Leaving a band or duo and finding solo vocalist success has rarely been easy, no matter the genre yet it’s been even more difficult in country music. Few lead vocalists of bands find solo success despite being able to bring all the hits FROM that band to their live shows, there aren’t many outside of Wynonna Judd who had widespread success under their own name (and even Wynonna went by her first name as a solo artist). Others like Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis found solo success in country music AFTER stardom with their rock bands outside of country music and Keith Urban became a star AFTER his band project The Ranch came to an end.
Ironically, Tyler Hubbard wasn’t really interested in becoming a solo artist. He was content with Florida Georgia Line’s path of sustained success yet when band make and friend Brian Kelley expressed a desire to be a solo vocalist, Hubbard amicably (at least publicly) let him go as the band wound down their commitments over the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. This left Tyler Hubbard with a choice to make. And after joining friend Tim McGraw on “Undivided” as a featured vocalist, Tyler found a new recording home with EMI/UMG Nashville and launched his solo career and as the 18 tracks of his self-titled solo debut album showcase, he seems like he’ll buck the trend and remain a superstar of the genre.
Being solo has allowed Tyler Hubbard to embrace some song themes that maybe weren’t as obvious songs for his duo. Songs like the #1 hit lead single “5 Foot 9,” a song which is a brilliantly-produced single with a pretty acoustic guitar intro blended with hand-made percussion and steel guitars which accentuate Tyler Hubbard’s lyrics about his wife, the things that bring him to life. It was a smart single choice and perhaps the only smarter thing was to follow it up with “Dancin’ In The Country.” This one features strong memorable lyrical moments like Hubbard’s band FGL often did and it really reminds folks that this man is the same guy who sang all those hits the past 10 years. That being said, there’s a different production bed behind it. It’s still very country rock but there are other elements which Jordan Schmidt brings to keep it fresh.
Like other recordings in 2023, the 18 tracks allows for a lot of room of sound and styles but one song, “Small Town Me,” written by Hubbard and Chris LaCorte, the song showcases why Tyler Hubbard has been a star for so long already. Aside from his identifiable voice, his songwriting acumen blends classic themes, like those explored here, with cues and elements that elevate such a title to a new heights where Hubbard shines on a song destined for huge radio success. Something that can be said about a lot of what’s held within this album.
“Inside And Out,” “Me For Me,” “She Can” and “I’m The Only One,” are some of the songs where Hubbard showcases more of himself and his relationship with his wife while the rowdy “Everybody Needs A Bar” plays on the Nashville “Everybody (owns) a Bar” theme and makes a fun song out of it. He remains rowdy on “Out This Way” and “35s” but it’s the introspective “Paradise,” “Miss My Daddy” and “Way Home” which are songs which would never have likely been on those band projects as they fit him more specifically. “Miss My Daddy” is a song where we learn about how much Tyler admired his father and it works as a prayer to God as well as an ode to his father who shaped Tyler into the man he is today.
If you were to look at the careers of artists who’ve been successful outside of the bands which made them stars, it’s usually by balancing the past success with future music which is close but not totally outside of what they would’ve done with their bands and that’s entirely what Tyler Hubbard does with this 18 track self-titled debut album. He’s embraced some sounds and themes outside what maybe would’ve been on an FGL record and it’s allowed him to shine to the point where his solo career not only looks bright but the next chapter of an already great career.