Billy Dean's star began rising in country music in 1990, when Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line were barely old enough to start attending school. Despite the age gap, Dean understands the "Cruise" hitmakers -- and he thinks they receive too much criticism.

Dean brought up FGL during media interviews at Charlie Daniels' 40th anniversary Volunteer Jam, while talking about different influences in country music.

"I will say that the first time I ever saw country artists and Southern rock artists come together on one stage was at [Nashville's] Municipal Auditorium, when Charlie would do those Volunteer Jams," Dean recalled to The Boot and the other assembled media outlets. "And, of course, I got to Nashville when I was 19, and we brought a little bit of Southern rock influences into our writing."

But, he admits, "We caught a lot of flack. A lot of country artists do today for bringing their influences into country music. Every 10 years it happens. It's inevitable; it always happens."

Dean is in favor of bringing other influences into the genre, naming one prerequisite for doing so: authenticity.

"As long as you're authentic," says Dean. "My boys Florida Georgia Line -- they catch a lot of grief for the music they do, but they really are that. So as long as people are authentic -- copycats, I don't like."

FGL has spoken out about the haters, too, and the duo agrees that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they're happy doing what they do as FGL.

“There’s no label that can really hurt our feelings," says Kelley. "Some people say that may be a negative thing, bro-country, but every night we look out, we see thousands and thousands of fans that are happy and partying and enjoying.”

"[Authenticity is] what I think country music always has to be about," Dean concludes. "No matter what you sound like, what you write about, as long as it's not manufactured -- that's what I care about."

The country singer and Grammy winner most recently came out with new music in 2012, when he released Man of Good Fortune. He was one of many country artists, such as Trace AdkinsCraig Morgan, Ted Nugent, Tracy Lawrence, Colt Ford, the Oak Ridge Boys, Montgomery GentryTravis TrittBilly Ray Cyrus, the Kentucky Headhunters, the Outlaws and Lee Roy Parnell, among others, performing at the Volunteer Jam this year.

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