Dallas Smith might be new to country music, but he’s certainly not new to music. After ten years as the lead singer of the rock group Default, Smith transitioned into a country music. The genre was becoming exactly what he loved – lots of guitar based high energy anthems that allowed him to really connect. After making a trip down to Nashville in 2009 with Joey Moi (Producer Florida Georgia Line & Jake Owen), Smith began working on his debut country album.
Since then he has become a staple in Canadian country music with five straight top ten hits. His debut U.S. single “Tippin’ Point” reached the peak position on SiriusXM The Highway Hot 45 countdown and has gone on to sell over a hundred thousand copies worldwide. He recently completed work on his third EP Lifted which hits iTunes tomorrow and includes “Wastin’ Gas” a song that Music Row called “terrifically exciting.”
We caught up with Dallas Smith this week to talk about his shift from rock to country, life on the road with Florida Georgia Line, and of course his new EP Lifted.
Let’s start with your new EP Lifted that’s coming out tomorrow. What’s it like working with Joey Moi, does that give you an extra sense of confidence?
I’ve been working with Joey since 1999, so we’re talking fifteen years. When he was fresh out of recording school he came over and listened to the demo tape of the band I used to be in way back in the day. That was my first time working with Joey and we’ve been friends ever since and sorta worked on different projects here and there. So having the past with Joey, and him believing in me kind of having a sense of what my abilities are.
He’s definitely fantastic to work with. He’s a proudcer that’s brutally honest on what you need to bring to the table and can bring to the table. He’s the man for sure.
Are you happy the way Lifted turned out? Do you think you’ve progressed as an artist since the last release?
Yeah I think so. Joey and I did a record called Jumped Right In, which was my first solo country record and it was released up in Canada where it did really well. But, when I listened back to it, it was a little linear. So I wanted to create a more dynamic record and we did so with the Tippin’ Point EP that was released earlier this year. I wanted to take that a step further and make this new batch of songs more dynamic and I know we’ve achieved that for sure.
I definitely love the way it turned out. You can really tell the difference from Jumped Right In to Lifted, which has a fuller sound I would say.
Yeah, we used more of a live band mentality with Lifted. The Tippin’ Point EP was a lot of program stuff, obviously live guitar players and stuff, but a lot of loops and stuff like that. But here we went back to more live drums. We were able to get Chris McHugh (Keith Urban’s drummer) on drums. And he’s a badass up there. So when you talk about it sounding fuller a lot of that has to do with Chris.
Going back to before country music you were in the rock band Default for about ten years right?
Yeah we were a band from late ’99, early 2000, and we went pretty strong until about 2009.
So what made you shift to country? Was that something you had always thought about or were there outside voices pushing towards it.
It was a slow process. So the house I grew up in was a lot of classic rock, but my mom played a lotta country. The older that I got, the more that country music started swaying into the blend of the influences I grew up with. What were guitars and the stuff that Dierks [Bentley] and Keith [Urban] are doing and I was like ‘Man this is the perfect storm of what I love about music – the voices combined with the energy that a lot of the rock stuff had.’ It just really grabbed my ear.
So it was about five or six years ago that Joey and I took a trip down to Nashville. We sorta went in there cold, not knowing what to expect, but started working on a country record together. And here we are.
Do you think your background in rock has helped you? You’re a newer country artist, but not a new artist per se.
Yeah. I always describe it as you when you get older you think back to high school and you wish you could go back because you’d do a hell of a lot better. And I think I’ve been able to do that with my music career. I’ve learned from the mistakes – I’ve made a ton of them. But not having to go through those growing pains as a “new” artist is such a valuable asset to have.
Also you know from what country music is sounding like now it has that rock influence. I’m not a guy who goes up there and thinks I have to sound like this. I come across that bit of an edge naturally. It’s just what I did and have done for so long, it’s part of who I am. So the guitars and energy in the songs that you’re hearing doesn’t come from a contrived place, it’s definitely real.
Has there been any country artist who’s really helped you or given you advice as you’ve made the switch?
Nothing that anyone’s said per se; it’s more learning by example. I’d say Florida Georgia Line is a prime example. Being from a band, I was just one of four guys up on stage. It wasn’t my name on the ticket or on the backdrop, so I was able to rely on [my bandmates] for part of the show. But now I’ve realized from watch [Florida Georgia Line] that they’re cartoon characters up there. They are entertaining, and they’re incredible entertainers, and it all comes across so naturally.
I’ve been able to see what they do and then insert my personality and think how can I interact with the crowd. So seeing that has been invaluable.
Definitely. So you were out with those guys on their cruise last week. How was that?
Oh yeah. That was a terrible, it was awful.
Yeah I bet.
No, it was really good. We had my wife come down. We have a ten month old baby girl, so it was my wife’s first time away from baby and a much needed break for her. It was nice because Thomas Rhett and FGL had their significant others there too, so it was nice for her to meet them and all of us to spend some time together.
It was really cool man. It was nice for us to just hang out and spend some time with fans. Nothing about it sucked. It was great.
You performed while you were out there too right?
Yeah we did a few shows. A couple up by the bar and then one outside on the pool deck. That was a highlight. It was great.
That must have been a nice warm up before you head out on your Canadian Tour in a month or so.
Yeah we decided to do a Canadian Tour right across coast to coast in the middle of winter.
Best of luck.
I’ve done it before and you know it always turns out really well. That’s the time of year when all there is go watch show or whatever sport your into. For the Canadians it’s either go to a show or watch a hockey game. It’s a good time to go out and it’ll be a lotta fun.
Once that wraps up do you have any plans for U.S. dates? Anything lined up for the summer?
Yeah we’re did about 20 U.S. with FGL late last year, we did a bunch of U.S. festivals this year and we’ll do even more this coming year. So we’re really aiming the sights on introducing my music more and more down to you guys.
We’re looking forward to it. Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today. Good luck the rest of the way.
Dallas Smith’s new EP Lifted is available for pre-order now on iTunes and will be released in the United States tomorrow. Fans can follow Smith on Twitter, like him on Facebook, or check out his website.