The 2017 Billboard Music Awards aren’t Florida Georgia Line‘s first rodeo with the show, but it’s certainly the biggest BBMAs they’ve had yet. This year, the country duo is nominated for six awards — twice as many nods as they’ve ever had at once in the past — and they’re taking the stage for a collaborative performance with John Legend, singing their hit “H.O.L.Y.” and Legend’s “Surefire.”
“We’re huge fans of John Legend, what he does in his music and him as a person, he’s a great guy,” FGL’s Tyler Hubbard tells Billboard. “It’s going to be an amazing performance — it’s a huge honor, he’s one of the greats in our opinion and it’s a huge honor to share the stage and to be able to do it on national television.”
Along with that huge honor, Hubbard and his cohort Brian Kelley could be celebrating big wins for other huge honors, such as top duo/group, top country artist and top country song. Ahead of the big night, Billboard caught up with Hubbard to hear what it means to him to be nominated for so many awards and to be performing with a Legend.
You’re nominated for six awards this year — what was your reaction when you heard you were nominated for that many?
I think it was really kind of overwhelming and surreal. We’ve had a busy last couple years, and really been working hard trying to perfect our craft to get better and better every day. So to feel that acceptance, it’s definitely rewarding for us and it motivates us to continue working hard.
It’s gonna be a big night, the Billboard Awards are a huge event and something we always look forward to going to. We’re just going to show up and just be excited to be there — fingers crossed we win us a couple awards.
What does being nominated for Billboard Music Awards mean to you?
It’s amazing. I think for us it just represents good music in a genre-less awards show. It makes it that much more special for us. We listen to all types of music and all styles — we want that to really reflect in our music, and we want people all over the map to connect to our music and be able to feel what we write and sing about. To be nominated for six awards really makes us feel that way, like we’re a part of something great — great music, great artists and people that believe in good music. So it’s rewarding, and something we’re really proud to be part of.
If you were to only win one of the awards you’re up for, which one would you be most proud to win and why?
You know what, I think it would be fun to win an award with Tim McGraw. So one of those awards would be really neat, I think. Fingers crossed we’ll share an award with Tim McGraw, that’d be awesome. Our dreams have already come true [for having a song with Tim], for sure.
Who would you say is your biggest competition for the country categories?
Are we up against Thomas Rhett? He’s one of my best friends, but he’s also one of the most talented artists out there, so there’s also the friendly competition and you’re always kind of thinking, “Oh man, I don’t want to be in the same category as him because maybe we’ll stand a better chance of winning if he wasn’t in this category.”
Definitely somebody we look up to and admire, we’ve had him on tour and he’s a great friend, but at the same time he’s a great artist that’s also continuing to step up his game and push the boundaries of what people expect. It’s cool to watch him do his thing, but it also motivates us and pushes us at the same time.
How did your performance with John Legend come about? What can you tease about it?
We’re going to rehearse and kind of dial it in, but as of now we’re just going to do a little collaboration of our songs. John has become a friend of ours and a guy we really respect and love working with. We wrote a song together in L.A. and kind of got to know each other, so we reached out and he threw out the idea — I don’t really know how all the dots were connected, but the show was excited and John was excited, obviously we were very, very excited.
Throwing in any dance moves this time?
I don’t know if “H.O.L.Y.” will be too conducive to dance moves, but you never know — we’ll probably cut a rug. [Laughs] Some interpretive dance, right? I’ll leave that up for John to do.
You guys have had 14 Hot 100 hits — is there one your most proud of for landing on the chart?
You know, the first one that comes to mind is probably “Cruise,” our first single that was really life-changing, career-changing, everything changing for us. [Laughs] I just remember seeing that on the charts and Hot 100 for the first time and thinking how cool that was, the fact that it was an all-genre thing. It was really neat for us, and that’s a tale we’ll never forget so that’s why probably why that’s the most special.
What do you think it is about your songs that draw so many people to them?
I like to think that people are just connecting with our music because we take a lot of pride in just being real, and trying to write music where we’re at, who we are — and I think people can sense that. I think fans have some sort of sense without even knowing it, when an artist is being real and when an artist is just up there going through the motions so we just try to be real.
I think there’s a natural connection — every human wants to connect with somebody that’s real and not afraid to be themselves and do their thing and just be proud of it. So I think that that’s why, regardless of the style of our music, we have fans from 3 years old to 90 years old, so I think it’s the connection that’s really special.
What are you looking forward to the most during this year’s show?
Performing with John. We’ve really made a pact recently that all the awards shows we attend we’re just going to go, have fun, regardless of the circumstances whether we’re nominated, not nominated, win, don’t win. So we’re just excited to go have a good time, meet artists, network, hang out, get to see some friends and perform with John Legend and make some history in that moment. I think for us, that’s going to be something that we’re never going to forget and something that we’re definitely, definitely really excited about.
The Billboard Music Awards will air May 21 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The official red carpet pre-show for the BBMAs, the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet Live at the BBMAs, will live stream exclusively on Twitter on Sunday, May 21, starting at 3pm PT/6pm ET. The pre-show will be available to logged-in and logged-out audiences on Twitter and connected devices, and can be found at BBMAs.twitter.com or via @BBMAs.