Canadian Dallas Smith was introduced to US audiences last year with the release of his single "Tippin' Point." The former front man for Default continues to merge country and rock on his latest release, Lifted, a seven song EP which was released on November 24th. Dallas took the time to talk about the new record and his upcoming tour.
The past year saw the success of Tippin’ Point in both Canada and the US. Were you happy with the reception to both the song and your live show?
Yes. The Highway really got behind that song and increased my exposure in the US. John Marks has been a huge part of my career. Luckily, he believes in me and the songs and is really pushing for me. Sirius XM even comes through to parts of Canada now, so it has taken my career in Canada, which is going really well, even further.
I think the reception to the live show was a good one. I definitely saw a lot of social media postings asking when I was coming back. Also, people on the Florida Georgia Line Cruise would come up to me to talk about the music and ask about touring. It’s been a lot of fun. Slowly but surely we are going to keep plugging away.
Your new EP, Lifted, released November 24th. When you started planning for it did you have any specific ideas or themes in mind?
Yeah, I did. When I listen back to the Jumped Right In record, I think it could have been a little bit more dynamic in regards to the instruments we used and how we used them. I wanted to create a more dynamic record this time so it would give us more ammunition to create a live show where guys could hop on and off different instruments. There are a couple more ballads on the EP, like "Heat Rises" which sets a completely different mood. We are using piano, and pedal steel, which I have never used on a record before. It gives it a more organic feeling, it’s really exciting.
You worked with Joey Moi on your previous releases and he produced Lifted as well.
Yeah, there really is nobody else for me, he’s stuck with me (laughing). We recorded the EP in both Nashville and Canada, travelling back and forth to piece it all together. I am very lucky to have some Nashville heavy hitters, like Charlie Judge and Adam Shoenfeld, play on this record.
Lifted, a song on the album, is also the title? Why did you choose that song for the title?
That song almost made the Tippin’ Point EP, but we ran out of time. "Lifted" was the first one I picked for this record and I am so happy that we finally got to record it. The song reminds me why I love music so much. A great song can take whatever mood you are in and take you out of that space; it's what I think of when I listen to that song and the message it has. It’s really a stand out song in that way, which is why I chose to name the record after it.
Were you involved in writing for the record?
I did do a lot of writing, but none of my song made my record. I like writing, but it’s not my first love. I love being in the vocal booth, singing these great songs, trying to represent them and bring them to life in the best way possible, especially during a live show. That’s where I get my enjoyment from. There are so many incredibly talented songwriters, like Craig Wiseman and Sarah Buxton, that when they say 'hey would you like to sing a song I wrote?' you just don’t say no.
Your fans on social media seem to be particularly partial to "Cheap Seats."
Oh, they are?! That's the perfect summer song; I love the energy in it! That song was written by Sarah Buxton, Jesse Frasure and Tina Parol. Sarah is such a great singer. It’s very intimidating when you have someone of that caliber behind a song. I knew that when I heard the demo, which she sang on, that her shoes would be hard to fill. I tried to represent the song well and am really glad she liked what we did with it.
Your Canadian headlining tour starts in January. You will be heading out with Charlie Worsham and Sundy Best. How did you connect with those artists?
I am a big fan of Sundy Best and I think they will be a great fit for the tour! I met Charlie in Nashville recently. He’s a super nice guy and his music is a great fit as well. It's terrific they are coming out and are willing to tour Canada in the middle of winter! (laughing) I am really excited to get to know these guys better.
After that tour we will be doing fairs and festivals in the US. If a tour comes up, that would be great, but I like building things from the grass roots and with fairs and festivals there is a broader range of audience to expose the music to. It works out really well that way.
Purchase Lifted here
For more information visit his official website
Follow Dallas on Twitter
Find him on Facebook
Keep Writing, Keep Playing and Keep Making Music To Be Proud Of: Adam Hood Discusses 'Welcome To The Big World'
Singer songwriter Adam Hood released his fourth album, Welcome To The Big World, on November 4th. The Kickstarter funded project contains eleven tracks all of which he co-wrote. Hood is an artist, a singer, a picker, and a stellar songwriter; a storyteller whose album encompasses intimate, personal yet relatable stories about life, love, family and the road. Adam graciously took the time to talk about the record, its authentic story songs and what's ahead.
Welcome To The Big World was funded via Kickstarter. What spurred you to take that route?
Well, my good friend Jason Eady had done two albums this way so his advice, and his success, were really big catalysts for me. I got to talk with him about it and he explained the process along with all of the pros and cons as well as the things he learned. After talking with him and learning about it, I thought it was a good way to go.
Was the process of making this album any different from your previous records?
The big one was that everything was on my hands, and I hadn’t made a record like that since 6th Street in 2004. It’s one of those things where you cannot leave out any details because you are at the helm both administratively and creatively. That said, I worked with Rachel Roy because I chose to work with Rachel Roy. The songs we have on the record were the songs I picked. The recording process, the way the album cover looks, every little detail-we got to make the call on all of it. At the end of the day, it was a lot of work and a good experience.
It was very satisfying and gratifying to make the record this way. I was really looking forward to it because I think it was the right thing for me to do and the right time for me to do it. I’m not what you would consider commercial; my music is really more creative. I’m not trying to mass market anything. I write songs that mean something to me. The case with this album, this is a personal record, not just because some of the songs are personal, rather it’s personal because I chose these songs. Half of the record has songs that I have had for a long time and we had never gotten to record and the other half were written specifically to people in my life.
As a songwriter, has your songwriting changed at all over the years?
No, not really. Honestly, there is just no strategy to it. I think the avenues I’m going down to try to find inspiration are a little bit different. I also think that that I’ve gotten better at sort of bridging the gap between using my imagination and writing about the personal experiences of my life. You don’t wanna tell everybody your dirty secrets in songs or be mean to say, my wife, but at the same time my relationship with my wife is really important. My music is how I apologize, my music is how I tell someone I love them and stuff like that, but you have to be creative with it. I want to be able to say things, but the world doesn’t have to know exactly what they mean, but that one person just might.
You have said that you penned the title track with your daughter in mind, but when you listen to it, it really strikes a chord. Did you realize that it would be so universally relatable?
It’s interesting you say that because I didn’t really realize it until I got the record back and started listening to it; then the light went on. There are certain things I was going through, changes in my life, and realized that this song is about me as much as it is about my daughter. She was the inspiration behind it, but I agree that it’s a universal song for anybody that is ready to make a change in their life.
Man, change is tough, especially when it comes to the whole growing up thing. There are physical changes, but there are a lot of ways to mature as human beings: spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I think our spiritual and emotional growth is a lifelong process, I don’t think most people ever get done doing that. Well, some might, but I’m 39 and I’m still maturing in those ways.
Did the fact that the song is so identifiable contribute to you choosing it as the title of the album?
Yes, definitely. If you look at and listen to my records there is really no specific idea or universal theme. I just don’t make records like that. Maybe I will try to one day, but I just have never done that. This is one of my most personally inspired songs and that's the reason why we chose it for the title.
The first single from the album “Trying To Write A Love Song” was a Top 5 hit on the Texas charts. Were you pleasantly surprised?
I was pleasantly surprised, yeah. When you release a song, you just never know how it will do. The context of this song is not really all that specific to what Texas country loves, if you know what I mean. It's not something you would typically hear on the radio. I figured it would either soar or sink. I'm glad it soared.
"Trying To Write A Love Song" is an example of one of those songs that I have had for a while. I wrote it with Pat McLaughlin and Logan Mize. Pat and I have an interesting process when we write that I really don’t do with anyone else. We write lines that are vague and we don’t really know what the song is about, but once we’re done we look at the song and go ‘wow, I know what that song is about now. I didn’t realize we were writing a song about that!’ It’s a really cool and interesting way to write. I say that to explain that with this song, we didn’t really have a specific storyline, we just thought it was a cool idea, it felt good and we wanted to bang it out of the park.
Initially, we demoed the song and it wasn’t great. Then Pat demoed it, and it was good, but at the same time it never came out like I knew it was supposed to. When we got in the studio for the record, I think we kicked it out of the park.
There are a few songs on the album about the road and being away from the ones you love. One in particular, "Postcards and Payphones" you co-wrote with Will Hoge. How did that song come about?
We shook hands for the first time in Steamboat this past year, but I have known Will's music for a while. Being from Alabama, Will is probably one of the only guys I saw come through the southeast and really be successful. We ran the same roads, but the places I was playing that nobody showed up to, Will was selling out. We sat down and wrote twice and the result was really successful. I heard from him that the first song we wrote he recorded for his album and I have this one on mine.
I know writing about the road is a kind of passé thing to talk about; it’s beat to death, but it’s still practical you know. As a matter of fact there’s a line in the song-“I-65 exit 53, dinosaur staring in the driver’s seat”- that mentions a specific spot and when we were in Bowling Green the other day I asked people if they knew where that was and they did. When you pick out nice little geographic markers like that it takes the whole idea of being on the road and making it personal to the people that live there, which is one way to keep it fresh.
The final track, "I Took A Train" is a tribute to one of your idols, John Prine. Is he someone who you would want to model your career after?
Oh yeah. I toured with Paul Thorn maybe ten years ago and we got to talking about John. John is one of those people that is famous for his songs worldwide, but can also just go to the grocery store. He is the epitome of musical success and the epitome of normalcy. Pat was the mandolin player in John’s band and when they came to Birmingham it was just really inspiring. You listen to him and you realize you’ve heard a lot of those songs and then you watch the crowd’s reaction to him--every song is just so beloved. He has a lot of class, and his songs are appropriate and charming; he deserves to be as adored as he is. I couldn’t think of a better way to be appreciated.
Honestly though, if you think about it, there is no way to have a career like that these days with things being so dramatized. Especially in commercial country, music is the last thing that’s really important. A lot of these people sell music, they sell their records, because they did something else. People go see this guy or that gal because they were on a television show. Nobody does it because they see an artist and say 'wow this person has written and recorded and performed incredible music.' That doesn’t happen anymore.
I never had another plan for my career, so I don’t know how to make it successful by being on a soap opera or a reality show or anything like that. I wanted to make my career successful by writing and recording and performing the best music I can; I don’t know any other way to do that. It’s a tough thing too because you watch that snowball get bigger and bigger every year. I hate to pick on commercial country music, but it’s the best example of it. Sometimes, you think ‘what am I gonna do’ and in talking with my friends, the answer is that all we can do is keep writing, keep playing sand keep making music that we are proud of.
The album was released earlier this month, you are finishing up the Southern Brothers Tour [with Jason Eady]…what’s next for you?
We are going to get through the holidays and then re-vamp. We are going to brainstorm, see what happens and keep the ball rolling. Touring is important. I spent a lot of my time touring Alabama and Texas, which is my comfort zone, but with the tour with Jason, we got to go to other places, like Charlotte and Atlanta, that I don’t usually get to all that much. In January we are heading to Nebraska and trying to make plans to get to the west coast.
We are still deciding if “Bar Band” will be the next single. With a record label, that’s what you do--put out a couple singles--but we are trying to be creative with the process. We have a video in the can for “Bar Band” which we did with Josh Newcomb, but we are going to take our time and see how it goes.
We did a Concert Window show the other day, which was sort of a cd release party. It was really great and I had a good time doing it. We are going to do another one on December 23rd, kind of like a Christmas show. I used to go to my hometown and play every Thanksgiving and Christmas, which was great because I got to see everyone, but then it became difficult for everyone to get out, so I think doing it this way will be a real fun time and I don’t have to leave my house either (laughing).
Finally, I always love to know, is there one recent release that you cannot get enough of?
Robyn Ludwig. Her new record is really great and has a real cool feel. She writes from an interesting perspective where you might not know what the song is about, but you know it’s good. You can take a line and the phrasing may relate to you, but it may be about something totally different. I’m almost jealous of it. She’s a new discovery and I’m a really huge fan. Her albums are the well I go back to a lot now a days.
To purchase Welcome To The Big World visit here
For more information visit his official website www.adamhood.com
Find him on Facebook www.facebook.com/AdamHoodBand
Follow Adam on Twitter and Instagram www.twitter.com/adamhoodmusic
You Tube Channel www.youtube.com/AdamHoodMusic
During his short career, West Virginia native Matt VanFossen has shared the stage with artists including Craig Campbell, Brooks & Dunn, and more. In 2013, he was one of the main stage artists at the Ohio-based ‘Jamboree in the Hills’ festival. With the recent release of his new EP, BOOM, Matt VanFossen is prepared to take his career to exciting new levels. Matt graciously took the time to talk about his biggest influence, the EP and what he would like to accomplish in 2015.
When did you decide to pursue country music as a profession?
I grew up in Wheeling West Virginia, which was the home of the second longest weekly running radio show in the country, The Wheeling Jamboree. Wheeling is also home to the Jamboree in the Hills, which is one of the top five country festivals in the US. Country music is just embedded in the people in area. I remember watching Hee Haw and other shows with my great grandma on Saturdays and once I saw Reba, with her red hair and blue eyes I was done; plus she sang pretty.
People always ask who my influences are and of course there are Garth and Vince, but above all one person’s music who has been in my life as a constant, is Reba. She has a song for a good day, a bad day, a happy time or just whatever. Her songs are the soundtrack to everyday life. Her voice and storytelling are so unique. When she plays a large venue she can move her hand, or raise an eyebrow, and everyone around her is hooked. I just want someday to be able to make even a third of an impact as she has. She has such a broad appeal and has not sold out her musical integrity. I’m late at starting a career at 30 years old, but you know there is no finer influence.
Your EP BOOM was released on October 21st. You have said that it deals with intense emotions. How do those emotions come through in the songs?
It does have intense emotions, but as I sit here and say that "BOOM" itself is a feel good song about being in a bar and meeting girl. The song has something in the chorus that gets stuck in head! It’s a good, fun song and really a turning point for me. I primarily started out as a ballad type singer; it was the style I was drawn to, wanting to stay true to my craft and sing about feeling and real life. My publisher brought me "BOOM," which he thought was a song that I would be great at even though it wasn’t a ballad, and by the end of the chorus I had a big smile on my face. One of the things I love to do when I am onstage is perform a song, really sing it and move about the stage, and with "BOOM" I can do that and the crowd really gets into it. It’s become a show stopping song.
On my previous record, I had a song “Leave Me,” which was a piano ballad about the end of a relationship. Out of all of the feedback I had gotten, that song was everybody’s favorite. When I started this new project, I knew one thing for sure-that in the grand tradition of Reba, I wanted to have a follow up to that song. “Get to You” [from BOOM] is the perfect companion song. The song is about not yet finding the right person, but having faith that they exist. My "frienager" was not too keen on the song, but I worked up an acapella version and she loved it, which was so validating for me. I pair these two songs when I play live and hairs just stand up on my arms! People come up to me and tell me how those songs touch them, and when that happens, you know you are doing something right.
It makes me sad that on the radio, for there to be a top 10 song by female besides Miranda and Carrie, it has to be one that makes fun of the current crop of male singers. In the 90s, country music was equally male and female and now it’s buy a bunch of guys who just sing about the same stuff, which has no meaning. I don’t want to hate, but I hope bro will be done and we will shift back to music that deals with feelings and life, other than drinking and girls in short shorts.
A song with a personal story behind it is “Time Ain’t What It Used To Be.”
I lost my mom from a stroke in 2010.“Time Ain’t What It Used To Be,” which was on the first album, was the first song of mine that my mom got to hear on the radio. After she passed I wanted to quit because how could I go on when my best friend and biggest fan was no longer here. I decided to change the song up a bit and put it on BOOM. I think it’s a song where every single person can relate to some part of it. As long as I have a say, I will perform that song for the rest of my life. I wear a dog tag with the Serenity Prayer and my mom’s ring and every time I perform this song, in the bridge, I have my hand on that necklace. I believe in power of it, she’s still here with me and watching what’s going on.
Did you write for the EP?
I did not write any songs on the current EP. I have been writing with my friend Andrea Thompson from Nashville and hope to put out another EP in five to seven months and have some songs which I wrote on there. It is so, so scary to think about putting yourself out there in such way, not only vocals, but with what you wrote because people can be so harsh sometimes.
Where can fans see you live?
I live in Ohio right now and play in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We had a cd release party, which we filmed so we can put a promo video together in order to take the music to places we have yet to play.
2014 has been good to you. Is there one thing in 2015 that you would like to accomplish?
For me, and it probably sounds very silly when you think about it, of all the things I could do next year I would love for someone to entertain the idea of letting me sing at the Grand Ole Opry. People without record deals sing there all the time, and it is something I would love to be able to do. I went for first time last year. Craig Campbell, who is someone that is out right now that I really like, was there as was Craig Morgan, who can really just sing his butt off! I always liked him, but that night I went and bought his music before he was done singing the song!
I would also love to have a Top 40 single. [Matt had two previous single break the Top 100 on the Mediabase charts]. "BOOM" has been doing fantastic things, like beating out other established country artists on a West Virginia radio “smackdown.” That station mainly plays tenured artists, rather than new artists, so I am very proud of the fact that they play my music.
I have all the faith in the world in the people that work with me. There were many times that they wanted this for me more than I wanted it for myself. I have a crazy best friend who helped with this album and the last one. We went to Nashville this summer doing shows and looking a tour buses and what do you know he bought me one! Out in my yard is a 1999 bus that was used on Toby Keith’s How Do You Like Me Now Tour. It’s beautiful and I could not be more thankful to him and certainly couldn’t ask for better people in my life.
For more information visit his official website
Find him on Facebook
Follow him on Twitter