IN 2017, Dustin Lynch had a career-making hit with "Small Town Boy," a platinum selling single that sat atop the country charts for a month. He’s got another hit in the making with "I’d Be Jealous Too."
His current album, Current Mood, which hit No. 2 when it was released, is still on the charts, and he’s playing to more people than ever.
“It’s been a great year, no doubt about it,” Lynch said in a recent phone interview. “It comes from working hard and setting goals, meeting goals. But, I think, it’s also putting out the right music at the right time.”
Now, he’s happy to be filling the main support slot on Brad Paisley’s winter/spring tour, just as he’s previously done with Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line.
“It exposes us to their fans,” Lynch said. “We’ve had some traditional style hits and a more left-of-center song. But more than that, we try to bring the party to it. FGL brings the party every night and Brad literally brings the party on this tour. He’s got two bars on stage with people up there drinking.”
The good news, Lynch says, is that he and his band don’t have to change much when they go from tour to tour.
“We get the same amount of time, 45 minutes or so,” he said. “We’ve had enough hits that the majority of the time we’re up there is playing hits. We can introduce a couple new songs. But you’ve got to play the hits.”
Lynch, however, is likely to incorporate a non-hit or two from “Current Mood.” Those songs have been almost universally seen as the best Lynch has written, connecting with listeners more directly and personally than his previous efforts.
“That comes with my growth as a songwriter, my growth even as a person, living a little bit,” he said. “Life has changed, relationships have happened and I’ve gotten more comfortable as an artist. One thing I finally figured out is if I’ve felt it, if I’ve lived it, there’s no reason to be afraid to talk about it. Everybody else has, too.
“What I’ve learned is when I’ve let somebody in too much, too close, that’s where the magic happens,” Lynch said. “That’s opened me up as a songwriter.”
That growth as a songwriter has been just one aspect of Lynch’s overall improvement. He’s gone from promising upstart to consistent hitmaker, a run that began when he released his debut single “Cowboys and Angels” in January 2012.
Eight months later, Lynch’s self-titled debut album hit the top of the country charts and he was off, following the now-standard path for country artists of playing club and fair shows, releasing singles and albums, landing support slots on major tours, releasing more music, playing bigger headlining shows and getting direct support slots.
Following that path can bring an artist closer to the country’s top tier. But Lynch said, if that was automatic, everyone would do it.
Rather, Lynch said, he and other aspirants have to find a way to connect with the audiences, first on the radio—which comes from the songs themselves—then in performance.
What makes that happen?
“It’s being comfortable and confident,” Lynch said. “I learned a lot about that from watching Luke Bryan. I watched that guy every night have fun, where it’s cool and exciting and not too choreographed. If you feel like dancing with somebody, do it, don’t worry about what you look like. That’s what it’s about, being comfortable and making that connection, so that every concert is like a first date.”
So how do you keep that going show after show?
“It’s about confidence, repetition and dialing in the pacing,’ Lynch said.
That sounds like something an athlete would say about preparing for a game—not surprising given that Lynch played golf at Nashville’s Lipscomb College before beginning his musical career.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Lynch said, “There’s a lot of similarity. You see a lot of college athletes get into the industry at this level. Jake Owen’s a golfer. Chase Rice played football, Lee Brice played football, Sam Hunt, too. Colt Ford is a big-time golfer.”
So who’d win if there was a country golf tournament?
“Right now, I’d probably put my money on Colt Ford,” Lynch said. “I’ve retired. I got burned out in college. What little free time I’ve got now, I don’t want to be worrying about which way a golf ball goes. I’ve taken up fishing.”
That, of course, puts him in league with Paisley, who has long sung the praises of fishing.
While he’s on the road with Paisley this spring and summer, Lynch is also at work on new songs, which are likely to turn up on an album either late this year or early in 2019, but may hit the airwaves well before any album is released.
“We’ve already started the creative process, the writing process,” he said. “The landscape of music changes so quickly that I like the thought of releasing music when you know you’ve got something special—you go, ‘Hey world, what do you think of this?’ and toss the golden nuggets out when you get them.”
A couple more hits and Lynch is likely to be moving on up in the touring world. In fact, it appears it’s just a matter of time before he’s headlining arena shows and finding new artists to support him.
“The industry as a whole is really expecting us to get there,” Lynch said. “In my opinion, we’re getting close. We have one giant song, ‘Small Town Boy.’ We’ve got another one with ‘I’d Be Jealous, Too.’” You tell that by the reports that are coming in.
“Then it’s continuing to pursue excellence as a performer and having people talking about what a great time they had at your show,” he said. “You start doing that and eventually, there’s not an arena that can hold you. I think it’s in the cards for us, going to that level, I really do.”