Dan Smalley released his debut EP, If I’m Being Honest, on Friday, March 20th. The project features four songs and is the product of Smalley’s sixteen years of trying to find his voice and tell his story. As someone who grew up listening to the greats such as Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, Smalley says it took him a while to find his true sound.
“Finding your own sound has to be one of the hardest things in the world to do to because I’ve been trying to sound like everybody else my whole life because they sound good to me,” he says in an exclusive interview with Sounds Like Nashville. “It got to a point where I had to quit fighting against what I thought I wanted to be and go ahead and start being who I am, who I was.”
Now, Smalley is sure of his sound, which is showcased on the four-song EP as traditional-leaning, feel-good country songs with personal lyrics. The feel good side is featured in songs like “Till Country Comes Back,” which was written by Smalley, Jimmy Robbins and Josh Thompson and tells the story of a man waiting for his girl, who he calls ‘country’, to come back. Then there’s “Rich And Famous,” a lighthearted song about taking a break up and turning it into fuel to write a money-making hit.
“‘Rich And Famous,’ as far as the groove goes of that song, that’s kind of how I bounce through life,” Smalley says. “Just real easy, happy-go-lucky.”
The title track, “If I’m Being Honest,” shows a little more of who Smalley is at the heart, which is a man who is, as he sings in the chorus, “more broomstick side between cowboy and a kid” and “most of the time just shootin’ from the hip.”
“Those are real statements about me, like ‘Hey, most of the time, I’m just kind of winging it,’” he says. “That’s me. I’m that little kid that’s still just dreaming big and acting tough, but on the inside I’m really just still reaching for something bigger and keeping the dreams big.”
The EP also features “Lucky,” an incredibly honest song that shares personal stories of Smalley’s early years, including a drunk car accident where he took out four crosses on the side of the road, an under-the-influence bar fight, and the last time he drank, when he mistakenly broke into a stranger’s home thinking it was his own and woke up with bullet wounds in his chest and arm. Through all these experiences though, Smalley found redemption through the love of his wife.
“Those are real lyrics, real situations, and I hope by the end of the song, it’s like, ‘Man this guy was going through hell and without this woman here to help him at the other side, he might not be around anymore,’” he says. “I hope people look at this song as a redemption song and see the hope in it.”
All in all, If I’m Being Honest is just what the title implies: an honest introduction to Smalley. And for him, telling his story is somewhat therapeutic.
“It’s much like being in the program, it’s much like staying sober, it’s much like therapy in a way, being able to be real with the entire world,” he says. “It’s exhilarating in my opinion. I don’t have anything I’m hiding at this point.”