Through the song, it’s clear the place means a lot to Denning — he says it’s all about “everything that goes into making a small town tick,” after all — but the guitar slinger also spent some time in Utah growing up, and the wilderness there also left its mark. In part one of a new video series filmed exclusively for Sounds Like Nashville, Denning returns to his one-time home for an appearance at Country Fanfest, reflecting on five years of outdoorsy fun with his dad, “Diamond Dave” Denning — or “Triple D,” as Denning calls him.
“This was a good time in our family,” says Diamond Dave. “This five years, it was a great adventure.”
Country Fanfest turned out to be something of a homecoming show for the Dennings, who decided to stick around to ride dirt bikes and adventure for a few days after the gig. As they cruised around the festival grounds, both started remembering what they loved about Utah to begin with.
“There’s something about being outside, and honestly just breathing … enjoying the open air,” Denning says. “Those are things I definitely picked up when we lived out here.”
“We came out here for snow, right?,” Diamond Dave goes on. “But then the snow left, and all of a sudden we realized ‘Oh my gosh, what a big adventure there is when the snow goes away, between dirt biking, hiking, biking.’ It was just way cool.”
Feeling so strongly attached to everything he sing about in “Heartbeat of a Small Town” — the Friday night football games, first loves and friendships that last a lifetime — Denning admits that being away from home can be hard sometimes, even when you’re living your dreams. But having several days in Utah to unwind with his dad and a best friend from high school is nothing to complain about.
“Any time I get to spend with you is a great time,” Diamond Dave says proudly, to which his son reluctantly agrees.
“Kinda,” he jokes, walking off screen with a tell-tale flush of embarrassment. Some things are the same no matter what small town you’re in.
In other news, the irresistible romance of Denning’s current single, “After a Few,” has cracked country radio’s Top 40, and he’s on the road all fall with Riley Green on the Get That Man a Beer Tour. They’ll be making new home-away-from-home memories coast to coast through December 14 in Norfolk, Virginia.