By Brian Ives
To release a fourth single from an extremely successful album, or get to work on the next one? Spend time in the studio or on the road, touring with Luke Bryan? These are nice problems to have, and that’s what Dustin Lynch‘s life is like today.
And right now, he’s excited about the third single from Where It’s At, “Mind Reader,” and the fact that he’s performing at the ACM Artists for a Cause Festival. But what fans want to know about is, obviously, the status of his next record. Which he was glad to discuss, to the extent that he could: the album is still in the very early stages.
You’re one of the artists playing the ACM Artists for A Cause Festival.
Yeah, it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and to get to celebrate the ACM Awards by having my band out there is gonna be amazing. Growing up watching the awards show, you think it’s just the awards show. That’s what’s televised. But when you actually get to attend, you realize it’s a whole weekend full of fans from all over the world, and there’s all sorts of concerts and meet and greets and parties, and it’s just an incredible time. I’m selfishly pumped that I get my band guys out there in Vegas for a few days. We’re gonna have a lot of fun.
You’ve toured a lot with the co-host himself, Luke Bryan. And you’re going back out on the road with him, so you can give him hell if he goofs up.
Yeah, I always love the ACMs when Luke hosts because, especially now that I’m on tour with him, if he goofs up in any sort of way, he knows it’s coming. So I’m out there taking notes the whole night. And I think Dierks is gonna be a great addition. Blake was always great, cause he throws great punches, and he’s very quick, but Dierks is also pretty quick-witted too. So I’m excited to see the new chemistry and what they do.
Talk about your latest single, “Mind Reader.”
I love the song; it allows me to flirt with the girls in the crowd, let’s be honest. It’s great to be able to point at someone and sing a lyric to them, and each show I get to do that.
And also I love the message behind it, because it’s kinda one of those things like, “Girls, just tell us where you wanna eat dinner.” We love it when y’all have your minds made up, and when you know what we want, which is very rare. That’s why I love this song. This particular girl in this song is talking about she knows what she wants and knows what I want before I know that I want it, and that’s a really cool thing.
“Straight Eye for the Straight Guy.”
Exactly. Ladies, be a bro.
Last time we spoke with you, you said you were hoping to release a fourth single from Where It’s At, which would give you a bit more time to write for your next album. Is that going to happen?
Yeah, I hope we do get the “04” on this album. I’m already starting… I’ve been writing for about a year now. We’re about to start recording the third album. So I don’t know if we’ll get to go to a fourth single off this album or not.
I’m just taking advantage of a little bit of a slower march than we’re used to. I’m gonna go ahead and start recording, and see what happens. With the new Luke tour and the songs that I know we already have that I’m ready to record, we’re ready to go to the next album if we need to be, so I’ll let the powers that be decide.
But either way, I’m good, and “Your Daddy’s Boots” is one of my favorite songs on the Where It’s At album, and I don’t think there’s a rule that says we can’t move it to the next album, so we’ll see what happens.
Do you know what songs you want to use on the next album?
I’ve got a few that I’m really, really in love with. I definitely need more time, because I wanted this third album to be one that really takes me to the next level. And who knows when that comes? I might write all of those songs in one week; you never know. But I’ve got a list of about ten or so songs that we’re excited about, and a few of them that I’m wanting to record first just to try and get a “chapter three” started.
But yeah, I don’t think I wanna put any sort of time limit on when we need to be done by or anything like that. I think I’m gonna let the songs speak for themselves.
You’re going out on the Luke tour until the fall, it seems like this year is pretty busy for you.
Yeah, 2016 has become pretty busy for us, which is a good thing. The fact that Luke Bryan is taking us along for the whole year. We’re gone pretty much, once April hits, non-stop through October. On top of the Luke Bryan tour, I’ll continue to do my own shows at fairs and festivals and different venues like that.
So yeah, recording an album in between those dates is gonna be tough, but it’s been done before, and I think we can pull it off.
What else can you say about the next record?
I can say I still have the same small group of writers as my [air quotes] “A-Team” in town, so my creative village in Nashville is pretty much the same. I’m going to use Mickey Jack Cones again to produce the album and probably add a couple or three guys in the mix as well with Mickey on this time around, just to bring in some new flavors. And it’s exciting for me to try new things. It’s a new album, why not? There’s no rules. So just go in there and have fun and experiment.
And that’s what I love about the recording process: there’s no rules, there’s no formula, and everything is so “built” now versus when I recorded my first album. Back then, we had this group of songs, we would go and record them, and then that’s what you get. And now, it’s almost like we get to build tracks one instrument at a time, and that allows me on a producing level to really nitpick and figure out exactly what fits in the recipe.
I feel like cutting with the band for certain songs is a good thing, but for certain songs it’s not a good thing, because you cut and then that’s what you get. You don’t have time to let the dough sit and rise. It’s just boom! And it’s done.
So I’ve fallen in love with the idea of taking our time, and with the Where It’s At album, we did that. Mickey and I, we’ll record with some players and then sit around and just hit the shed for a week on a song. And he’s so talented at guitars and singing, and the guy can do everything, programming.
You’ve said that you were a bit nervous about using loops on your last album, and you were kind of at the beginning of that trend. Will you continue to use them?
Yeah, I think loops have definitely become a huge part and very popular in country music. Now it’s figuring out how to get away from that, so we can set ourselves apart. We’ve already started in the pre-production with thinking about what can we do a little bit different to make it sound intriguing and to make people go, “Whoa, what’s this?”
That’s the most flattering thing I think. As a music fan, whenever I hear a song that makes me go, “Whoa, what’s that?” and turn it up. I can remember doing that. I was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway the first time I heard The 1975. And it was just the sound that my ears had never heard before. To create something like that that, hasn’t existed sonically, is what we’re striving to do, every time we’re in the studio. So that’s what we’re going for on this next album.
What did you learn from “shadowing” Luke Bryan and studying his performances?
My job shadowing of Luke Bryan started years and years ago. Now I’ve got a front row seat every night if I want. He’s been one of my favorite performers for a long time, and what I’ve learned from Luke is just to be comfortable with what I can do, with my abilities, and then not take myself too seriously. Don’t be too calculated onstage.
Luke shoots from the hip a lot. I know cause I’m up onstage going, “What the heck are we playing?” And he goes, “Well, whatever. We’ll figure it out.” And that’s great. People love that; that’s what live music’s all about. It’s about the unknown, it’s about: “Yeah, you may fall off stage, you may forget the lyrics.” But that’s why people go to concerts. If you wanna listen to the album, stay at home and listen to the album.
So I’ve become a lot more comfortable with not being so calculated and I guess caught up in “How do I look to these people? Do I look like a complete nerd up here? What’s going on?” So, just watching him [be] that confident and comfortable with [his attitude that] it’s okay if it’s a little rough, a little ragged, a little off-the-cuff, and “What are we playing? Okay, let’s play this” has allowed me to, me and my band as well to take a step back and go, “Man, let’s just go out there and goof off and have fun.”
And from that I’ve become more comfortable and not so self-absorbed, and all of a sudden I can have fun with the people in front of me and not be worried about what I’m doing. And so I’ve become a lot more comfortable onstage, and I think my interaction with the fans has become a lot more, a lot more frequent, and I’m enjoying myself so much more now that I’ve been around Luke enough to suck that in and start those practices.
Obviously, you address different crowds in different ways. You don’t talk to a bar crowd of a few hundred the way you would to a stadium of thousands.
Yeah, you have to adapt to the venues. Man, going from Mile High Stadium one night to next night we’re in a bar of 800, we definitely adapt our show to that. But we can do it. It’s a very bizarre feeling coming off stage or going onstage in a football stadium and being comfortable with it and not being completely freaked out about it. But we are. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, we’ve played the biggest venues you can play. And it’s a lot of fun to go out; it’s a great challenge. And believe it or not, you can connect with somebody in the nosebleeds of a football stadium, cause I’ve done it.
I’m sure it’s as valuable to sit in the last row as it is to sit in the front row. You want to know how the experience is for the people who paid $50 to get in, not just the people paying $300.
It is, yeah. There’s a lesson that Garth Brooks taught me years ago. He said, “I’ll always try and hit everybody in the stands in the eyes once.” And when you have 60,000 people, that’s a lot of eyeballs. But you can do it, and the football stadiums actually allow us to have that interaction because people are on top of you, versus at a festival they’re 72 miles in front of you. So it’s a little bit easier in a football stadium, I’ve realized. And Luke’s great. He’s got half the football fields covered in catwalks and bridges, so we can get out there in the middle of it.
Little Big Town is on the tour also; do you know them?
Yeah, we’ve toured with Little Big Town a couple years ago with Keith Urban. Both Luke and Little Big Town are on top of the game right now. There’s so many inspiring people on this tour, it’s gonna be fun and creative too. For me being right at the start of this creative, starting to record my third album, I’m gonna be around Luke to bounce ideas off of and get his take on songs. Whether he knows it or not, that’s happening. Same with Little Big Town; I wanna get their take on it too, and maybe a little bit of their cool factor can rub off on me.
When do you plan to release your next record?
I have no idea when the new record’s coming. It’ll definitely be out sometime in 2017. It might be out before 2017, I have no idea. But that all depends on somebody else, not me. All I know is I’m having a blast writing and the little bit of preproduction we’ve already done; when we start recording these songs, I’ll be having the time of my life. I’m just as excited as anybody, because it’s a blank slate right now, and I know that by the end of 2016 it won’t be. So these next ten months are going to be exciting for me.
If it wasn’t for this tour with Luke, you’d probably spend more time in the studio, right?
You just have to roll with what life brings to you. We’ll make it happen; I’m in no rush. Like I said, we can always go another single off this Where It’s At album if we need to. I think I’ve reached a spot in my life where I’m gonna go, “You know what? It’ll be ready when it’s ready.” And the songs will let me know whenever it’s ready.
It’s “Do you want it right, or do you want it right now?”
That’s right. I definitely want it right, not right now.