Brian Kelley officially released his debut solo album on Friday, June 25, bringing fans his brand of summertime with Sunshine State of Mind. Kelley co-wrote each of the album's 17 songs, which chronicle the singer's sun-soaked upbringing and life in Florida. "If you'd have told me at the beginning of last year, the start of the pandemic and everything going on that I would have created and recorded my first solo album, I would have thought you're crazy," Kelley recently told PopCulture.com and other media, "because I did a lot of soul searching last year."
The 35-year-old began working on solo material during the pandemic, releasing an EP earlier this year before following with his debut album. "Last year put a fire under my butt," he said. "Anything can be taken away like that. Life is precious. Time is sweet and life is short. For me, I didn't want to wait until I'm 50 and put out a record. I didn't want to wonder. I just felt this urgency of 'Go, go BK, go.' I felt like just that inner spirit saying to go. So I've just been looking forward to this for a long time. It makes me really happy."
Songs on Sunshine State of Mind range from party-starters like "Party on the Beach," romantic tracks like "Boat Names" and "Don't Take Much" and introspective offerings like "Sunday Service in the Sand" and the autobiographical "Florida Boy Forever," which Kelley called "a look back."
"It was a mesh of a look back and kind of present day because I talk about where I grew up in Ormond beach and catching crayfish out the creek in the first verse," he explained. "Second verse is kind of modern day married, me and [wife] Brittney, family. Been on some travels, seen some things, but I'll always be a Florida boy and I'm always going to take some sunshine and a positive attitude along with me on my journeys and my travels. And no matter where I go, I'm going to have some sand in my suitcase."
One thing the group of nearly 20 tracks shares is the same bright production that makes it feel like you're listening at the beach, even if you're nowhere near the water. "I don't know if I was necessarily shooting for any sound, I think I just wanted to make sure I did every song, I did them right and gave every song its unique chance to be heard," Kelley reflected. "As we were writing them, before even some of the demos or tracks were in there, you can kind of hear them to being what they need to be. So at that point, when it's going time to get the players to play down and send in their parts and put it all together, you want to get out of the way of yourself and let the song and the parts just really come to life.
"I really tried to just create my own sound," he added. "All of us artists are one of one. So I just felt like writing what I know and I have my own advantage because I have my own lane." You can stream Sunshine State of Mind here.