Georgia born and raised Tyler Hubbard and Florida native Brian Kelley both began playing guitar individually while they were in high school before meeting at Nashville's Belmont University. They began writing songs together between classes and soon found themselves playing local clubs, quickly building a fanbase. Hubbard and Kelley signed a publishing/production/management deal with Craig Wiseman's Big Loud Mountain record label in December 2011 and released their first five-song EP, It'z Just What We Do the following May. This breezy summer song is their first single from the collection.
The song's success was predicted by Brian Kelley as soon as the pair started laying it down. "I remember first day in the studio when we were recording 'Cruise' and it was starting to come to life," said Tyler as the song climbed the Hot 100. "BK looked at me and he said, 'Dude, we're gonna sell a million copies of this song.' And I'm like, 'Dude, there's no way. It's not even possible.' And you know, that was a year ago when we were starting to work on it."
When this tale of youthful attraction, music and Georgia back roads topped Billboard's Country Airplay chart, Florida Georgia Line became the first duo or group to reach #1 on the chart with a debut single since Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried
" in December 2008.
The song left the Hot 100 in February 2013, after peaking at #16. However, after a pop crossover remix with rapper Nelly was released a couple of months later, the song reappeared on the chart this time in the Top 10.
This song found a home on pop radio playlists alongside far more kinetic fare by the likes of Icona Pop, Robin Thicke, and Maroon 5. Part of its appeal is its unabashedly Southern sentiments, as we hear about a beautiful girl who enjoys both The Marshall Tucker Band ("Can't You See
," "Heard It In A Love Song
") and Southern Comfort cocktails. Unlike most hits of the time, the song forgoes an intro and starts right in with the chorus, which is repeated three more times in the song.
In the last verse, most of the musical backing is dropped, which adds provides a nice break near the end of the song and adds impact to that fourth chorus.
Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line explained to Radio.com how the collaboration with Nelly came together. "We had some pop stations that were wanting a different version of 'Cruise' that we could send out, and he [Nelly] is a labelmate," he said. "We heard he was a fan of what we were doing and the song. We knew he wanted to do it, and literally a day or two later we had the track and we cranked it up on the bus."
He added that the pair were blown away by Nelly's version. "I literally think that whole weekend we probably listened to it a couple hundred times," he admitted. "We're huge fans of him. I don't think we could have picked anybody better. It fits what we're doing, it fits what he's doing. He's a country boy at heart. We're thankful that he put his amazing talent on our song."
This wasn't the first time that Nelly had dipped his toe into the Nashville sound. In 2004 he recorded a country-rap hybrid, "Over and Over
," with Tim McGraw, which peaked at #3 on the Hot 100.
The song set the all-time record for the most weeks at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart (over three different runs). It overtook three other titles that each led for 21 weeks - Eddy Arnold's "I'll Hold You in My Heart (1947-48), Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On" (1950-51) and Webb Pierce's "In the Jailhouse Now" (1955). The song finally abdicated the #1 crown after a run of 24 cumulative weeks, the last 19 occurring over consecutive frames.
The record was eclipsed by Sam Hunt's smash single "Body Like a Back Road
," which spent its unprecedented 25th consecutive week atop the country chart on the tally dated August 12, 2017.
The song climbed into the Hot 100's top five in its 34th week on the chart, setting a record for the slowest ascent to the region in the chart's history. It eclipsed the 30-week ascent to the top five of Lonestar's "Amazed
" in 1999-2000.
Imagine Dragons bested Florida Georgia Line's longevity record just three weeks later when "Radioactive
" climbed into the Hot 100's top five for the first time in its 42nd week on the chart.
This was the first song that Florida Georgia Line wrote with producer Joey Moi (Nickelback, Jake Owen
). The trio built on a tune that Hubbard and Kelley had already started with brothers Chase and Jesse Rice. "It was one of those days where everything was firing perfectly," Moi told Billboard
magazine. "No one got hung up or was banging their head on the wall trying to find a word that rhymes with 'car.'"
This won Single Of The Year at the 2013 CMA Awards. Florida Georgia Line also won Vocal Duo Of The Year at the same ceremony.
The remixed version of the song took Single of the Year at the 2013 American Music Awards. "I've got to thank my boy Nelly," said Tyler Hubbard. "Thank you for making this song epic for us. It's a huge honor."
NielsenSoundscan announced in early January 2014 that the song had overtaken Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now
" to become the #1 best-selling digital Country single of all time.
The story of the song started one afternoon in Jesse Rice's living room when he, Kelley and Chase Rice were in the middle of a writing session. They had been penning 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 continued the story. "The first line of the chorus got thrown out," he recalled. "We wrote it really quick, got it back in the studio, tweaked some things and added some things. Our producer Joey Moi 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."
Bro-country is a term used in country music that refers to Nashville songs about young guys partying, drinking, admiring barely clad women and driving pickup trucks. The first use of 'bro-country' was by Jody Rosen of New York magazine in a August 11, 2013 article talking about this tune.
"In short, 'Cruise' is bro-country: music by and of the tatted, gym-toned, party-hearty young American White dude," Rosen wrote. "It's a movement that has been gathering steam for several years now, and we may look back on 'Cruise' as a turning point, the moment when the balance of power tipped from an older generation of male country stars to the bros."
Producer Joey Moi used the hair metal band Def Leppard as a sonic template for the tune. "I came from a world where we spend days in the studio, trying to make a song better," he told Billboard magazine. "In my brain, the template is Def Leppard. Everything with them was a monster hook and a giant chorus."
This song came at a time when music-themed cruises were becoming popular, and accordingly, the duo set sail on the "This is How We Cruise" cruise on November 8, 2014. The four-day trip aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Norwegian Pearl featured two live performances by the duo, which each guest getting a photo with the guys. The cruise was so popular they did it again the next year.
Florida Georgia Line were a little-known duo when they recorded this song. Co-writer Chase Rice admitted to Taste of Country
in a 2019 interview that he wasn't initially sold on Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley cutting "Cruise."
"I wanted Luke Bryan or somebody big to cut it," he said. "And luckily they took it and made it what it was. Because at that time, nobody knew who they were. They know now."
"Cruise" was the first-ever country single to earn Diamond certification (10 million units sold) from the RIAA.