Dallas Smith might be new to U.S. country fans, but he is certainly no newcomer to the music industry. He released four albums and toured extensively for years as a member of the internationally successful Canadian rock band Default. A few years ago he decided to make the change from rock to country and released the extremely successful Canadian record Jumped Right In. Dallas recently signed with Republic Nashville & is currently on tour in the U.S. with Florida Georgia Line on their Here's to the Good Times Tour.
The tour recently made a stop in NYC for three sold out nights at the Best Buy Theater. Truly an artist who loves what he does, but one who makes family a priority, Dallas was gracious enough to set aside some time in his schedule to meet & chat.
You have been in the industry for over ten years. How did you decide to go from successful rock artist to country music artist?
Well, Default, the rock band I was in in Canada, got our first record deal in 2000 and the record came out in 2001, so it has been awhile that I have been in the business. Growing up in my household, my Dad was a classic rock fan and my mom listened to a lot of country, like Reba and the Judds. So I had a bit of both influences growing up. Obviously, as a teenager living in Vancouver I was into the Seattle rock scene a lot. We formed the band when I was about 21 and we toured all over. But as times went on and we were touring all over the place I felt my mom's influence coming on a bit more. Honestly, it was when Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts came out that I started to pay attention to what was going on in country. I liked the changing sound and that the songs were a little more guitar driven. It really was a perfect blend of what I grew up with & it grabbed my attention. I would warm up to shows listening and singing along to Rascal Flatts or Keith Urban.
So the change really worked out well because Jumped Right In, which was released in 2012, had five singles and was nominated for 4 CCMAs. Did your fans from Default follow you over?
Thank you, yes it did. The record gave us one top-five and four top-ten songs. We had some pretty die hard fans who came over, a bit reluctantly, but they came over. When they heard the record they thought country really isn't all that bad. People tend to think it is all twangy when there's a lot of other stuff going on in country as well. Country can have a bit of a rock edge to it as well and that's what I try to have.
You have worked with Joey Moi, who also produces Florida Georgia Line, for a longtime. Can you tell us how working with him came about?
Joey was the one who took a demo tape from the garage we [Default] wrote our stuff in over to Chad [Kroeger, the lead singer of Nickelback]. He has been an integral part of my career from the beginning. For at least seven years we wanted to get a country record going but it never worked out to be the right time. Then Default started slowing down and I started talking to my manager saying let's do a country record. The breaking point actually was when we were on this arena tour opening for a big band. It was the kind of the spot where anyone would want to be, but I didn't like where I was & where I was headed with the band. It wasn't what I wanted to do. So literally, I was in the back of the bus and I texted Joey 'country record?'. He messaged back 'are you ready' and within two weeks we were in Nashville getting started. It took a long time doing it as we started it four years ago, but the right time had finally come along.
Why then is the time right now to for a US debut?
To be honest, the label wanted to release it in the US right away after we saw the success in Canada but we had just gotten married and I wasn't sure how much of my time I wanted to devote to doing that. I have a son who was young at the time and for who it is important to be there for. I have been though all of this before and when you do it, your personal life is just, gone. It is really tough on the family. I needed time to digest it and decide how far I wanted to take it. We have a strong marriage and my son is a bit older now (he is 8) so it made sense that now I could make the step. I think back 10years and how we could keep in touch, there really was nothing. Now we have many ways to stay connected. So about six to seven months ago I gave Joey the go ahead. I was ready and we were ready as a family. I am very, very lucky guy to be able to do things on my own terms.
Your current single is Tippin' Point which was written by FGL and Jaren Johnston. It is such a fun song with high energy, but also a song that is a lot different than the songs on Jumped Right In . How did that song come to you and what drew you it?
It is a lot different than the record. Honestly, it kind of just fell in my lap. I think maybe the FGL guys were going to put it on their record, but decided not to. Joey brought it to me and prefixed it by saying ' now keep an open mind man.' When I went into the studio and heard Jaren's vocals on the demo, they were completely different. It scared me a little bit, but I trust Joey and his instincts. He is a very, very good soundboard. Once I recorded the track and put my vocals on it, I was sold on the song, I could feel the energy, I felt I could really put my own stamp on the song
The song is currently being played on the Highway as a Highway Find. They have been known to break new artists. What does their support mean to you?
I met John Marks a couple times. He is a fantastic guy and a great supporter of Joey and what they are doing. When you have a guy get behind you at this early in your career, it's huge. From previous experience, I know how this business is, I have been through it before and know how lucky I am to have the support that I have.
You are no stranger to touring, having toured most recently with Bob Seger and Jason Aldean on some Canadian dates. Now you are on tour with FGL. Can you tell me how that came about, how it has been going and how is crowd reaction?
The FGL guys heard about me the last couple of years through Joey because we were working on records at basically the same time. They heard my voice & really liked it, but I think 'Tippin Point' was the selling point. I have to give props to those guys, the success they are having and what they are doing. As for the tour, it really is the most fun I have had in a long time. It's really crazy and exciting. The country crowds are a lot younger with more excitement and energy than the rock crowds who tended to be older with a little less energy, to be honest. It's really fun because even though I have done this all before with singles, it's fun to build something again from the ground up. It's given me a new rush.
I know you co-wrote some songs on Jumped Right In. Are you writing for the new album as well?
We have about four songs right now for the EP, which I did not write. We had put into our laps these amazing songs and I thought there was just no way I was passing them up. By the time we record them, I have definitely put my stamp on them. I do enjoy writing, but for me, I love getting on stage and singing good songs. If that means singing outside songs, then that's what it takes. I'm going for quality when I am looking for songs to choose to sing. Best song wins.
When will the EP be released?
We hope to have it out either by the end of the year or early next year. But everyone is so busy we have to find time to schedule, figure out when we can get into the studio and try to find maybe a couple more songs. It will be high energy all the way through and be a little more left of center, have more of a rock edge to it.
Is there a difference between writing a rock song and writing a country song?
Absolutely. Country songs are way more lyric driven, lots of story telling involved. With rock songs, the lyrics are important, but it was more about what we felt in our gut, the guitar riffs and how it was sonically. With country it is all about the lyrics, that's the biggest difference.
Is there one record, any genre, you have on repeat?
Well, I don't really listen to rock anymore and don't have a lot of time to listen in general, but Keith Urban's Fuse is the one I listen to the most.
You are on tour until December including two sold out LA shows , your baby girl arrives in January as well as the EP in the new year. Those are some big life events. What are your plans for 2014?
We will tour until December 15th then after the baby comes we will go on lockdown for awhile. I am sure I will have a lot to do & feel the pull from the label and management. But if I do something it will have to make sense. We are based in Vancouver so Nashville is not really all that accessible. I would like to say we can go back and forth, but I owe it to my family to spend time with them because this time is so important, you cannot get it back.
While you are waiting for that EP, his 2012 release, Jumped Right In, however, is available via retailers and his official store. This is one of those rare records that can be played from start to finish. You may listen to one song 20 times in a row, but there is not one song you will pass over. I encourage you to definitely pick it up.
You can listen to his current single 'Tippin Point' and 'Nothing But Summer' from Jumped Right In below.
For more information visit www.dallassmithmusic.com and on Twitter at @dallassmith
Florida Georgia Line spent 4 days in NYC this week with appearances at multiple events as well as three sold out shows at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. On Wednesday night, we got to catch up with them
prior to their show at the Best Buy for the 10th Anniversary Billboard Touring Conference Concert presented
When asked about their mentoring Chris Lane and Dallas Smith, Brian had this to say:
“Well, our management, publicity and production company Big Loud Mountain works with them & before
it was official we knew got to know them pretty well. They are two artists, two amazing guys we believe in and want to help out. We learned early on from Jake, Taylor, Luke and Colt. They took us under their wings and taught us. We are at a point now where our voice is a little bigger. We learned a lot touring in the past but also just this year alone playing 233 shows, you meet a lot of people and we always said we wanted the music to be bigger than us. Whether it would be donating to a cause, helping another artist out, we’ll
do anything we can. But number one, Dallas and Chris’ music speak for themselves. They don’t need much help but any help we can give them we are all about that.”
You wrote Dallas’ single Tipping Point along with Jaren Johnston. Will you be writing more for others and how do you decide which songs are for FGL and which you’d have someone else record? Tyler had this to
“As songwriters, we just write to write. It’s cool to write a song and say this is definitely FGL, this is what we want to perform and sing. And sometimes we think this is an awesome song, but don’t think it’s for
us, it would be better for a different artist. We just write songs for the love of it you know. It’s really cool to have buddies in different bands. Some songs fit them better than they do us and vice versa, it’s fun to spreads the love. Honestly it’s an honor to have any kind of cuts outside FGL.”
When asked to sum up the year they have had in three or four words Tyler answered “very, very blessed.” To which Brian added with a smile “Amen…..that’s four!”
Next up was the Anniversary concert. Chris Lane, who is from North Carolina, opened the show with a country rocking set that fired the crowd up for what was to come.
Canadian Dallas Smith gave an energetic & electric performance. Dallas, who previously was a member of highly successful rock act Default, brings a rock edge to his country. He played songs from his successful Canadian debut Jumped Right In as well as his current single ‘Tipping Point’ which is featured as a Highway Find on Sirius XM's The Highway.
Long after 9pm, FGL came onto the stage and the energy in the almost 3000 capacity venue reached new heights. There were hands in the air and a party atmosphere that lasted through their entire set. There guys have a mission and that is to throw you a party, make sure you forget your troubles and have a
few hours of fun. Mission accomplished, these guys deliver on all counts live.
The deluxe version of Here’s to The Good Times That’s How We Roll is available November 25th.
For more information including where to catch them on tour check out www.floridageorgialine.com
JJ Lawhorn's entry into country music began in 2010 when he posted a video of himself singing on You Tube. Within a year, he had a publishing deal with EMI. This past July, he released his first album with Average Joe's Entertainment Original Good Ol' Boy. Last week he was in NYC for appearances on iHeart Radio Live and performing at Guys with Guitars 2. We had a chance to sit down and chat with the country newcomer, who was named one of Billboard's New & Noteworthy.
Congrats on the year that you have had. Can you say that it has been one of your best years so far?
Thank you. Yes, it has definitely been an extremely interesting year for us for us for sure.
Is there one thing that stands out as a highlight for you?
Probably just finally having the record come out. We recorded it about three years ago. We have been playing the songs, touring, doing the footwork and it is nice to see it finally all pan out.
Your mom is very musical. How influential was she in your interest in music, writing and playing guitar?
My mom got me interested in music in general. She was the choir director at the Baptist church & she could really sing and play any instrument. When I was 3-4 years old my mom would give me voice lessons, tell me if I was singing flat or sharp & would give me advice on how to sing from the diaphragm. I was always singing around the house and harmonizing with my mom. It was really a big part of my life to have my mom teach me and be an influence growing up. My parents also brought me up with great morals and values in a God fearing household. They instilled in me diligence and hard work, things that have helped me get this far & will help me get to the next level. If I didn't have the upbringing I had I wouldn't be where I am today.
Who would you consider your musical influences?
I pull my musical influences from a lot of different places, outside the country genre more so than
inside. I think good music is good music, a good song is a good song. Music shouldn't be bound by genres . Old blues is a big influence on my sound: Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Robert Johnson. The old cats like Skip James, as well as Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Also, Hank Sr, Tubbs, Webb Pierce. I also listen to a lot of bluegrass like Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe & of course Waylon and Merle. I pull from all different genres but especially Southern rock like Blackfoot, Skynyrd and 38 Special plus some gospel thrown in. It makes for a very interesting palate.
It absolutely does. Can you tell us the story of how you were discovered on You Tube and what song was it that you covered?
I am not going to lie. When I posted that I was like I wonder if somebody will see this. I thought about it as we reached 100 then 1000 views. It was basically divine intervention. I was 16 years old at the time, I put a video response to one of favorite country singer's music videos that had come out, Justin Moore. I believe the song was "Like There's No Tomorrow." His producer saw it & got a hold of me and we exchanged a couple of texts messages. At first I thought maybe it was a joke, but when I saw the 615 phone number, I got out of agriculture class, went behind the greenhouse and took the call. My teacher took the phone from me and I told her 'do you know who I'm talking to, it's Justin Moore's producer' she told me 'I don't care of it's Jesus on the line, get back in class.' So I got my phone taken away, had to explain it all to my parents and then they took over from there. It's all just pretty crazy. Jeremy (Stover) came out to Virginia to hang out with me, see what I do, how I live and write some music in my barn. Then we made trips to Nashville, met people and started building relationships. Four years later I had a record and publishing deal.
Your debut cd Original Good Ol' Boy came out in July. It was produced by Jeremy Stover. On it, you worked with some of Nashville's top songwriters such as Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson. What was that like and was that intimidating at all?
It was not intimidating at all. I went into it knowing those guys had a higher caliber of writing skill than I had but, I went into it with the mindset to learn as much a possible. I am never opposed to take advice. We all have a unique style of writing, it's all about the chemistry between the writers & how you bounce ideas off of each other. Dallas & Rhett, I was extremely lucky enough to work with them. I went into it knowing too that I would fight for my lyrics. I want to leave my mark on all I do so it turns out the way I want it to. Dallas taught me one thing it was to write a song a day even if you don’t finish try to write song a day, you have to practice to refine your art. Of course now I cant do that every day because of time issues but I write a line down because you might use it later. It was an eye opening learning experience.
You wrote or co-wrote all 13 tracks on the record. Tell us about that.
I didn't want to talk about stuff I didn’t know about. I wanted to make sure I was actively engaged in writing. It
comes through and I feel like people get the authenticity because it is my life in songs. If you don't write and are singing, I don't feel like you can have the same emotion whether you are singing it better or not. To me, there is no way to have the same amount of raw emotion the person who wrote song did; you may be in similar circumstances but you weren’t at the same place emotionally as the person who pieced it together. God gave me the talent to piece words together and paint a picture for people and that's what I try to do.
Do you have a favorite song off of the record?
Now I don't like singing it because it is too emotional, but my favorite song is "Good Ol Boys Like Us." It is about a buddy who died in a truck accident. The theme is that even though you may lose someone that’s close to you, you can take hope in the fact that you'll see them again one day.
Your first single 'Stomping Grounds' is such a heartfelt song. It has received a lot of support from Sirius XMs The Highway and iHeart Radio. What does that support mean to you?
It is an extremely incredible blessing. I cannot explain how blessed and humbled I feel to have people back me. I always remember my Daddy's words that 'you are a product of the people you surround yourself with.' I went out of my way to make sure I have the right team beside me. What is happening now is crazy to me because I never thought I would do anything but farm for the rest of my life. I just want to thank everyone who is helping me along the way. John Marks and the Digital Integration Program at iHeart, have given me an extreme amount of exposure. The internet is a ridiculous outlet to interact with and get your music to the fans, but the assistance of radio has been crucial to my success.
Your video for 'Sittin' On A Tailgate' was a CMT Pure favorite and has over 674,000 views on You Tube. Why do you think your music connects with people?
I talk about things I have lived through, but not only what I would live through. I try to make it relatable. If you are a young kid in the country you have probably had a good time on the back of a tailgate. There are themes in my songs that everyone can relate to whether it be someone from the country or big city.
You have collaborated & toured with Colt Ford, is he or anyone else in the business someone you consider a mentor?
My producer, Jeremy Stover, is my biggest mentor because he definitely brought me into the game so to speak; taught me a lot about how it worked and what the process was. Colt and I met and just hit it off. We both respect people who are real and concern ourselves with content of character rather than what people look like. We do things differently but say a lot of the same things. He has been extremely kind to me by giving me advice & putting me in front of a lot of shows that he didn’t have to do. I consider Colt a friend.
The video for "You Can Tell A Man By His Truck" was released on November 5th. What are your thoughts on people who say there are too many truck songs on the radio today?
I wrote that song three years ago before the whole truck craze. My friends thought the song was so cool. A pickup truck is part of every teenager's life who lives in the boonies, so it is very relatable. It took a few years for the album to come out and when it did, that song ended up on it.
What are your plans for 2014?
Well, I have the Country Cruise in January, then a ton of tour dates. We are also working on the second album. We are hoping to shoot the video for 'Good Ol boys Like Us' and will release that as a new single in the Spring. We are just going to go out there, hit it hard and try and make our mark.
For more information on JJ visit http://jjlawhorn.com/