Brian Kelley Talks Debut Solo Album, ‘Tennessee Truth’ And His Mission To Create Music That Tells His Real-Life Stories [Exclusive]

“I’m really excited really proud of it and I had a blast making it, writing it and recording it,” Kelley shared.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

May 13, 2024


3:31 pm

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Brian Kelley; Photo by Ben Christensen

Brian Kelley gave listeners a small taste of his solo artistry when he released his “passion project,” Sunshine State of Mind, in 2021. Since then, he has delved even deeper into his authentic songwriting and poured countless hours of hard work into creating his debut album, Tennessee Truth.

This authentic project includes 12 tracks, eight of which Kelley had a hand in co-writing, and offers an honest collection of stories that reflect the diamond-selling superstar’s real-life experiences and the growth he’s achieved since parting ways with former country duo, Florida Georgia Line. 

“I’m so grateful that I did record that and that I was able to get it out. I created that with a sonic respect, as I call it, to what we had done with FGL (Florida Georgia Line),” Kelley told Country Now of his Sunshine State of Mind project. “At the time when I released that, we still had dates on the books to kind of go forward and I thought that that could live on the side. It wasn’t something that I was considering as a career piece, it was an extra outlet. It was something fun, authentic, and definitely a passion project.”

He continued, “Now, obviously so much in my life and my world has changed and this project, Tennessee Truth, is the first true standalone record with no strings attached to anything. That’s why I consider it my debut record and I’m really excited really proud of it and I had a blast making it, writing it and recording it.”

Brian Kelley; Tennessee Truth
Brian Kelley; Tennessee Truth

On May 10 via Big Machine Records, Kelley’s truth finally came to light through a mix of love-filled tunes like “Barefeet Or Boots” and “Dirt Road Date Night,” prideful anthems such as “Acres” and “How We’re Livin’” that pay tribute to the benefits of country living and carefree-upbeat deliveries of songs like “King Ranch” and “Doin’ Nothin’,” which are sure to brighten up any weekend. 

Plus, as fans got to hear from the final track on the album, “Kiss My Boots,” Kelley uses this record to show that he’s no longer holding back when it comes to expressing his true feelings. 

The Story Behind The Leading Track, “Acres”

The record starts off strong with the track “Acres,” a sentimental ode to his wife Brittney’s family farm in Georgia, which Kelley says is a “very special place.”

“That’s what ‘Acres’ is all about, being in Georgia at her family farm and just getting out there riding around on the gator and just having fun. Sometimes hunting out there, sometimes fishing and sometimes doing nothing, just rocking on the chairs with her family and our friends, writing songs out there.”

Between the mid-tempo melody and catchy lyrics, it’s easy to see why “Acres” is one of the couple’s favorite songs on the album. 

“Musically, I love the drum fill intro, I love the guitars and the fiddle riffs coming in right after that. I just think it sets the tone and sets the pace of the record. I just thought it really kicked off the record in a fun way and kind of lets everybody know what’s coming.”

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Working Closely With His Wife Brittney

Brittney is not just Kelley’s partner in crime in their personal life, but according to the singer/songwriter, she also plays an vital role in the creative process when building out a new album. He dubbed her a great “sounding board” as she is always eager to lend an ear to a new track, whether it’s one Kelley had a hand in writing or an outside cut he’s considering adding into the mix. 

“Over the years, she’s been a part of picking a bunch of different songs. She’s got great musical taste, and we’ve been married going on 11 years this year, so she’s heard a million demos, she’s watched songs go up and down the charts…and has just been around it for quite a while now,” he explained. “She’s one of my favorite sounding boards, I love her input. And she’s just a real girl. She grew up in Georgia and loves country music, loves all sorts of music…when I got the demo for ‘Acres,’ I was like, ‘babe, you’re gonna freaking love this song,’ and she did. Same with ‘Dirt Road Date Night’ and really the whole record. I don’t think I’d put a song on this record that she didn’t like.”

Brian Kelley, Brittney Kelley; Photo Courtesy Instagram
Brian Kelley, Brittney Kelley; Photo Courtesy Instagram

Selecting Four Outside Cuts

It’s safe to say that the selection process for choosing outside cuts is no easy task. Kelley says he wasn’t looking for anything specific for this record, but when it came time to sort through the tons of song pitches he received, he ended up leaning towards the ones that felt so close to his own journey that he could have written it himself. 

The four outside cuts that made it onto the record include “Goin’ Places,” “10 O’Clock On The Dock,” “Dirt Cheap,” and his fan-favorite single, “See You Next Summer.”

“I really just started with what I loved and what resonated with me. ‘10 o’clock on the dock,’ I’m living that song. That was a no brainer. I was like, man, if I’d been in the writing room that day, I wouldn’t change a thing. Same with ‘Going Places.’ I thought that one was unique, I love the title, I love the melodies, I love the demo that came in the instrumentation. I figured I’d sound pretty good singing that. It felt like in my wheelhouse vocally and stylistically. ‘Dirt Cheap,’ I couldn’t believe that that song was even available when I got sent it. I was like, ‘good Lord, that was almost written for me and Brittney.’ So there’s songs that just hit you, and the four outside songs on this record really did help shape the whole record.”

The Mission Of “Tennessee Truth”

Brian Kelley; Photo by Ben Christensen
Brian Kelley; Photo by Ben Christensen

When he looks at Tennessee Truth as a whole, Kelley is confident in saying he created something that’s “easily digestible” for his fanbase when listened to from top to bottom. He hopes his audience can feel all the hard work that went into it and how intentional he was with creating something that felt truly authentic. 

“I hope they know at the end of the day that I’m living these songs out just like they are and that we have so much in common, me and the fans, and whoever loves country music. I think they’re going to love this record and I just I want people to know part of my Tennessee truth,” he shared. “There’s many truths, but to start, one of them is, I don’t think I’m any different than those that are going to enjoy this record. We have the same way we live our lives, same morals of God, family, country. We navigate our lives around hunting, fishing, family time, being with those that we love, whatever it may be, and creating new memories with each other.”

The Florida native added that he is incredibly “grateful” for the opportunity to work with renowned producer Dan Huff on this project alongside all his songwriters and musicians who played a part in bringing these songs to life. 

“This record wouldn’t be what it is without the whole team…it really is a group effort and very, very collaborative.”

Hopeful To Showcase The New Tunes In The Intimate Setting of His Surf Post Sessions

While Brian Kelley doesn’t currently have a tour on the books, he hinted towards a revival of his Surf Post Sessions which he first introduced back in 2022. For this intimate show, Kelley and his wife transform their backyard space into a small concert venue that allows them to really connect with a group of only about 200 people a night among the scerene views of in Grayton Beach, FL. 

“It was a really great experience and I know people that went in 2022 had a blast. I know I had a blast. Our band had a great time. It’s a stripped-down kind of power acoustic set and it’s just really fun. It’s fun to connect with fans on that level,” he explained.

To stay up-to-date on all of Brian Kelley’s upcoming performances, click HERE.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.