AP NEWS

Small Town Boy

March 27, 2019

There’s just something about staring at life with fresh eyes, while having one boot firmly planted in tradition that gives a young man a different perspective on what the future can possibly hold. Sometimes the view is through a rearview mirror, sometimes it’s on a moonlit night parked in a quiet spot with a special someone, sometimes it’s wondering what’s around the bend. But mostly it’s living eyes-wide-open in the moment, and taking everything in, holding onto every little detail because it’s important.

From small-town roots that run deep to experiencing life as it happens, fresh-faced newcomer Dustin Lynch sees potential in all of it. There might just be a song lyric in a simple conversation, so Lynch pays close attention to the message and the unfolding story because everyone’s truth is different. Lynch’s philosophy is to savor every part of this crazy journey called life; knowing how he handles those bumps and detours in the road defines who he is.

While Lynch hasn’t been on the country music scene all that long, his powers of observation are serving him well and his music is capturing the attention of both the industry and listeners around the country.

His platinum certified 2012 debut, “Cowboys and Angels,” surpassed 1 billion digital streams. Since then, Lynch has steadily built a consistent recording career in modern country music with six No. 1 hits, three Top 5 albums, and tours with the genre’s biggest names including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Brad Paisley. Lynch was nominated for Country Song of the Year at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards, Top Country Song at the Billboard Music Awards and Male Video of the Year at the CMT Music Awards for “Small Town Boy.”

With more than 200 million streams in the U.S. alone, “Small Town Boy” topped the Billboard Country Airplay chart for four weeks, making it the chart’s longest-reigning No. 1 of 2017, and one of the year’s best country singles by Amazon Music, Spotify and The Boot.

Earlier this year, he kicked off 2019 by claiming the No. 1 spot on the U.S. and Australia charts with “Good Girl,” which he co-wrote with Justin Ebach and Andy Albert, making it his first hit as a songwriter.

Only this month, Lynch released his “Ridin’ Roads” EP featuring three new songs, the title song, “Little Town Livin’,” and “Red Dirt, Blue Eyes.”

His success thus far is solidified with his induction into the Grand Ole Opry in September 2018. To achieve that level of acceptance means Lynch’s career is right on track and he will no doubt prove his ability to keep the country music flame burning as part of the next generation of artists for years to come.

Lynch will be bringing his show to Harrah’s Laughlin’s Rio Vista Outdoor Amphitheater on Saturday, March 30, before joining Thomas Rhett’s Very Hot Summer Tour in May. The Laughlin entertainer talked with Lynch via a phone interview about his career and the music he brings to town. Here’s his take…

You haven’t been on country music radar all that long, but you have accomplished a lot in a few years. It has to be pretty cool to get closer and closer to that dream, whatever it is, right?

Yeah — the dream being what? We’re constantly working toward becoming big headliners, that’s exactly what we want to do. Me and the guys, we wake up every day wanting to put on a better show, write better songs, and record better music and just put our best foot forward. So one of our dreams is to continue to work toward that big arena, amphitheater and maybe one day, stadiums, as a headlining act. So far, we’re having fun chasing that dream down.

Do you think it’s more fun to chase it or accomplish it?

I’ve learned it’s all about the ride, so I’ve gotten a lot better at enjoying all the steps and enjoying the process. This is something you don’t want to happen overnight. All those guys I grew up with and looked up to had a nice, slow climb to the top and once I get there, I want to have stayin’ power. That’s what I’d like to do as well.

With so many new country artists emerging on the scene, how do you stand out?

Well, I think there’s one thing that makes that easy — just be yourself. You know, as a young artist, it’s tough because you don’t know what you are — most people don’t anyway. You’re just kind of thrown into this crazy thing — all of a sudden, holy crap, my dream’s coming true. I’m getting to record music for the first time, and then getting played on the radio — that’s just a whirlwind of crazy feelings, ups and downs. It took me years, to be honest, before I really kind of honed down on who I am, and what I want to say and, honestly, I think I figured out what people want me to say. After doing this long enough now, we kind of have a good bulls eye to aim at and that makes it more fun. We get to write and record with intention now, whereas in the past we would just find good songs, record and hope. Now there’s a little bit of a direct line, I guess, if you will, to the finish line for me.

Give me five words to describe your particular style.

Oh, my gosh, the impossible question. Because I write about what I know, I’m gonna go with honest, then, of course, I’ve gotta brag about myself, I would say we have our traditional roots, but also we put a new spin on it. So it’s new spin, hip, traditional, honest country music.

How did you go about finding your edge, your sound?

Years and years of practice mostly, and meeting people and trying out new ideas and producers and musicians and even ways to write songs. It’s all kind of evolved into the fact that I have my own band. So far we’ve had these past few releases, and we’ve seen how we really have connected with people. It’s all about finding that perfect recipe, you know? It’s so nice to have that confidence now to know that we are making a difference — I look at it like we are a sports team. You’ve gotta assemble a winning team and I think we’ve got one.

As a songwriter, when are you most inspired — when you’re in love, had your heart broken, pissed off, hungry, all of the above, none of the above?

Music always has a way of finding you in a place and whether it is a heartbreak or you’re missing someone or you’re partying, songs always seem to talk to you, especially for myself in different ways. Even though it hurts, certain songs, depending on what event happens, all of a sudden you hear it in a different light, you know? I can’t say heartbreak, ’cause I have not had my heart broken in a long time. I honestly think it’s traveling, it kind of gets me in the headspace of just being on the go, being a troubadour, and making trips, learning about new places and new people are really what inspire me, because each person has a story to tell, and each person has experienced life in a different way. It’s inspiring when you get to know new people and see new places. I pull a lot from landscapes, whenever I’m out, especially out west. I don’t know what that is — it just seems like I have my notepad open a lot more and I’m writing down ideas a lot when I’m out there. That’s really about it, if I’m on a plane, or riding down the road on a bus, my antennas are up and I’m usually jotting down some ideas.

Your “Ridin’ Roads” EP was just released. Is this a “spread your wings and fly” kind of project? Sounds like you’re digging a little deeper with this one. What makes this EP different from your work so far?

I touched on this a little earlier, but so far it’s been about finding the best song and even more so, really a collective group of songs, to put together on an album. We have a lot more colors to paint with than we did on the first album. It’s all about the lyric and the message, and we let the song steer us. If we dig it, we’ll take a chance. The stuff so far we’ve worked on we just released on the EP — the first three songs off what we are hoping is gonna be the next album as we continue to work on it. We’ve got a few more in the oven right now that we’re cooking on and there’s intention. There’s this guy that I can picture, I don’t know his name, but I know exactly what he drives and where he goes to eat lunch and what’s in the console of his truck. It’s just this character, this dude and I’m kind of writing for that guy and from that guy. I don’t know if that’s me stuck in my hometown still, in Tennessee, if that’s who it is, but that’s kind of who I am and who I’m aiming for each time I write or record. So what we’re getting at here — I think of 17- or 18-year-old me from Tullahoma, Tennessee, is what we’re hovering around. And so far, if that guy could sing all these songs, that’s what he’d be working on, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the world thinks of that.

Being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry had to be kick-ass.

It was (he laughs). That’s top of the mountain, bucket-list stuff right there and for it to happen at such an early stage in our career just means we get to enjoy it that much longer. It’s a dream come true. It’s one thing I did not expect at all. I mean, you can’t expect that, right, especially this early on. It was a true shock and an honor and it still doesn’t feel real. I have to remind myself once in a while, ‘holy crap, I’m a member of the Grand Ole Opry.’ It’s a very close-knit prestigious family. Our goal is to continue to wave that country music flag and carry that torch and we’re doing a great job exposing a lot of the world to country music. It’s great to see the genre grow like that.

To get that vote of confidence it sounds like they think you’re headed in the right direction.

My goal now is to keep doin’ ’em proud. No pressure…

You’ve also been successful with each recording project. Are you finding it more difficult to outdo yourself? Are you your toughest critic?

Yeah, you always want to up the bar. I think I’ve got a lot of things up there, so I’m good there. By no means do I feel like I’ve peaked at all. I’m still learning. I know I’m still getting better at writing songs and especially recording songs, and then, singing, too. It’s an art — you continue to learn and refine, so yeah, there’s pressure to do better and better. But there’s that room to do better, so from what we can tell, we’re on track to do that with this one, and that’s fun.