One-On-One With Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay as He Talks New No. 1, New Tour & New Single, “How Not To”

Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan + Shay are having a good month, to say the least.

Not only did Shay get engaged, the duo scored their second No. 1 single, “From the Ground Up,” which topped both the Mediabase and Billboard Country Airplay charts this week. Their previous single, “Nothin’ Like You,” reached No. 1 in December 2015.

On the heels of their second chart-topper, the duo announced their headlining Obsessed Tour, which will kick off on Nov. 10 in Denver and hit 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada, including stops in L.A., Honolulu, Dallas, Toronto and New York City.

Nash Country Daily caught up with Dan to talk about the duo’s new No. 1, new tour and new single.

NCD: Congrats on “From the Ground Up” going No. 1. What was it like putting such a personal song out into the ether?

Dan: This one is extra special because it’s the most personal song and most emotional song we’ve ever written. We [Shay and Chris DeStefano] wrote it about our grandparents. I was driving back from Ohio the day of my grandfather’s funeral and I went to meet Shay and my buddy Chris that night when I got back to Nashville, and we were gonna record vocals on another song we had written. And we just got to talking about our grandparents and the love that they shared. Both of our grandparents were married for over 65 years, which is just absolutely incredible. We were just talking and sharing stories for an hour and a half and the song kind of wrote itself. It was one of those ones where we just struck gold on it. Someone was looking down on us that day. It was a special one and kind of scary to put it out there to the world because it was so personal, but we’re so thankful that country radio embraced it and took it all the way to the top. And our fans are absolutely amazing and have shared the song and come out to our shows and sung it at the top of their lungs. It’s a really special moment for us and we’re enjoying it.

No only did you write and record “From the Ground Up,” it’s also your first No. 1 as a producer. That’s a nice trifecta.

Producing is one of my favorite parts of the job. Shay and I moved to Nashville to be songwriters, and we got started doing it. I was producing the demos and building little tracks on my desktop, and trying to make them sound as cool as possible. I love digging in. If I’m not proud of the product and we’re not proud of the product then other people aren’t going to be. So I just dig in and spend countless hours on making these records. Sometimes it drives people crazy. We’ll have our label president come by the studio and he’ll say “That sounds great, let’s put it out,” and I’ll be like “No, no, we need at least two more months to work on this thing.” I get a little crazy on it, but I’m a little bit of a perfectionist. But I love the process. I love getting in the studio, getting a nice warm coffee in the morning and starting the track. We believe in these songs so much, whether we wrote it or not, we are recording it for a reason and we owe it to our fans to record the best songs. Being a producer is a great opportunity because I get to stand back and watch the incredible talent in Nashville, not only Shay singing on the mic but all the players—guitar, bass, drums. The talent pool in Nashville is just out of control. I feel lucky and honored to say “Let’s try this or try that.” I have fun doing it. Piecing the puzzle together. This first number one as a producer, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of.

Your just-announced Obsessed Tour kicks off this fall. After a busy summer, you’re not slowing down at all.

It’s going to be a blast. We got to do a little headlining tour on our first album, but it was tough to do a 75-minute set with only one album of material, so we were doing a lot of covers back then. Now we’ve got double the material and a few more singles out there so this is going to be a better set list. We’ve been on the road for a couple of years now, so we have the experience under our belts. We’re going to put on the best show we can and we’re bringing out Walker Hayes, who makes amazing music. We wanted him on our tour. We’re hitting some great cities that we haven’t been to in a while. It will be nice to play clubs this fall after playing outside all summer. We loved sweating it out but we’re looking forward to some air conditioning.

What’s your next single going to be?

“How Not To.” It’s been floating around. I’m proud to say it, it’s an incredible song and we didn’t write it. It’s one of those ones. We moved to Nashville because we are such fans of the songwriting community. We started listing to country music because of the stories from guys like Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts. We’re so lucky and honored to be in a position now—as an artist on a major record label—who songwriters trust with their songs. That’s just crazy now. We write songs, too, and to give away a song is a big deal. Every song you write is like your baby. We had a couple of incredibly talented writers [Adam Hambrick, Paul DiGiovanni, Kevin Bard] give us that song and we recorded it on the album. Our fans unanimously loved that song and rock out to it at our shows, so that seemed like the perfect follow-up single to “From the Ground Up.” It’s funny how that song came to us. We were cutting at Ocean Way Studio in Nashville and it was like 7 in the morning and we were gonna cut four songs that day. The fourth song I wasn’t totally sure about. So I texted my buddy and said, “Hey man, change my mind, send me a hit.” And he sent me four songs, and “How Not To” was one of them. I was like, “Dude, we’ve got to cut this. Can we cut this?” And he was like, “Yeah, man, go for it.” We ended up recording it as one of the last songs for the album. There it is, it’s going to be the next single.

Now that Shay is engaged are you feeling the pressure?

Of course [laughing]. Soon, soon, we’ll get there [laughing].

Check out Dan + Shay’s new single, “How Not To.”

photo courtesy of WMG

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