Dustin Lynch Still Searching for Definition
As Dustin Lynch's song "Mind Reader" nears the top of radio airplay charts, the singer doesn't downplay its importance. For Lynch, an artist with back-to-back No. 1 hits from his Where It’s At album, No. 1 is a standard he holds himself to. After all, people are relying on him.
“I’ve got a lot of people putting their trust in me as an opening act,” Lynch insists. “Luke (Bryan), having me on tour, he expects me to deliver hits and to put people in seats … It’s nice showing him that I’m here to play ball.”
After blowing up radio with “Cowboys and Angels” in 2012 and 2013, the Tennessee-raised Lynch stumbled with back-to-back singles that peaked outside the Top 10. The three singles released from Where It’s At are similar on their own, but unlike anything released from his debut album. All find him miles away from the promising country traditionalist many were hoping he'd turn into when "Cowboys and Angels" was climbing the charts.
“The format itself kind of did a left turn,” Lynch says, referring to the time after his debut single peaked. There's a tinge of regret as he says this — a sign that he longs to plant traditional roots at times. Later he'll name the any-era "Your Daddy's Boots" as the first song he wished he would have released from the album he's nearly through promoting.
I’m not saying you can’t still have a huge hit with traditional country, but something happened.
Lynch's R&B influences bleed onto many of the signature songs on Where It’s At, and it's as convincing as his sincerity on "Cowboys." "Mind Reader" — a song that felt edgy when the album was released in September 2014 — now feels familiar in a genre that is ever-expanding. Lynch says he notices shifts in the songwriting community. Different periods of time bring different flavors of songs, instead of a limitless variety of styles and sounds to choose from. He knew he was at the front edge of a movement.
“There’s a certain type of song that right now my new album needs that no one is writing,” the 31-year-old explains. He's keeping most details quiet. "They’ll probably start writing it in the next six or seven months, but they’re not writing it right now."
Six songs are finished for Lynch’s third album, a project with a working title of Tres. He says to expect more R&B influence and west coast vibes. That’s the new trend in country music right now — bands like Sublime and Blink 182 and songwriters and producers like Jeff Bhasker are shaping what we hear.
“I’ve told a lot of songwriters I want that California, kind of Sugar Ray type of top down, stoner rock thing,” Lynch says. “I want a couple of those moments on this album.”
While the three hit songs on Where It’s At are cut from the same cloth, Lynch proudly states that he still has a ways to go before branding himself with a certain sound or style. He’s evolving and enjoying the process of becoming a singer with focused ideas, specific goals and a clear vision. He’s better at blocking out the noise around him. He trusts himself, knowing he’ll always do well to "stay country."
Stay Country is also the name of his clothing line — a concept that formed from a song he wrote six or seven years ago. Celebrities like Kelly Osbourne (no, they’re not dating) have taken pics in his gear. For Lynch, the brand reflects his lifestyle.
“What it means to me is staying true to where you’re from, what you believe in. Being proud of where you’re from, what you believe in and that type of lifestyle. It’s great to feel that, to know that and to remember where you’re from. Especially the position I’m in, it’s easy to forget," he says.
Lynch won’t have any trouble forgetting where he’s from this fall. He’s signed up for Chris Young’s I’m Comin’ Over Tour. The two grew up less than an hour away from each other along I-24. They’re practically the same age — heck, Young’s high school could have played Lynch’s Tullahoma teams in football.
The two vocalists didn’t know each other, though. Ironically, the first time Lynch heard of Young was when he saw him on Nashville Star in 2006. He’d thought about trying out, too but says he "chickened out because I didn’t think I was ready, and that was the year Chris made it on."
“‘Man, I’m glad I didn’t try out,’” he recalls thinking. "'That dude can sing!'"
Look for Lynch and Young on the road together this November. Lynch is currently opening up Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights Tour. Expect that California-tinged new music to come before the end of the year.
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