That writing appointment took place in the back of the Tree Vibez bus on Aug. 10, 2019, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich. FGL brought three other writers — David Garcia ("Meant to Be," "Drinking Alone"), Josh Miller ("Be a Light," "Southbound") and Corey Crowder ("I Love My Country," "Hangin' On") — along to work on new music during the downtime, and they cranked out about a half-dozen songs over the three-day run. After witnessing shows the previous nights at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatres outside St. Louis and Chicago, they were particularly in a mood to write something that fit the FGL live experience.
While heading into the weekend, Garcia had built a musical track that revolved around a catchy instrumental riff, and it was an instant winner when he played it to the crew. Crowder brought up an anthemic title that fit the music and the occasion, "Long Live," and it was off to the races.
"I didn't really have anything amazing with it, other than I thought, ‘Man, what a cool thing you've said your whole life,' like, ‘Long live Saturdays' or ‘Long live Georgia football,' " says Crowder. "What a cool time to be writing a song like that, when we're about to go watch the boys crush it in front of 20,000 people. You know, country music fans having the time of their life. What a song to write in that atmosphere."
The title dictated the tone from the outset.
"When you talk about ‘long live' something, it's something that has been around for a while," observes Hubbard. "The title alone makes you think of memories, and it makes you go back in your mind."
They started with a descriptive, if slightly unusual, line that launched the chorus: "Long live all the small-towners, sunup to sundowners." And they knocked out the entire stanza before digging in on the setup material in the first verse. That section hinted at a field party in the country, while the second verse celebrated late-night weekend gatherings in the Walmart parking lot.
Though it was the kind of plot that Florida Georgia Line would have written in their formative days, their maturity came through when they tackled a bridge that turned the school-era bonfire into a rite of passage shared by successive generations.
"It's just stuff you want to share with your kids, you know: ‘Hey, we were doing this when I was your age,' " notes Garcia.
They achieved that by unwittingly folding a couple of other songs into the bridge. "Long live them glory days," they sing in the first line, employing a Bruce Springsteen title that they definitely knew. But the second line — "Pass-it-'round, pass-it-down story days" — might remind longtime country listeners of a 1990 Alabama hit, "Pass It On Down," that encouraged environmental awareness to save the ozone, the Amazon rainforest and drinking water for future generations.
The "Pass It On Down" message fits the bonfire culture of "Long Live," too, since cold cans, Dixie cups and longneck bottles are key features of the song.
"You probably want to recycle those," says Kelley.
Garcia produced the demo, blending several takes of the signature riff to make it sound bigger and building a pick-me-up section halfway through the chorus to provide an additional change of sonic scenery for listeners.
"It's a little trick that sometimes we like to do where you take the middle of the chorus and then there's some other elements that come in, that without doing anything different musically or changing any course, it sort of lifts the back of the chorus to make you feel like something happened," says Garcia. "That was something that was inherently in the demo when we wrote the song."
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"I remember that night after the show being back on the bus and just jamming it," says Hubbard. "Everybody felt like this was a special one, so we held that one tight and have loved it as much today as we did that night."
Crowder and FGL produced the master version of "Long Live," employing the signature riff from the demo as they cut new instrumental tracks in November at Nashville's Ocean Way Studio. Additional parts were recorded at the Tree Vibez Studio in December, and they tackled the vocals in January at The Sanctuary, a studio complex in the Bahamas with floor-to-ceiling windows and residences near the beach.
They spent a day on a "mic shoot," says Crowder, searching for the best equipment to capture Hubbard's voice. They picked out a new microphone that, coupled with his continued evolution as a vocalist, presents him in a slightly more relaxed manner than on Here's to the Good Times. It was a perfect match for "Long Live," which was well positioned for his tone.
"It's a pretty easy key for Tyler's voice and for mine, too," says Kelley. "It's not really much pushing, and even the notes that are a little higher, they're placed properly. I think we could've recorded this song maybe a half or a whole step higher, and it would have been fine and we could do that, but I think there's a warmness to the key that we chose."
In the end, "Long Live" updates the classic FGL approach, blending arena-rock drums and a big guitar solo with a country-flavored banjo and tinsely mandolin to create an energetic undercurrent.
"This song is what I would consider a halftime feel," says Crowder. "It kind of has a bounce to it, almost like a hip-hop track would, but a lot of the acoustic instruments are subdivided more like full time. Their music has always felt energetic even when the tempo is not fast. This song is no exception. It feels like a party, but it's actually not a fast song."
BMLG released "Long Live" to country radio via PlayMPE on Sept. 9, and it lives at No. 25 on Country Airplay in its seventh charted week. It connects rather obviously with the party spirit of early FGL, but it still offers some assuring depth for anyone who cares to look for it.
"We really wanted this song to be a single because of how much we loved it and the feeling that it gave us and the message that it had," Hubbard says. "This isn't a ballad by any means, but it's got some meat behind it."
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