The duo’s new album, Dig Your Roots, embarks on a mature sound reflecting on family life and marriage, including sentimental tracks like “While He’s Still Around,” about Brian Kelley’s father, and “Grow Old,” which Tyler Hubbard played during the first dance of his wedding last year.
Those songs were written years ago, but the duo says they felt they were in a better place now to truly emote on the songs. As Hubbard put it: “Almost like we wrote it in the future. It’s wild.”
“Grow Old” is “really old. Like four-laptops-ago old,” Kelley, 31, said.
“Like before-B.K.-and-I-knew-each-other old,” said Hubbard, 29. “It was an old work tape and we went into the studio and re-did it. … I got to surprise Hayley, my wife, with that.”
A similar story was told for “While He’s Still Around,” a classic-sounding country guitar track that could induce tears. (Hubbard’s father was killed in a helicopter accident in 2007.)
“I almost lost my dad,” said Kelley. “We just wanted to kind of hopefully put that in words. The message is while your loved ones are still around, make sure you’re calling them, letting them know you love them, you support them.”
Dig Your Roots, the band’s third album, is a departure from its anthemic and lighthearted tunes, which include the megahit “Cruise” to “This Is How We Roll.” And while the new album has its fun moments, the duo is happy to sing romantic and spiritual songs, from “Lifer,” about commitment, to the piano tune “H.O.L.Y.,” which hit No.1 on the country charts.
“We have a lot of different sides and we want to show that. It’s fun for us to show that,” Kelley said.
Kelley said while there wasn’t pressure to switch up their style, there are “a lot of eyes, a lot ears, you know” paying attention to them.
They recorded the album in Kelley’s treehouse, Hubbard’s farm and their studio in Nashville, Tennessee. They turn up the risk factor again with collaborations: The country boys known for singing alongside Nelly and Jason Derulo team up with the Backstreet Boys and Ziggy Marley on the album, which debuted at No. 2 and No. 1 on Billboard’s 200 albums and country albums chart this month.
“Growing up with so many different inspirations and so many influences and loving so many different types of music, it’s kind of our way to get even further outside the box to say, ‘Hey, let’s do a song with Lil Wayne or hey let’s do a song with Rihanna. Let’s do a song with Drake,’” Hubbard said. “It’s always fun for everybody.”