NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country powerhouse duo Florida Georgia Line has been dominating the sound of the genre for eight years and setting historical records in sales, airplay and streaming, and they’ve finally landed a coveted acknowledgement from the Recording Academy with their first-ever Grammy nomination.

Singers Brian Kelley (L) and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line (credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The two are nominated with pop singer Bebe Rexha for best country duo/group performance for their chart-busting hit of the year, “Meant to Be.” It’s been a long road since their debut in 2012, mostly paved with a string of multi-platinum radio hits like “Cruise,” ”H.O.L.Y.” and “This Is How We Roll,” but they say the timing is just right.

“We have so much respect for the Grammys and, you know what, I wouldn’t say it’s overdue,” Brian Kelley, 33, said in a phone interview from Las Vegas, where they just wrapped a residency. “I think timing is everything and this timing is perfect. We’re super thankful and humble to be nominated. ‘Meant to Be’ has taken us on a crazy, crazy, crazy ride.”

“It kind of feels like we’re the new kids on the block again,” said Tyler Hubbard, 31.

Their competition at the Grammys include Dan + Shay’s mega-hit “Tequila”; Little Big Town’s “When Someone Stops Loving You”; Brothers Osborne’s “Shoot Me Straight”; and Maren Morris and Vince Gill’s “Dear Hate.”

Some were surprised that the ubiquitous “Meant to Be” only garnered one nomination, and was shut out of categories like record of the year, song of the year and best country song. But the duo isn’t focused on that.

“Regardless of what happens, we know it’s going to be a great night. We’ve already kind of won in our books,” Hubbard said.

While they’ve spent most of the past year relishing in the success of “Meant to Be,” which spent a historic 50 consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot country songs chart, they are eager to start 2019 with new music. Their fourth album, “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country,” will drop on Feb. 15, just days after they attend their first Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Feb. 10.

The album title seems to solidify their position as firmly entrenched in the genre, even as they collaborate often with pop artists and incorporate those sounds into their records. The new album will include songs with their old friends and past tour mates Jason Aldean and Jason Derulo.

“It’s a lot of good country songs and a lot of good songs similar to the ones we grew up on,” Hubbard said. “Kinda more of a ’90s traditional country feel on quite a few of the songs.”

Hubbard also addressed both the criticism and support he’s received since posting Instagram videos earlier this month announcing his support for a campaign to call on Congress to enact universal background checks on firearm sales. Hubbard tagged other country musicians in his post asking them to also support the campaign organized by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoe company. Country stars like Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum and Karen Fairchild have shared their support for the campaign as well.

“I’d like to see more support to be honest,” Hubbard said. “I would like to see more of my friends speaking up about it.”

Hubbard said that he understands there’s no simple solution to curbing gun violence, but this campaign felt like a good way to start. However, since his videos were posted, Florida Georgia Line’s social media accounts have been inundated by pro-gun supporters criticizing him.

“A lot of people misinterpreted my videos, which is to be expected,” said Hubbard, who says he is a proud gun owner and loves to shoot. “I am not totally surprised by that, but at the same time, I wish people could hear my heart and I wish that they could hear what we’re really trying to do here.”

Hubbard said that he understands the reluctance of artists to talk about a politically charged topic like gun control.

“I know people specifically in our genre are scared of that,” Hubbard said. “I don’t think there’s anything to be scared of. I think if we keep trying to play it safe, we’re going to live in a world that is unsafe. So I’d rather be risky, take chances and talk about the uncomfortable conversations and let’s make some change.”

You can watch the Recording Academy’s 61st annual Grammy Awards live on Sunday, Feb. 10 on CBS4 at 6 p.m.

By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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