Dustin Lynch: The Cover Story

Written by Deborah Evans Price
Dustin Lynch: The Cover Story
Dustin Lynch; Photo by Ford Fairchild

If Dustin Lynch fans think they got to know the Tullahoma, TN native through the songs on his first two albums, he admits the songs on his new album, Current Mood, are about to take their relationship to a whole new level.

“This collection of songs is a peek behind the curtain,” Dustin tells Sounds Like Nashville. “I don’t put a lot of my personal life on social media because I think that’s important to have something private in this life, so I’ve kept my personal life pretty close to the vest. This is a peek behind the curtain. I’m not going to call out anybody on this album, of course, but each song is something I’ve lived through. There’s going to be a lot of speculation into what these songs are about, but this is my way of shedding light on my personal stuff.”

Dustin co-wrote seven of the 13 songs on Current Mood and the rest are songs he found that fit him like a glove, including the fast-rising hit single “Small Town Boy,” written by Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip and Kyle Fishman. “It all just came to us one song at a time and it started with ‘Small Town Boy,’” Dustin shares. “It started with [songwriter/producer] Zach Crowell raising his hand saying, ‘Hey, I don’t usually produce songs that I’m not a part of writing but this one is very special and please, please, please let me be a part of it.’ At that point, I realized that’s what I want for every song. I want that passion. I want that excitement, not only for me, but for my producer and those involved. That’s why each song is sonically its own thing. There’s not this universal gloss or familiarity with each song. It’s all kind of different.”

To fulfill his vision for the album, Dustin enlisted several producers. In addition to Crowell, he worked with Ross Copperman, Mickey Jack Cones, Brent Anderson and Will Weatherly. Sometimes having too many cooks in the kitchen can result in a disjointed mess, but Current Mood is a well-crafted, cohesive effort. “It took a while to be honest,” Dustin confesses. “There was a lot of pushing and pulling and massaging in the final stages there to get everything to kind of lock in. One thing I think that makes it cohesive is more than half of the songs I’ve written, but all of them are songs I’ve lived. Lyrically, it’s all been something I’ve been a part of whether it’s relationships, travel or adventures of some sort. I’ve been a part of it, lived it, know it, feel it, and I think that’s why it feels really cohesive as well.”

When it comes to the most autobiographical songs on the album, Dustin cites “Why We Call Each Other,” which he wrote with Lee Miller and Ross Copperman. “I’m single and I don’t have time for a love life right now,” he says, “but that song is about a text message that everybody at one point has sent or received at 1:30 am that says simply, ‘Are you up?’ I wasn’t sure about that song until I played it for my parents and they were like, ‘That’s wonderful! That’s awesome. That’s sexy.’ I was like, ‘Oh even the parentals know what’s up about this song, so that’s good!’”

This is the busiest, most exhausting couple of months that I think I’ve ever had in my career, but I’m loving it.

Often when a young artist’s career kicks into high gear, it becomes much harder to find time to write songs, but Dustin has dodged that bullet. “I’ve gotten better at writing on the road. That’s where I really love to write,” he says. “I’ve realized that is one of the most valuable things I could do is give my songwriting buddies an opportunity to come out and see the songs work, see why they work and see our crowds and see who our crowds are. So I bring all these guys and girls out on the road with us and we write. All of our writing on the road is geared towards the show. It’s not about, ‘Hey lets write this song.’ It’s about, ‘Hey let’s write this song that’s going to take the show to the next level’ and that’s really what steered my writing this time.”

Current Mood includes “Love Me or Leave Me Alone,” which features vocals by Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild. “That song came about on Luke’s bus,” he says of touring with Luke Bryan. “We were all working on new albums—Little Big Town and myself—and every now and again we’d get on Luke’s bus after a show and play new demos and I played ‘Love Me Or Leave Me Alone’ one night and not only did I get, ‘Oh my goodness! Good song!’ I got, ‘Play that again!’ And that was rare for everybody to want to hear a song again. Karen raised her hand and she said, ‘I would love, love, love to be a part of that and if I’m not, I’m going to kill you.’ So I said, ‘Yes ma’am!’ I still say I don’t deserve to have Karen Fairchild on my album. She’s way too good for me… Oh my goodness, she took it to the next level! Our voices blend so well together and it was one of those magical things that happened. I’m so blessed to have her on there.”

In the early days of his career, Dustin seemed destined to carry the flag for traditional country music, but over the course of his three albums, his sound has become more expansive and progressive. “I’ve been blessed to have success with a traditional song and a very progressive country song and I listen to all sorts of music,” he says. “When I made the ‘Current Mood’ album, I didn’t set out to make a certain type of album. I just set out to write and record the best songs that I could and do what those songs needed. Whenever I go into record, a song calls for something and it comes naturally to that song and that’s just how I work as a producer and as an artist. There was never a goal that I want to sound like this or that. My favorite music on earth is George Strait, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson country, but I listen to all sorts of genres and that’s why I think you see all these little fingers coming out kind of exploring on the ‘Current Mood’ album. We got to pull from all genres of music and that’s fun. It keeps it fresh and it keeps me and my band guys on our toes as well because we’re having to change with the times too.”

When he’s not writing, recording or touring, Dustin admits his favorite place to unwind is the outdoors. “I love to be outdoors, whether it’s on the water, fishing or just floating or doing some sort of surfing or water skiing or something,” he says. “I love to be out in the woods or the tree stand or bush hogging something, just outside in the great outdoors. That’s such a great recharge for me and a great reset button. Whenever I do have off time, rarely am I just sitting around. I’m usually outside working on something or enjoying something that the great outdoors has to offer.”

He admits that time is going to be hard to find this fall. “I’ve already told myself this is probably going to be a year that I don’t get to sit outside as much as I like, but it’s all good and it’s all going to pay off,” he says.

As he enters the release of his third album, Dustin’s career has never been hotter. He’s scored five consecutive gold or platinum certified No. 1 singles with “Where It’s At,” “Hell of a Night,” “Mind Reader, “Seein’ Red” and “Small Town Boy.” He has his own clothing line, Stay Country, which includes men and women’s shirts, hats and accessories.

There’s going to be a lot of speculation into what these songs are about, but this is my way of shedding light on my personal stuff.

He’s opened tours for Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and Florida Georgia Line. He says those opportunities have taught him a lot. “They all operate differently and they all put on a show differently, but it all works and so getting to see three different major tours so closely together has been really valuable for me,” he says. “I’ve become a lot better singer because of all of those guys. Our show has gotten a lot better. I’ve become a better songwriter because of those shows and those tours. I get to see what songs work and why and so I get to aim for that bulls eye now. Now I know what I really need and getting to see those shows night after night after night, it really starts to sink in. You really start to understand not only what a hit song is, but what kind of a hit song makes a stadium move and that’s a goal. My goal is to fill stadiums just like those guys have.”

Dustin Lynch; Photo Credit: Daniel Vorlet

Dustin’s next step toward achieving that goal starts on November 3 when he’ll begin headlining The Ride or Die Tour, which will feature Ryan Hurd, LANCO, and Michael Ray in the opening slots. “This Ride or Die Tour is the first tour where we’re tackling some arenas,” Dustin says. “We’re going to do some smaller arenas and big theaters. I’m really nervous about seeing what we can do, but it’s time. We’ve been opening tours for a couple of years now, some of the biggest ones and it’s exciting to go in and do our own deal. The last two months of this year is going to be a big celebration, kind of our parade lap. We’ve had such a gigantic 2017 and life changing year, so these last two months of our own shows that we’ve already started designing is going to be a huge celebration and a big ol’ party.”

Life is sweet right not for Dustin and he’s thankful. “This is the busiest, most exhausting couple of months that I think I’ve ever had in my career, but I’m loving it,” he smiles. “I’m loving it because this is all I’ve ever dreamed of. I’m getting to witness years and years of hard work right now come to fruition and so I’m excited. I’m getting to be in Nashville and hang out with a few friends and then get on a tour bus and go do a show tomorrow. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, so I’m excited and very grateful.”