By Annie Reuter
“Baby you a song, you make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise,” sings Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of country duo Florida Georgia Line in the opening moments of their monster smash hit “Cruise.” In fact, it was these very words that kicked off the writing of the song, which earned them their first No. 1, broke countless records, and became 2013’s most played song at country radio.
Now “Cruise” has been nominated an Academy of Country Music Award for Single of the Year. In addition, the remixed version of the song featuring rapper Nelly has also earned a second nomination for Vocal Event of the Year. Florida Georgia Line has also been nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year, and their debut album Here’s to the Good Times is nominated for Album of the Year.
Related: See all 2014 ACM Award nominees
For our latest installment of Behind the Song, Radio.com talked with FGL’s Kelley and Hubbard as well as Chase Rice, a singer and songwriter who also had a hand in turning the catchy song into an unfathomable hit.
The song began when Kelley, Chase Rice and Jesse Rice (no relation) were sitting in Jesse’s living room one afternoon. They had been writing another song when Kelley started playing something very different.
“All of a sudden Brian [Kelley] pops up and strums a chord and starts humming this melody,” Chase Rice told Radio.com. “That ended up being the ‘Cruise’ melody, and we looked at each other, all of us three, and we were like, ‘What the hell is that?’ He was like, ‘I don’t know, but we should write it.’ As we got more into it, we completely dropped the other song we were writing that day, and I’m glad we did.”
Kelley knew the song would be the perfect fit for Florida Georgia Line, and he looks back fondly on that very special day.
“The first line of the chorus got thrown out,” he recalled to Radio.com. “We wrote it really quick, got it back in the studio, tweaked some things and added some things. Our producer Joey Moi [who’s also credited as a songwriter on ‘Cruise’] really challenged us to tighten it up and to try and make it the best song we could. He made an amazing track to go along with that. It doesn’t sound like anything else that’s on the radio.”
A life-changer for all involved, “Cruise” has a relatability to country fans that helped take it to No. 1.
“I think it really resonates with country fans,” Hubbard said. “I keep hearing people say, ‘Every time we hear it, it really does make me want to roll my windows down and cruise.’ Even if you’re not totally into country music, it’s just a feel-good song that can [work] for anybody. Everybody seems to be drawn to it. The hooky-ness of it, the catchiness of it, everybody calls it an earworm that they can’t get out of their head. We’ve just been blessed to be a part of it.”
“The melody is catchy. The lyrics are easy to remember and easy to sing along to, it’s not too wordy,” Rice explained. “The production is great on it. We wrote the hell out of it. It’s not a deep song, there’s not a whole lot of meaning around it. People just want to have a good time and sing along, and that’s the ultimate sing-along song.”
And, he continued, “It starts with a chorus. A lot of the old rock songs started with the chorus, and they all went to No. 1. This one was the same way. We started with the chorus that day.”
“It’s really cool to be, from the start of that song on a couch in the house, to the studio, to singing it live and getting an award, to it being No. 1. It’s the best feeling in the world and we’re really humbled to be a part of such a special song,” Kelley said.
Related: Read about more ACM-nominated songs
The 49th annual ACM Awards will be broadcast live from Las Vegas on Sunday, April 6 at 8pm ET/PT on CBS.