Since releasing his debut album in 2012, country singer/songwriter Dustin Lynch has had an impressive career, racking up four Top 5 albums, eight #1 hits, and eight gold and platinum singles. Currently, Lynch has released his fifth album, Blue in the Sky, which is the follow-up to his album, Tullahoma, which produced the #1 hits “Ridin’ Roads” and “Good Girl,” plus the Top 5 hit,“Momma’s House.”
Notably, Lynch’s new project includes his biggest single to date, the six-week chart-topper “Thinking ‘Bout You” (feat. MacKenzie Porter). Written by Lynch along with Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps & Will Weatherly, the song has surpassed his previous big hit “Small Town Boy,” which was #1 for four weeks in 2017. Lynch’s smash joins the company of other six-week iconic hits, such as “It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, “How Forever Feels” by Kenny Chesney, and “I’m Already There” by Lonestar.
In addition to his chart success, Lynch has been nominated for Country Song of the Year (2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards), Top Country Song (2018 Billboard Music Awards), and Male Video of the Year (2018 CMT Music Awards) for “Small Town Boy.”
Lynch, who is signed with Broken Bow Records, has played to over three million fans, both as a headliner and with big time country names like Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Brad Paisley, and Thomas Rhett. Lynch recently announced his 2022 Party Mode Tour, which is a 17-city run featuring special guest Sean Stemaly. And on his new album, Blue In The Sky, Lynch feature Chris Lane on the song “Tequila On a Boat,” and Riley Green on “Huntin’ Land.”
We are pleased to present this new Q&A interview with Dustin Lynch. He tells the story behind his latest hit “Thinking ‘Bout You.” He also explains how being off the road helped him make a better album, and he discusses his collaborations with Riley Green and Chris Lane. In addition, he explores the evolution of his songwriting.
BC: Congratulations on your current hit, “Thinking ‘Bout You.” How did this song develop?
Here’s the video of Dustin Lynch’s hit, “Thinking ‘Bout You”
(feat. MacKenzie Porter).
Dustin Lynch: We had an extra bus out on tour with us. We were out on tour at the time with Thomas Rhett. I had a few of my close buddies and a small circle of songwriters that I frequent in Nashville out with me. Right away, the chorus fell out for us. Once we got the melody and once we got the phrasing locked in lyrically, it was almost a one take for me because I kind of popped in places and people of my past, so the chorus came pretty quick. Then it was time for the second verse, and [my team and I] had been chatting about doing a duet, a proper collaboration for the album. I realized we could have the girl or other person answer the phone in the second verse. MacKenzie (Porter) goes on to sing her verse and the answer, and the rest is history.
How we came across MacKenzie is fun, too. We submitted to the Nashville creative community and all the teams we had contacts on and said, “Hey, we’d love someone to sing this song and who’s able to release it during this window of time as a single. I had a lot of submissions to the email link. I had my team remove all the names so I was just listening to the versions. I had no idea who was singing. I kept coming back to this one particular version which ends up being MacKenzie. That was a lot of fun. I’m glad we took our time and kept fighting for that song. It just shows you that the best songs always find a way to win.
BC: You teamed up with Riley Green and Chris Lane as well on this new album. What was your motivation for doing that?
Lynch: With “Tequila On a Boat,” that’s a song that I feel like you need friends. It’s kind of weird to be on a boat singing about a party without friends around. Chris Lane and I had done some touring together, and he excels at drinking tequila sodas. He loves to be on the water. I just knew he would put down a solid, laid-back verse for us. That was just calling on a friend to jump on with me because it just seemed natural and an organic fit.
When I wrote “Huntin’ Land,” Riley Green was first in mind because he’s an avid hunter like I am. He loves to be outdoors…he’s a great outdoorsman. He’s got a lot of friends in the outdoor industry as well. So do I. It made sense that he was the artist I would reach out and sing that with. I thought would get a kick out of that song.
Here’s the video of Dustin Lynch’s new song, “Party Mode.”
BC: Are you pleased with how the album turned out?
Lynch: I am pleased with the album. We’ve got some more songs outside what is on this 1-song album already recorded and ready to go. So, I feel like we have a follow-up or deluxe or something coming down the road. These songs are all frontrunners of what I’ve been creating and what my friends have been writing and sending to me over the past couple of years and songs that have been tested. I played all these songs a lot of times for my close circle of friends as we’ve done life out on the water, as we’ve done life out in the country on the farm. We weren’t able to tour, so I was in those settings a lot more than normal, which is why this album feels really fun and optimistic to me. It shines a light on how much outdoors is a part of my life.
BC: When you approached doing this latest album, did you take a different angle than you’ve done with your previous four albums?
Lynch: I think we approached it a little differently because we had a lot more time on our hands at home. My producer Zach (Crowell) and I, we were doing most of our recording in his studio at his house. Being off the road, being more rested, being more connected with him and available for him allowed us to get into the studio a lot more consistently. And me being in better voice from not being banged up on the road singing night after night and not sleeping well on the bus, and all that stuff. To cut vocals, it seemed like I was in a lot better voice.
BC: Do you normally have a chance to road test the songs before fans?
Lynch: It’s usually a small circle of friends. I’ve tried to do it on the road before in front of our fan base and our crowd, but it seems like it’s always a positive answer out there (laughs). It’s one of those things you second guess if they’re just applauding for it because they’re supportive of everything we do. We love them for that. My close circle of friends hears a lot of songs that are not album worthy in my opinion, so whenever they perk up on one I know that I need to pay attention to it. If they hear a song once and can come back to me in a week or two, the next time we hang, and ask for it by name, I think that’s a great indicator.
Here’s the video of Dustin Lynch’s hit, “Ridin’ Roads.”
BC: Do you enjoy the recording process?
Lynch: Yes. I feel like I’ve become more efficient in the studio because I’ve gotten a lot better at communicating my feelings towards what I need a song to sound like or want it to get to. And that just comes from doing it with musicians but also confidence, trusting your gut and the studio musicians we use. We have a long history with them and we trust their instincts, but also, we know where to take a song. A lot of these songs, even the demos that we get, aren’t the exact direction we need them to go, so communicating those minute details to really get them in the headspace of what we’re going for is a learned skill. I think that’s something we’ve become better at.
I enjoy the process. We come in with nothing and come out with a song I can play through the speakers. It’s what I became addicted to early on the first couple of songs I wrote, recording that on my mom’s cassette deck, taking those out to the driveway, and listening to them in the car. That’s still as much fun today as it was back then.
BC: Is there anything more you’d like to add about your new album?
Lynch: My goal was to put together a group of songs that I like doing my life to. I like having fun, chilling out, celebrating with my friends type of life. I hope that some of these songs will come through the speakers and put folks in that frame of mind and remind them what’s most important in life, and that’s just to enjoy it.
BC: You’ve been writing songs for quite a while. How did that begin for you, and how does the songwriting process work for you these days?
Lynch: That’s evolved, and I think in Nashville, as a whole, it has evolved. When I first started, it was just guitars and your cell phone maybe in a room or whatever small mic set-up you’d have on your laptop. Now, it seems like in a lot of the rooms the songs written stem from the music, kind of forming a track, and letting the track steer the day. I think the virtual write, going back to Zoom—whenever we didn’t know what was going on and people were being cautious about being in person too much—allowed us to get back a little more to the guitar only writing. That makes me a little more idea oriented. I think really how I’ve found most of my success is starting with a blank page both lyrically and musically and kind of let the room talk to you and let the idea and the hook of the song steer the music. There’s a certain type of song I want to perform in my show, and at this point we have enough hits where it’s got to be a single or most likely it’s not going to get played in a show. I’m always gunning for a certain type of energy.
Here’s the video of Dustin Lynch’s hit, “Good Girl.”
BC: Do you feel more connected to a song when you’ve written it versus interpreting what someone else has written?
Lynch: One of my tough things that I struggle with is, I never get a first listen at one of my own songs because I’m a part of it from the jump. If a song enters my inbox, I get that first listener experience. I know what the gatekeepers of the country music industry world, programmers, whatever you want to call them, what their guts going to be and what the fans listening to it on the radio or home, wherever they are, are going to hear. Whenever I write a song, I never get to put it through that filter. My songs have a little bit tougher hill to climb because of that. I have to allow someone else in my close circle of friends or my teammates react to a song I wrote so it gets the affirmation it deserves.
BC: You’ve had several hits as a songwriter, including two platinum singles from the last album. One of them was “Ridin’ Roads.” How did that song come together for you?
Lynch: That song was inspired by a Snapchat my buddy sent me. He’s one of my best buds. He’s a farmer up in Kentucky. I was heading in to write with Zach (Crowell) and Ashley Gorley at Zach’s studio. Later in the day I was eating breakfast and opened Snapchat, and there’s this message from him. He saudm “It’s Corbin,” and I think it was three girls riding in the cab of his truck, riding down one of his farm roads, dancing and having a big ol’ time. He looked in the camera and said, “You’re missing out, cuz!” I was like…man, if that ain’t a country song. There’s got to be something in here. I kind of had a visual of his truck bouncing down the road like a dance club on wheels and took that idea into the studio and we came out with “Ridin’ Roads.” He and his buddies call it road farming up there. We started tossing those ideas around and obviously it got narrowed down from three girls to a significant girl that’s in the cab of the truck. You never know where inspiration’s going to hit you. That’s why I think it’s always important that me, as a songwriter, to be present and wait for the inspiration to hit. Don’t try to force it.
BC: Of all the things you do in music, what do you enjoy the most?
Lynch: Performing live is what I enjoy the most. I love trying to win a crowd over. I love being on stage and feeling that connection with our fans and also giving them a reason to want to come back and bring more people. I’ve watched over the years our crowds grow from ‘who’s this guy’ to now we’re able to go out there and sell out venues and events. That’s what we plan on doing again this year with the Party Mode Tour. It’s going to be pretty much every weekend, and we’re going to embrace that lifestyle again this year. We’re going to bring the party to town with us and can’t wait to share that with everybody that shows up for us.
BC: I guess after all that time off from the pandemic you’re excited to be out there as much as you can.
Lynch: For sure. We missed the busyness of touring but also the adventures it brings because it’s new faces, new places. It takes us all over this wonderful country. So many awesome spots and cities. Every city has its unique characteristics about it. I feel closer to this country whenever we get to tour it.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].