Love, heartbreak, and the pursuit of happiness are your typical inspirations for creating the perfect country song. Brian Kelley checked all those boxes on his path to becoming a multi-platinum country superstar—but maybe not for your typical country music reasons.

Instead of putting lyrics to music over a broken-hearted breakup, a redshirt designation as a freshman pitcher at Florida State began moving the left-hander more toward music while his Seminole teammates were on the road pursuing their baseball dreams.

“I didn’t get to travel with the team, so that left me with quite some time to sulk in my apartment and write songs about it,” Kelley recalls, laughing. “I just made the most of that time—I wasn’t out partying, I was in my room writing songs.”

Kelley says the disappointment didn’t totally dissuade him from giving up on his Major League boyhood dreams. However, his passion for performing was putting both talents on a collision course—which required the athlete and artist to remain both mentally focused and physically fit. “I didn’t care if I was the last pick, I’d go and at least give it a shot,” he says. “But if my name wasn’t called, that was going to be the sign that music was going to be my path.”

Moving forward required moving to Nashville, where Kelley transferred from FSU to tiny Belmont University, where he was able to both pitch and pursue a music degree. It’s where he met Tyler Hubbard, the other half of the chart-toping Florida Georgia Line. The duo recorded 19 career No.1 hits, including the diamond-selling 2012 smash “Cruise,” and “Meant to Be.”

Now, following the group’s well-publicized split in 2022, Kelley continues writing about heartbreak and happiness—and fishing—this time as a solo artist. He just released his new solo album, “Tennessee Truth” and his newest hit, Kiss My Boots, is an ode to being wronged. The change in record-making routine has reinvigorated the creativity process, allowing Kelley to write in his own voice. “Both are great,” he says. “I love collaborating, but it’s cool to be able to zoom in on who I am, and share with people who are like, ‘oh, that only him. I think that’s cool.”

When he’s not performing around the world, the two enjoy life pursuing what he refers to the “Beach Cowboy” life. They travel together, cook together, and maybe most important he says, they oftentimes train together, feeding off each other’s energy or pushing one another. Staying fit has been a part of Brian Kelley’s routine since his playing days, and is what is keeping him in game shape at age 38.

Kelley’s keys to maintaining Country Muscle don’t always involve heavy weightroom, baseball-specific sessions, it now varies with cardio work, some deep sea fishing and even the occasional “redneck cold plunge.”

And when the motivation isn’t always there, Brittney is, making sure the couple gets a sweat in before they get to any kind of beachside chillin’. “I’m grateful I’m married her because she’s a trooper,” he says.  “She’s like, you better get up here and work out with me. And I’m like, yep, [let’s go].”

 

Brian Kelley Keeps Fishing for Success

So what really is a beach cowboy? In the Ormond Beach native’s words, it’s having the mindset of working hard and playing hard and enjoying life to the fullest. “I love the barefeet or boots kind of lifestyle,” he says. “It’s important for me to be able to connect with nature, whether I’m hunting or having a beach day with Brittney. I love all aspects of both lifestyles. But at the end of the day, it’s just that headspace.”

For Brian Kelley, paradise means having a bass at the end of a fishing pole. The “See You Next Summer” singer says  that casting a line oftentimes hits the training trifecta—fishing can target both physical and mental health as well as nailing your nutrition. Whether it’s reeling in swordfish from the Gulf or playing catch and release in the backyard lake of his 18-acre cabin outside of Nashville, for Kelley, no time is ever a bad time for a little rod and reel therapy. “I’ll sneak in a quick 30 minutes at our house and be like, Babe, I’m running out to the dock and see if anything’s biting,” he says. “Even if I’m super busy, I’d rather skip lunch and go fish for a little bit.”

Kelley says he’s building up his bass population at home, which he says is modest in comparison to other local country superstars. “I’m trying to keep up with Jake Owen—he’s got a nice property full of bass,” he says. “I’m trying to work my way up to his size, so I’m not going to eat them.”

Fishing not only helps feeds the body, it can also help fuel creativity. One song he refers to was  his 2021 hit “Sunshine State of Mind.” He says both the best and worst moments of being on the water can inspire song lyrics.

“I had a really bad bird’s nest in my reel,” he recalls. It was horrible. I was trying to untangle it. I wasn’t supposed to be writing a song. But I was already thinking of some lyrics about this situation…that’s what country music is.”

There’s also the physical element, especially when caught reeling in a long and fatiguing deep sea session. Kelley says the pulling and stabilizing required during some intense fishing moments mimicked some of the heaviest weightroom workouts he’s performed. “A few years ago we fought a white marlin for probably 40 minutes. I was exhausted. I didn’t even need to work out that day, because I just had one.”

Post workout, when it’s time to fire up the Green Egg, Kelley appreciates the effort put in to provide dinner. “When you can go get your groceries out in the Gulf of Mexico or out in the Choctawhatchee Bay. That’s what it’s all about.” While he can navigate the grill, he leaves the main course for Brittney, who he says puts her own spin on that day’s catch, whether it be red snapper or mahi mahi. “I love her creations,” he says. “She’s got a little foodie thing going on inside of her. She can take me to Flavortown, and I love it.”

Breath Work to Make the Music Work for Brian Kelley

At Florida State, Brian Kelley developed a love-hate relationship with squats. “We were pushing a lot of weight back then,” he says. “I hated it but I enjoyed it because I was pretty decent at it.” What he recalls being most dreaded was the post-legday conditioning—running the steps of FSU’s 80,000-seat Doak Campbell Stadium. Each session was grueling test of both physical and mental toughness.

“We were, like, are you freakin’ kidding?” he says.  “I could barely pick up my legs, but we did it. You can always do more than you think you can. It’s great cardio for your legs. When we were exhausted, we either focused or else we were tripping on those steps.”

Because of its effectiveness, Kelley’s open to giving that type of training one more try. “Maybe the venues I’m at don’t have those types of steps,” he says. “But next time I see a set of steps, I’m gonna hit them.”

These days, conditioning and flexibility are music musts. Oftentimes, Kelley will go for a light run while traveling. And in order not to pop a hamstring during one of his high-strung concerts, he’ll sometimes add some stretching and mobility work.

But most important for a singer, is, well, singing. And that requires an emphasis on cardio and conditioning.

“It’s not easy singing and running around and getting excited,” he says. “There’s a lot to it at this level, and for the shows I want to produce. So keeping cardio intact is important because your breath is everything when it comes to singing.”

To do this night after night, he’s turned to relying on training from famous breath specialist Wim Hof. “I did that quite a bit over the past two years. I think it’s great.” He’s also turned to his Plunge ice bath at home in Nashville. In Florida, he created what he calls a “redneck plunge.” “It’s just a big water trough basically, and I’ve got a little icemaker down there and so got the real deal up here. And I read that down in Florida and just put it outside and just go for it.

A few minutes in the ice bath, he says makes all the difference when it comes to onstage performance. “That’ll take your breath away,” he says.  “You have to find your breath when you get into that really cold water, but I just tried to really hyper-focus when I’m working out.”

Brian Kelley
Ben Christensen

Having the Perfect Training Partner

For anyone following in the same path as Brian Kelley, his advice is simple: Follow your dreams and stand by your decisions. He says that although he may have turned down offers to play at larger schools, his move to Belmont has shaped his entire life.

“I’m a big fan of people going after their dreams and getting after it,” he says. “I can’t imagine a life where if I had never moved to Nashville, I wouldn’t be married to Brittney. I wouldn’t be in this world. I’d be thinking about well, I wonder what would it be if I would have moved to Nashville? I’ve never would have known. So I encourage people to go find out go find out.”

Now married for more than a decade, the couple have built their own version of happiness, which includes building a modest home gym to stay both fit and together. At the couple’s Nashville residence, the couple maintains a modest home gym, filled with free weights, kettlebells, and medicine balls.  “It’s pretty simple, nothing too crazy,” he says. “But it’s good enough to get a good sweat and a good pump.”

The couple also share Peloton sessions. “We have a really good routine of going upstairs and turn on the peloton on the TV,” Kelley says. “We’ll get after it together and do the same thing. We found a couple good instructors who are incredible that we like. It pushes us, and that’s been really fun.

On the road, when showtime nears, Kelley says the pair will venture into their own training territory. He says while Brittney may opt for a programmed workout, he goes for going rogue and hitting the weights hard. “On show day. I like being in the gym and going old school,” he says. “I feel like I’m in a high school football weight class. It takes me back. I put on my headphones on and I turn into a different human.”

It may not be the fitness formula for everyone, but the extra time the two spend training together has become a healthy marital bonus. “We love working together and it’s just another 30 to 45 minutes we get to spend with each other,” he says.  “It’s cool to look over and see her work, hear her breathe and know she’s putting in the work right next to me. It pushes me.”

What can other couples do to incorporate fitness into their beach cowboy lifestyle? Kelley offers some advice: “I’d say try a guided workout—whether that’s somebody on YouTube or a subscription like Peloton,” Brian Kelley suggests. “Try something where you both have a trainer that is presenting the workout. Have fun, enjoy it, and push each other.