Florida Georgia Line Cross 'American Idol' Off the Bucket List: 'It Was a Dream Come True'

Florida Georgia Line American Idol
Michael Becker/Fox

Florida Georgia Line on American Idol season 14.

"It’s important for an artist to soak in everything you can," said the duo after Wednesday's show.

Cross American Idol off of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley's bucket list. Appearing as mentors on Wednesday's edition of the Fox show -- splitting duties with Jason Derulo -- the two members of Florida Georgia Line told Billboard, “It was definitely a dream come true," said Kelley. “Come on, it’s American Idol! ... Something that’s been on our bucket list."

Added Hubbard: “These contestants are super-talented. They have great spirits and great personalities. They all have a passion for music and they were very vulnerable. They sang acoustically for us, just themselves and a piano. They took everything we said to heart, which meant a lot to us.”

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“Nick [Fradiani] was the first guy we worked with,” Kelley said. “He’s an amazing singer. “He’s from a band, so to do ‘Teenage Dream’ was a huge challenge but an opportunity to show he is versatile and a true artist.”

Fradiani later told Billboard that he was a big fan of Florida Georgia Line before he knew they were going to mentor the season 14 contestants. “My band played their music. We would do ‘Cruise’ and we messed around with ‘Dirt.’ I was really bummed out by my performance last week and wasn’t in a good place. They told me, ‘You know what you’re doing, just have fun with it.’ They’re such laid-back, cool guys. Just the vibe of being in that room helped me a lot.”

“Jax was fun to work with,” Kelley told Billboard. “She’s another true artist and she gets in her own zone and has her little quirks.” Jax then assessed her time with the guys from Florida Georgia Line. “They are so down to earth and are such funny dudes. They really tried to pull the competence out of me. They said everything in the equation was there. I need to own it. I need to accept that I have it and not be insecure about everything on stage, just be me.”

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Kelley also applied the adjective “amazing” to Rayvon Owen. “Sometimes less is more. You don’t want to get all the good things out in the first verse. You want to save it and create a moment that everyone can really feel and enjoy his voice to the fullest.” Owen felt a connection to Hubbard and Kelley, since they all graduated from the same school, Belmont University in Nashville. “I love how it was a workshop,” Owen said of his time with Florida Georgia Line. “They believe in trial and error, working different angles instead of telling me this was right or that was wrong. They let me try different things and figure out what was best and they gave their suggestions. They also reminded me of the importance of lyrics. They gave me an exercise of reading my lyrics aloud. It was something I used to do but hadn’t in a very long time. They said to start with the first verse and read it aloud. Just having the words exposed is really cool, really honoring the emotion in the song. I was thinking about each and every word as I was singing it.”

Finally, Hubbard talked about the fourth Idol he and Kelley mentored. “Qaasim [Middleton] is awesome. Very animated. He’s got that thing, whatever that thing is. It doesn’t need to be touched, just slowly refined here and there. He’s up for any challenge that may come his way. I think he has the ability to capture America’s heart tonight with his performance of ‘Hey Ya.’” That was just before 5 p.m. pacific time on Wednesday. Two hours later, Middleton was eliminated from Idol after a Twitter showdown with Owen.

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Middleton was gracious in his praise of Hubbard and Kelley after the show. “Florida Georgia Line told me they really enjoyed what I brought to the show, the fact that I’m engaging everyone and allowing for everyone to join the party that I have on the stage.”

Billboard asked Florida Georgia Line if working with the contestants reminded them of their early days when they were starting out in the music business. “It did and it was a cool feeling,” Hubbard replied. “They have their heads on straight and they’ve learned a lot being backstage at Idol and in front of the cameras and a lot of people. They’ve already gained so much experience that we didn’t have at the beginning. It did take us back. I think B.K. and myself learned more from them then we taught them.”

Finally, Billboard asked this week’s mentors who their mentors were. “There were people who believed in us early on and took us out on tour,” Hubbard volunteered. “Taylor Swift, Jake Owen and Luke Bryan allowed us into their world and we stood beside the stage every night and took notes. We learned a lot from all those artists. It’s important for an artist to soak in everything you can. We look forward to doing that for younger artists and people that are coming up."


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