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Kelley released four albums independently to moderate success. The experience of running a label made him a more helpful artist for the label he’s on now, MCA Nashville.

“When you run your own label, you’re your own manager, you’re the treasurer, the CEO, you’re the vice president. I don’t know. I wore many, many different hats,” he said. “But (now) I’m having the best time of my life only wearing one hat.”

From watching his brother’s career unfold, Charles Kelley said he had a very realistic view of how hard it is to make it in the music business.

“He’s had to hustle kind of his whole career, and I think it shows how resilient he is as an artist,” said Charles. “He never gave up, and there were definitely times that I think I probably would’ve thrown in the towel and called it quits. Josh just isn’t that kind of guy. He stuck with it.”

The song “Gone Like That” gave Kelley his country music break and led to him signing with MCA in 2009. He wrote and recorded it, intending to pitch it to another artist, but his publisher told him no one else would do it justice. That set the ball rolling for “Georgia Clay.”

He is now fully prepared to start from square one as a country artist. Kelley has been touring with Miranda Lambert and will be opening selected shows on the North American leg of Taylor Swift’s Speak Now World Tour this summer.

“There was no ego involved in this at all. … I love it. I love the road. I like showing people what I’m made of,” he said. “There’s a hunger for me to be playing in front of bigger crowds and to have bigger success.”