Morgan Wallen Talks 'Up Down' & How Florida Georgia Line Wanted to 'Pay It Forward' by Collaborating
Sometimes when collaborations involve a big-name artist and an up-and-coming singer, the pairing can be a little more contrived than organic. But in Morgan Wallen’s case for his latest single "Up Down," which features Florida Georgia Line, the team-up was simply a good-time hang among friends.
After Wallen met the FGL guys a couple of years ago, he knew there was a special friendship in store. With similar small-town upbringings, the 24-year-old instantly clicked with the guys and they’ve since toured and written together. Yet somehow, the thought of collaborating never struck until someone else brought a song to them.
“Up Down” was written by Wallen’s best friend Michael Hardy -- a songwriter who wrote the track with Brad Clawson and CJ Solar -- which is how it ended up in his hands. Immediately falling in love with the song, Wallen called up Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard to see what he and bandmate Brian Kelley thought -- not really considering that they’d join forces for it.
“He was like, ‘Man why don’t we just go 'head and hop on there, would you be OK with that?' I said ‘Uh, yeah,’” he recalls with a laugh. “Kinda in the same light that Luke Bryan did a song with them early in their careers, they said they wanted to pay it forward.”
Obviously recording a song with one of country music’s most famous pairs was a no-brainer for Wallen, but he was more excited about singing a song with Hubbard and Kelley that they could all relate to. Being from Sneedville, Tennessee, Wallen knows a thing or two about BFE (slang for middle of nowhere), as the song references in the chorus’ opening line: “We’re just holdin' it down here in BFE.”
“I’m proud I’m from Sneedville, and I definitely consider it BFE,” he laughs. “I still have a lot of family over there, so no matter where I go in life I’m always gonna remember those times growing up over there and be proud of that. I know Tyler and [Brian] feel the same way.”
Their closeness to the song’s subject is a major reason for why “Up Down” works so well with all three of the guys on it, but Wallen suggests that the fact that they were simply just having a good time recording it may be the biggest reason of them all. Their similar “swampy” -- as Wallen calls it -- sounds also made for a perfect pairing, allowing Wallen to mesh his old soul with his love of Southern rock.
Although Wallen admits he still doesn’t have a particular goal in mind for what he wants to sound like as an artist, he felt “Up Down” was a great follow-up to his twangy breakout hit “The Way I Talk,” regardless of whether he had a superstar duo on the track.
“I’m all for a good slow song and I love all different kinds of music,” he says. “But in my career right now, I’m trying to build a fanbase who wants to come have a good time and party with me at my shows and to where everybody can have a good time. Not to say that a slow song won’t do that, but that’s just the kinda vibe I’m trying to create at the moment.”
The party vibe Wallen desires is exactly what makes him and the FGL guys such a great match, something that became even more apparent when they hit the road together last year. Some of their downtime on the road was spent writing together, and one of the sessions resulted in what is now Jason Aldean's latest single, "You Make It Easy."
Writing songs with FGL has helped Wallen gain confidence in being unapologetically himself in his own songwriting, which allowed them to vibe off each other the way they do singing on “Up Down.” Though they didn’t write this particular song together, it's just as representative of who they are as any song they penned. And as Wallen, Hubbard and Kelley watch "Up Down" continue to climb up (not down) the country charts -- as of the Feb. 24-dated charts, it’s at No. 23 on Country Airplay and just broke the top 20 on Hot Country Songs at No. 19, Wallen’s highest peaks on the charts yet -- Wallen can’t help but feel grateful for the way their friendship has turned into a career-defining moment for him.
“It’s just a clever song about having a good time. Me and the guys love what the song talks about,” he says. “I want people to know that it was just some buddies that ended up liking the same song, it was not a political favor. Hopefully it’s just the beginning of a cool ride.”