded it, fine tuned it. I remember telling Tyler, “Hey, this is going to sell a million copies.” And it was obviously way bigger than that. [It sold close to 8 million.] He thought I was crazy at the time. When a song just takes off, it has a life of its own, and we've had that happen many times, and I’m very, very grateful for that. Our songs connect us with our fans. They connect us with the world and allow us to travel and see new things, meet new people.


Do you feel like going solo has given you a new kind of freedom to write different types of songs?

There's a total sense of freedom. When you're in a duo or group, you put your heads together, and it's extremely collaborative, which is also amazing. I love both ways. But for me, I'm an entrepreneur, I'm highly creative and love to take chances and try new things. So for me to have this outlet and be able to make my own records, it’s incredible. I get to be captain of my own ship.


Florida Georgia Line plays June 4, at Panama City Beach, followed by six more festivals through August. Visit Brian Kelley has eight more tour dates on his solo tour through May 19. Visit


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