With the release of his new single, “See You Next Summer,” Brian Kelley enters the next chapter of a record-breaking, history-making career. “When I first heard it, I was smiling the whole way through,” says Kelley of the big, bright, irresistible track. “I’ve lived this song. It was striking chords all over my body, I felt it in my soul.” A celebration of the thrill and the promise of summer romance, the song (written by David Garcia, Michael Hardy, and Hillary Lindsey) also marks the first time Kelley has serviced a song to Country radio as a solo artist.
Kelley was first known as the “Florida” half of Florida Georgia Line. His love of musical (and real-life) adventure helped the ACM Breakout Artist of the Decade Award recipients garner 19 No. 1 hits and become the only act in Country music history to have two singles certified Diamond. FGL notched 17 billion+ global streams, sold more than 40 million+ tracks and 4.8 million albums worldwide, and performed to over 4 million fans.
In 2020, Kelley immersed himself in songwriting at his Grayton Beach, FL, home, emerging with a batch of deeply personal songs, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, that became the Sunshine State Of Mind album. “I made that at a time when the world was shutting down, and it gave me peace,” he says. “I could have done a million different things, but I dove into my music – that was really important for me, and I’m really proud of it.”
He followed the album, which American Songwriter called “some of the best modern country put to tape,” with a sold-out run of shows and several more releases, most recently the benefit single “Florida Strong,” from which he donated 100% of the song royalties to the American Red Cross and Florida Disaster Fund to support hurricane relief. But as he began work on his next project – his first full-length effort for Big Machine Records – Kelley had a different sort of ambition.
He teamed up with two-time ACM Producer of the Year Dann Huff, whose long list of credits includes work with Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Faith Hill. “Dann really gave me a lot of confidence from the first day that we met,” he says. “I played him a couple of demos and he was like, ‘Man, this is really cool, you got your own thing going on.’”
Following the singer-songwriter focus of his first album, and the commercial juggernaut of FGL, Kelley had a sense of what he wanted his next project to feel like. He even shifted his writing sessions back to Nashville, TN, looking for the input and energy of young songwriters and hoping to recapture the energy of his early days in Music City.
“I want the songs to sound big and have a great groove,” he says, “approaching it with a little bit of freshness, but also not forgetting where I’ve come from and what comes naturally to me. So, I think it’s the best of all the worlds together.”
And if the time-honored tale of a holiday love story in “See You Next Summer” displays his carefree persona, the soon-to-be-released follow-up, “Dirt Cheap,” will reveal the part of Kelley that’s more of a settled-down family man – and give a sense of the range that will define his upcoming album.
“There are a lot of layers that make up who I am,” he says. “You can never really know an artist off of one or two or even three albums. It takes time to get it all out there – and I’m gonna keep after it. I’ll never stop chasing songs. I wake up every day thinking about it. And I’m grateful that’s my life.”