Dan + Shay celebrated their second and third chart toppers “From the Ground Up” and “How Not To” on Tuesday (Jan. 30) in Nashville. Surrounded by friends, family and industry professionals at the ASCAP building located on Music Row, the duo’s double No. 1 party had them reflecting on their success and the stories behind each hit.
“It’s always surreal to hear your music on the radio when you’re driving down the road,” Dan Smyers tells Sounds Like Nashville and other press before the celebration. “No, we don’t turn our song off when it comes on the radio. It’s something we’ve dreamed about our whole lives. As many hits as you get, it still feels brand new every single time.”
“From the Ground Up” was the lead single from Dan + Shay’s sophomore album, Obsessed, released to radio in February 2016. While the celebration was nearly two years to the day the song was released, Smyers vividly recalls writing the track as if it was yesterday.
Smyers explains that “From the Ground Up” was an emotional co-write between bandmate Shay Mooney and Chris DeStefano. The song came to fruition when he met the guys at DeStefano’s home studio on his way back from his grandfather’s funeral in Ohio. They had plans to record vocals on another song they had written and while DeStefano took a phone call, he and Mooney began talking about their grandparents.
“When he got back, we got derailed of our task of recording vocals and we started sharing stories,” Smyers remembers. “I was talking about my grandparents after getting back from their house. They were married for over 65 years. And Shay was like, ‘That’s crazy, man. My grandparents were married for over 65 years as well.’ We were just talking about that and how incredible that is. This day in age it’s so rare to see somebody together for 65 years. It’s something to look up to in our own personal relationships.”
Mooney began picking on his acoustic guitar and the song wrote itself in 45 minutes. Smyers admits that they originally thought about writing a Christmas song as they were talking about snow.
“We had the title, ‘From the Ground Up’ and thought, ‘Man, it’s an interesting metaphor talking about snow building from the ground up to building a relationship of 65 years.’ We got about three lines in and thought, ‘We should make this a real song. This feels pretty special,'” he adds.
An emotional day of writing, Dan + Shay knew they had something special. Smyers invited his girlfriend at the time, who’s now his wife, to the studio to hear the song and she cried as they played it for her, reaffirming that they had a hit on their hands.
While Dan + Shay are songwriters themselves, they also know when to record a song they didn’t write, as was the case with “How Not To.” Their third No. 1 hit, “How Not To” was penned by Adam Hambrick, Paul DiGiovanni and Kevin Bard. Mooney explains that he and Smyers go by the rule “the best song wins” when it comes to recording music.
“We heard that song and it seemed like a Dan + Shay song. There’s a lot of really talented people in town [and] we don’t have any ego when it comes to songwriting,” Mooney tells Sounds Like Nashville. “We’ve put out songs that are really special to us that we think are really good songs, like ‘From the Ground Up’ writing that, but we thought ‘How Not To’ is a really fantastic song and we owe it to our fans to put out the best music possible. When we heard that song we knew it was a hit.”
The duo show no signs of slowing down as they released their new single, “Tequila.” The soon-to-be hit will be the lead single from their upcoming third studio album.