Country Triumphs As FGL Sell Out Sydney
Written by Big Stu on 21 March, 2019
Featured Image: James Dyring
As we headed in to Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena on Monday night, I had this defiant feeling, like I imagined a Uni student might feel, attending a rally held by a controversial guest speaker. Someone the students admire, but the establishment holds with disdain.
There was no question the country music establishment was hit on the blind-side when duo Florida Georgia Line emerged from (ironically) the Campus of Nashville’s Belmont University. The band’s debut single “Cruise” didn’t sit within any category of country music that had come before and is one reason it went on to smash every record a musical record could. The song is one of only 20 songs to achieve Diamond status and the only country song in the list.
The song and perhaps the fame it brought didn’t sit well with some of the established country artists and fans of traditional country & western music, who took perverse pleasure in deriding the music of the up-start singers and the new fans they brought to the country fold. With fresh young artists performing modern country rock and pop, even collaborating with outside genres such as rap, the new fans didn’t connect with the established country scene. ‘New Country’ was born and soon dominated American radio air waves, music video channels and festival line-ups.
As a fan, I’ve seen the development of Florida Georgia Line and their musical progression since “Cruise” side-swiped the industry. In some ways it seems the duo have been on a mission to not so much distance themselves from the song but work hard to move on from it and show the industry they can do more than sing about girls, trucks and partying . . . not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The problem is that no matter how emotive they become, how real their lyrics are, and even when they evoke ‘acceptable’ country themes such as in the song “Dirt”, there remains many doubters, haters and keyboard warriors trolling them and their fans.
Just a few weeks ago, on-line New Country hate spreader, Kyle “The Triggerman” Coroneos posted about the demise of Florida Georgia Line because they’re new album “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” didn’t sell as many copies in it’s first week as their previous albums. I reckon the title of the album really ticked him off, which I suspect was exactly as intended.
Over the past 5 years I’ve been presenting the Planet Country Radio Show and in that time I’ve gone in to bat for artists like Florida Georgia Line, pushing back against haters like The Triggerman and sadly many Australian ‘industry’ people who share his views. We started the show as a place where fans could hear the type of music that wasn’t being played or supported anywhere else on radio in Australia. Yes “Cruise” was played in our first show and even though Florida Georgia Line headlined the CMC Rocks Qld festival in 2016, I still felt they were on the outer amid the Australian country scene.
What I witnessed on Monday night at a packed Qudos Bank Arena was nothing short of triumphant. The official sell-out was a major victory for Florida Georgia Line and New Country. Despite the hate, despite the disdain, or maybe because of it, thousands of fans dared to attend the controversial duo’s ‘rally’ and party like they were on a vacation (to paraphrase Thomas Rhett who also performed on the night).
I admit to having a few tears in my eyes. It was highly emotional to see the band that brought me (and so many millions more) in to country, but it was also hugely satisfying to see the arena jam-packed with fans of this type of music. To know that we have grown from our show to now also work with The Wolf Australia, an on-line radio station playing New Country 24/7 and providing a home for these fans to listen to their favourite artists meant so much.
Former country pop icon Taylor Swift sings “haters gonna hate . . . hate . . . hate” and she might be right. It’s time for New Country fans to shake it off and confidently face the future of our genre. Tay Tay went on from playing venues like the Qudos Bank Arena to now pack-out ANZ Stadium next door. I dare to dream of what could be for New Country and I wouldn’t mind betting Florida Georgia Line do as well.