Dustin Lynch wanted to add a little something to the song “Thinking ‘Bout You” from his Tullahoma album because he saw the huge reaction the song was getting in his concerts. Wanting to focus on the tune for a possible single, Dustin and his team decided to find another element to the song. The new version of “Thinking ‘Bout You” releases today, March 19.
“We thought we would submit this idea to the country music community and just say ‘Hey if you want to be a part of this song submit an audition and see what happens,” the singer explained how the new vocal addition came along. Not wanting to be persuaded by who was submitting the audition or where it was coming from, those who auditioned were given a number and then the audio was sent on to Dustin and members of his team. Each of them picked their favorite and came back together to see how close they were on their picks.
“I listened and picked my favorite and the team had theirs and when we got together it all pointed to MacKenzie Porter!” Dustin said. “The first time we met was in the studio when we were recording, when she was there to get her part down. Since then we’ve done photo shoots and a video shoot and have become best buds.”
MacKenzie said she was excited when she saw that Dustin had followed her on Instagram before the decision was announced. “I texted my manager and asked him if he thought that meant anything. And then we found out that I was the one he picked to record the duet with him.”
The Canadian singer, actress and songwriter admitted she was a bit nervous the first time she met Dustin since it was the day she went in the studio to record her part, but everything turned out great. “It was so cute, he decided to show up and he was just like, okay, sing.”
While the singer had heard the original album cut with Lauren Alaina on it, she said she gave a lot of thought as to how she should handle her own vocals. “I thought I could try to do it like her, or I could do it like myself. Dustin said my voice is softer and my speaking is a little more honest, so I wanted to be me. I had to learn the melody but I tried to not think about she did but do my own thing with it.”
(Note: Lauren Alaina shared on Lynch’s Instagram that the decision to change the duet from her to Porter was a decision from her record label. “I’m so excited for the two of you!! For those of you asking why I’m not on the song anymore, my label didn’t want me to have two duets at country radio at one time,” she commented. “I talked to Dustin about how to fix it, and this was the best option. He and I both wanted this song to still get the chance at country radio that it deserved. I just, unfortunately, couldn’t be the girl for the job. This wasn’t Dustin removing me from the song in any way, shape, form or fashion. This was a way for everyone to win and @mackenziepmusic to put her magic on it. Besides, isn’t having TWO versions of a smash song to listen to better than one? Let’s celebrate this new version.” Her current single is “Getting Over Him,” featuring Jon Pardi.)
“I think she brought a uniqueness to the song. She kept it familiar but added her own flair to it. We had the parts we liked that were working and added a better version to other parts of it,” Dustin explained.
Dustin went on to say tht MacKenzie brought a whole new perspective to the song. “The accessibility to her vocal is major,” he said. “There is a difference in performing and projecting the character. MacKenzie has an awesome tone and the tone was what made her audition special. Not everyone has that – it’s not taught – you have to have something unique that stands out, and she has that quality in her vocal. I think it is important to have a vocal for radio so people can relate to songs easier.”
“She’s a natural,” Dustin added more praise for his new duet partner. “I realized how terrible I am on camera from the photo shoot to the video shoot because I made the mistake of letting her go first. And I was watching her do her part and that’s when I started thinking, ‘Oh damn, she is such a natural, I should have gone first.”
With the two singers getting along so well, the natural question is whether or not they will tour together once touring opens up again for the entertainment industry. “Yes let’s put that in the universe; we’d like nothing more,” Dustin said. “I think it’s inevitable that at some point, fingers crossed, we will get that opportunity. I do think this is a career song for me.”
Dustin said it was one of those God moments when he and his co-writers, Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps and Will Weatherly, came up with the song. “We were in between tour stops on the Thomas Rhett Tour, and I think we were doing a festival in Ohio. I had taken a bus of songwriters out with me, and I had this idea of two ex-lovers talking again. We got to talking about it and how we could write it and not make it feel weird and came up with the idea of a phone conversation. It just fell out from there. Each song is a connection with memories. When we got back to town we maybe rewrote a thing or two and then did the vocal. I had that gut feeling that it was special.”
The album the song is pulled from,Tullahoma, is named after Dustin’s hometown in Tennessee. Of course there are memories from that town, and as Dustin said, “The reason I am the guy I am is the town of Tullahoma. People in Tullahoma are some of my biggest fans, and we go back there and do a charity event every year for the children in need there. It’s easy to forget that there are children in need and this is something I will continue to do. I love going back to Tullahoma and seeing people there. I want to continue to be able to raise a lot of money for different charities throughout my career.”
Although Dustin has not toured at all this past year, he has been a part of the Grand Ole Opry’s Saturday shows. He has been a member of the Opry since August of 2018, but he has been going to the Opry so much longer than that. In fact, his first visit to the Opry was a little unconventional.
“I was already a resident of Nashville, and I knew a guy who lived next to someone who had connected with Jimmy Wayne, who invited him to go to the Opry with him. I asked him if he thought I could go to and he said for me to come along and he would try to get me in. So I went with him and snuck into the backstage area. All of a sudden there I was in the back hallways at the Opry, rubbing shoulders with everyone and I remember thinking, ‘What in the crap am I doing here?’ It was such an amazing experience.”
Trace Adkins invited Dustin to become a member of the Opry and the singer has a story about meeting Trace too. “I met him when I was 16 and my girlfriend and I went to see his show. I went up to him and asked if my girlfriend and I could have a photo with him, and he looked at her and said, ‘You’re dating this little shrimp?’ It crushed me.”
The two obviously have become great friends now and during one of the Saturday night performances this past year, Dustin found himself on stage with Trace and Blake Shelton. “There I am, sitting on stage and wondering how in hell did I get here,” Dustin said.
“I have a lot of history with the Opry. I listened to it when I would be helping my dad in the barn, and since I’ve joined the Opry I never get tired of walking out on that stage. I didn’t realize how much good the Opry does, and I didn’t realize what this past year would do for the Opry. It has found its way back to TV and the outreach is amazing for it.”
While he hasn’t been on the road this year, Dustin has continued to write songs and prepare for his next album, which he says could be released later in 2021.
“I would say some of the material shines light on part of my life and lifestyle that I haven’t shown social media, so some of that is what’s coming. There will be some fun songs, some serious songs. One I wrote back in 2012 or 2013 and I kinda sent it to my producer as a joke and he flipped out over it. So here eight years later it makes sense for us to do it.
“There is lots to come and I think this year has presented itself with Tullahoma what it was and then the world ended. So that allowed me to work on the new album. I don’t know if it will be completed this year because my fans know I don’t like to release anything until it’s perfect. But you get songs recorded and there is this grand plan and excitement about what is to come.”
When asked when he knew he had ‘made it,’ ironically Dustin said he has been trying to write a song about that very subject.
“I think there are steps and goals and on top of that mountain was becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I also think goals change. At first it was getting nominations but now it’s the connections with fans and helping them get through situations. It’s all about the journey and that’s how I feel helps you make it. It’s a blessing to here doing country music. In a sense, it feels like all this just happened, but I’ve been doing this for 10 years.”