After their long-awaited arena tour came to a sudden halt last year just as it was getting started, like a lot of artists, Dan + Shay were understandably devastated. But rather than sit in that feeling, they channeled their energy and unexpected gift of time into what positive things were to come, as they created their new album with its fitting title Good Things.
“We think that this is our best album by far,” shares Shay Mooney. “We’re just super proud of this and had the time to think through things, but also try to keep ourselves at bay, not trying to overthink it…Just the whole process was really fun being able to do this together.”
The duo has seen incredible popularity since releasing their first album in 2014, with a long sequence of radio success, chart topping songs, and a collection of awards. Instead of resting on their laurels, they use their success as a motivator to continue pushing their creativity.
“It was different than making the first album…” says Dan Smyers about Good Things. “There’s a lot more pressure when you’re making this album. We’ve got more of a spotlight, more eyes on us, more ears on us, but I think that’s good pressure, you know? We feel like we owe it to our fans and to the community to keep raising the bar, keep pushing ourselves. We’ve been so lucky to have hits like ‘Tequila’ and ‘Speechless’ and ‘10,000 Hours’. These songs that just took us to the next level. When we’re in the writing room, I guess it is more difficult now. We sit down and we’re like, ‘Here’s a title, here’s a hook, here’s an idea. Okay, is it as good as the stuff we’ve put out in the past?’ And maybe we unnecessarily put that pressure on ourselves sometimes…We’ve been given an amazing opportunity and we’re so grateful for everything that’s happened to us. We don’t want to just let it pass us by so we try to push, we try to keep raising the bar…We want to keep growing this, we want to keep gaining new fans, we want to keep pleasing the fans that got us here in the first place.”
When it comes to Good Things, the guys held nothing back. “We really went for it on this record,” says Mooney.
They used this album as an opportunity experiment with new sounds and push the limits, especially with Mooney’s powerhouse vocals. “He’s the best singer I’ve ever heard in my life,” says Smyers of his bandmate.
Fans have already been showing their love for the pre-released songs on this album including the heartwarming “Glad You Exist.” Mooney and Smyers asked fans to submit videos showing who they are grateful for in their lives. The response was overwhelming and touching to the duo.
“As a songwriter and as artists, it just really is a crazy thing to know you’re a part of something that is much, much bigger than yourself and especially a song like this that was able to spread so much positivity and joy was just incredible and very humbling to us,” says Mooney. “So, it just kind of took on a life of its own and became a movement. We’re just so thankful for that song.”
“I Should Probably Go To Bed” is another early fan favorite that has surpassed the duo’s expectations, as Smyers says fans have been singing it so loudly the few times they’ve played it live that he compares it to the same level “Tequila” reached with crowds when it was at its peak. The response was especially meaningful since the song came from such humble beginnings, when it was recorded in a DIY studio at Smyers’ home during the pandemic.
“I’m up there playing the piano onstage and thinking back to us just in a guest bedroom in my house with the mattress leaned against the wall and the dog blankets on the floor and me asking Shay to hold the pillow over his head to insulate some of the sound,” remembers Smyers. “Just tracing some of those steps back, thinking how we made that, just kind of the two of us camped out at house during the pandemic. The song spread that far and people would come out to our show and sing it that loudly…I get emotional even talking about it or thinking about it…That one was of the most rewarding tracks, just knowing that was kind of all us [who created it] during the pandemic…to feel that energy, to feel that connection, being onstage with a crowd of 15 or 20,000 people singing it back to us is really full circle and that’s always going to be a special one for us. Obviously it was a successful song and it was a hit for us, but I think it’s deeper than that. I think it’s just one that we’re really proud of. It was just a moment in time for us that we’ll never forget.”
One new song that is special to Dan + Shay and is Mooney’s wife’s favorite on the new album is a song titled “One Direction” about the importance of time and how fleeting it.
“It is a sad concept that time moves in one direction and that can be kind of a daunting, heavy thing to think about as human beings,” explains Mooney. “But that is the beauty of being a human is that we don’t live forever, so we have to appreciate those moments. That’s what makes it all so much better and so much more special with the time that we spend, with the people that we love. Even though that sounds like a bad thing, it really is what makes us human and what makes this whole deal worth it…You have to really think about what you’re putting your time into and making sure that you tell people that you love, that you love them. And that really ties in with ‘Glad You Exist’ and a lot of these things on the album…”
While they are excited to release this album and play new music with fans on tour, it was just as important for them to stay connected to fans during the time they’ve been off the road. They take pride in personally managing their own social media accounts as a way of sharing their lives with fans and forming a bond with them.
“The social media thing, it’s important for us to keep it from our voice and for the fans to feel like they know who we actually are,” says Smyers. “Because you know trends come and go, things evolve, they ebb and flow…but I think what people connect to the most is authenticity. We try to be authentic in our music and in our personal lives. You know when somebody follows us on social media, we’re not putting on an act, we’re not putting on a front. What you see is what you get, for better or for worse sometimes. But yeah, I think it’s allowed us to really keep a core fan base of loyal fans as well. [We’re] grateful to be a part of the Country Music community…We think the fans are more loyal than any other format of music. So we’re lucky to be a part of it and we’re going to try to keep that going as long as we possibly can.”
In addition incorporating new elements sonically with this album, the duo also decided to step out of their comfort zone with the music video for their song “Lying.”
“I remember, I was sitting on the bus–this was a long time ago–we were shooting the ‘I Should Probably Go To Bed’ music video, which is a crazy video that we’re so proud of,” remembers Smyers. “We really went for it, went flying and doing stunts, the whole thing. I was like ‘What can be crazier than doing this stunt video in “I Should Probably Go To Bed”?’ I self-admittedly am the worst dancer in the entire world. I was like ‘I guess the only thing crazier than flying in a video could be us dancing. We should do a dance video!’ We hadn’t even recorded ‘Lying’ yet, it was just a demo. I was like ‘Imagine this, it’s 77 bpm, perfect for guys who can’t dance to be able to learn some steps to, so we were like ‘Let’s do it!’ and it was so fun. I honestly have such a newfound respect for that community for people who can dance professionally…”
It wasn’t something that came naturally to the guys, but they pulled it off like pros. “I was stepping on Shay’s feet…” Smyers says with a laugh. “There’s some funny behind-the-scenes footage of us learning that for the first time. We had a lot of fun. It’s just something different for us, getting out of our comfort zone. I think it’s important for us to do that to stay fresh. It turned out awesome. We had a lot of good people on that video making it happen. It was 4 a.m. when we filmed that dance scene. It was a long day, long night but everybody powered through and I think it turned out great.”
While the album is filled with mostly upbeat songs, it covers a range of emotions that have all rang true at some point in the duo’s lives.
“We definitely have experienced everything that is in this album and it’s amazing to be able to step into that,” explains Mooney. “Obviously, I think that’s the beauty of why we call the album Good Things because I think through even some of the bad stuff that you’ve went through, you know whether it’s a breakup song or a love song, I feel like good can come from the dark places…and that’s just very reminiscent of the album. We’ve been through those things in the past and we grew from them. We’ve went through heartaches and heartbreaks and it took us to where we’re at right now. I think there’s obviously love songs on the album, songs like ‘You’…People will ask if there’s going to be a wedding song, there’s always going to be a wedding song on a Dan + Shay album and that’s a great one there. It’s just been cool to be that storyteller with this record with a lot of things. And obviously all of them are definitely things that have happened in our pasts but not exactly where we’re at right now, if that was true we’d be going through a range of emotions with this record…It was really cool to kind of be able to put this album together and kind of as a whole, even though it’s called Good Things, a lot of good things come from some bad situations as you know I think we’ve all seen throughout our lives, but especially this last year.”
Mooney and Smyers have poured a lot of love into this record and credit it for keeping kept them connected and moving forward throughout an undoubtedly rough year. They are looking forward to seeing fans react to the new music and experiencing it live as they tour across the country. “I think, honestly if we didn’t have this album to work on and these songs to keep us focused and keep us having a goal to push for, I don’t know, it would’ve been really tough to get through it,” Smyers says of the pandemic. “So you know, luckily we have each other, we have our friendship, we have our brotherhood and we had this music, this album to help us kind of bridge the gap, and now we’re here on the other side of it, well hopefully, you know with a new album in hand. If nothing else, getting that new music out to the fans I think has been really therapeutic and great for us and even just these first few shows we’ve done, reconnecting with the people face to face. [It’s] been a full circle moment for us, just as friends, as family. We hugged it out, we had a big moment when we got back up on that stage the first time and felt the crowd…”