What’s not to love about Dan + Shay? Not only are they one of the most successful duo’s in country music but they are also two of the most talented songwriters in Nashville as well as being exceptional singers and musicians.
Dan + Shay have gone from strength to strength over the years with ground breaking albums, some of the best loved singles, multiple award wins/nominations, sell out headline tours and much more.
Dan + Shay have also had busy personal lives with both Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney getting married to their long term girlfriends but Shay and his wife also welcomed a beautiful baby boy.
Dan + Shay found just how much of a huge fan base they have in the UK when they had their first UK headline tour in 2016. The success of the tour saw them return to be part of C2C Festival on the main stage with a full band where they completely rocked out the O2 Arena, proving they are so much more than a country pop duo. Catching the UK touring bug, Dan + Shay came back late last year with a full band for another headline tour which was even more successful than the last.
I caught up with Dan + Shay just before their show in London and I must say that they are two of the most genuine, friendly, humble guys in the industry and I had such a great time.
I hope you enjoy our chat!
Hi guys, how are you?
Both: Doing well, how are you?
Doing well too, thanks. Welcome back to the UK – how does it feel to be back?
Shay – It feels good to be back; we have the first show tonight and have had a day off in London which was great.
Well, you have had people queuing from about 10 am for the show (London).
Dan – That is such a cool thing. We got to the venue and got off the bus and there was already a ton of people lining up. It is pretty chilly outside so that is some serious fan dedication; very amazing – we feel very appreciated and very blessed.
Last time you were here you were on the main stage for C2C. How would you describe your experience at C2C?
Dan – That was incredible – that was a really big venue. Our bass player went to see The Killers at that venue last night and said it was surreal coming back to that venue as it is such a big arena. It was great playing there and playing a few of our songs. The whole arena knew our songs, we put the microphone out to the crowd and that was really crazy. It is crazy to just come over to this side of the ocean and have fans know the words and have so much support for Country music. We are lucky and glad to be back with our own headline tour.
So tell us about this tour. What made you decide to come back so quickly, not that we are complaining! Was it on the back of the success of C2C? Were you like, ‘We HAVE to come back.’?
Dan – Absolutely, but even before we came to C2C, we came on an acoustic tour as a headliner
Ah yes, I was there.
Dan – Oh cool, thank you. When we planned that tour we didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know if anybody would show up but the entire tour sold out, which was amazing! So we had to come back with a full band and we are going to be rockin’.
Obsessed has done incredibly well and each track is a stand-out track, but I have to say that one of my favourites is Already Ready. Tell me a bit about that song and, as much as I love it, I cannot sing along to it without being tongue tied! Do you find people have grasped it well and sing along easily?
Dan – Oh, that is funny –it’s one of our favourites on the album for sure. We wrote that with two of our buddies Shane McAnally and Jimmy Robbins in Nashville. It was a fun writing process – kind of a unique style with a unique structure. Kind of didn’t know at first if we were telling a story, so it was almost like freestyle rapping, different from anything else on the album. The original demo was sort of a hip hop sort of loop and a pop thing which we turned into a Country song. We got into the studio and it turned out really cool and has been a fan favourite for us and one of our favourites to play live. When the fans sing that back to us, it is always a highlight of the show.
Shay – Haha – and I am always impressed with the fans when they sing it back as they always kill it – some people try it and are mumbling, but I don’t care what they sing as long as they raise their voices, haha!
Haha! Well, I must keep practicing.
Shay – Haha! Yes, keep practicing.
From The Ground Up is used for so many weddings. How does it a) make you feel that such a personal song has played such a pivotal role in fans’ lives and b) did you ever expect the song to do so well, or be used for so many weddings?
Dan – That song sort of happened by accident. We were at our friend’s house writing and recording another song and we started sharing stories and talking about our grandparents. They were together for over 65 years, so we were telling that story and the song sort of poured out – we wrote it in about 45 minutes. We never knew that it would reach so many people and have such a big impact on their lives. We still have people come up to us and say we had this song for our first dance at our wedding. It is always cool to hear that, as it is our music, our song- just a little story, a poem, that we wrote about our grandparents’ lives. A wedding day is like the biggest day in someone’s life, so for that song to be a part of that day is really cool – and it took our career to a whole new level, so we are also thankful for that.
It just got a BMI award?
Shay –Yeah, it did. It is always cool to be recognised as a songwriter – it is definitely a different experience. We love playing shows, but it all starts with a song, so to be in Nashville and to be recognised and have someone else saying “This is a really good song, congratulations. “ is a really cool thing. A lot of times that process of writing is a very vulnerable moment – when you put something so personal into a song, it can be hard to put that out because if people don’t like it, it stings a little bit, haha! But to have people love the words and appreciate them is a really cool experience.
You are a father now Shay – congratulations!
Shay – Thank you so much, I appreciate it, it is definitely the best thing that I have ever done.
Would you say that starting a family has changed you as a songwriter?
Shay – Definitely. Both Dan and I got married this year, too (2017) and me having a baby has definitely changed us and the things we write about. We write about what we know. Even though we are both now happily married we still write about past experiences we have had. Not everyone is in the same place – a lot of people go through break ups or other experiences, so we write about all of our experiences, not just the highs. Both perspectives help people, which is cool – and that’s the beauty of Country music, to tell the stories and not just about love.
When you formed as a duo – what other duo names did you consider or was it always going to be Dan + Shay?
Dan – We did actually – we had some terrible, terrible names. We had a name called Ragtop Red which is a Tim McGraw song Red Ragtop, but plucked around because we thought it was creative!
Dan – Our lawyer, he is an older gentlemen and not super in touch with all things current or hip and he was like “I’ve got a name”. He went on his iPad and it took him like ten minutes to type it in and he thought he had an epiphany, that this was his moment, that he had our name. So he spins the iPad around and he proposed the name School’s Out for us, hahaha! If anyone thinks that Dan + Shay is a terrible name we could have been School’s Out!
Haha, that is so nineties boy band and so funny.
Tell is about Jimmy Kimmel Mean Tweets?
Shay – That was such an amazing experience. We had a lot of great ones – we tried to pick the most extreme ones that we could possibly find and we read some pretty great ones. It’s fun to not take yourself so seriously and there will always be someone out there tweeting about anybody at any given time and if they’re not hating on it, you’re not doing a great job, haha! There are plenty of people who do love it. When we were asked to do it we were like ‘Absolutely!’ We are big fans of that part of the show.
I would say once you have made the Mean Tweets on Jimmy Kimmel, then you know you have truly made it?
Shay – Haha! There you go!
Dan –It is funny watching the other targets too. Some of the tweets that don’t make it on the show are even more ridiculous than the ones that do. There are some mean folks out there, ha.
I always say that I feel bad when Kimberley from Little Big Town is on Mean Tweets, because she is so sweet.
Shay – She is like the nicest person.
I know, ha!
Are you working on new music – and when can we expect it?
Dan – Yeah, we are. We actually have some new music hopefully coming out at the start of the year. We have been working on it for a while now – actually we haven’t stopped writing since our last album came out, which is about two years ago now, so we are ready for it.
Tell us about the song When I Pray For You, and how having a song featured in the film The Shack came to be?
Shay – Yeah, that was an amazing experience. We actually got to screen that movie before it came out and we got asked to be a part of it. They asked if we had any music that works for it or that we could write for it, so we got to screen the movie and the timing was divine. It was a cool moment, because I was about to have a kid so we got into the writing room and we wrote that with a couple of other new dads. We wrote about out our experiences so far and what experiences we were about to have and it turned out really cool. The timing when the movie came out was right after Asher was born, so it was really cool to be able to do that.
Dan – and to be on a soundtrack, as we had never done that before.
I must watch the movie.
We mentioned earlier that your fans are so dedicated that they queue from 10am. Have you ever been star struck – if so by whom?
Dan – Oh yeah, all the time. We grew up as such fans of Country music and are still huge fans. Anytime we go to an award show we walk past people like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill , Garth Brooks; we actually had the opportunity to open up for Garth Brooks a month or so ago and got to hang out for a few minutes. Country music is such a family – no matter how big the star is, they are super kind to new artists and we have had great experiences. I remember the first time we met Keith Urban, I was very, very star struck – and possibly a little drunk, which amplified that, haha!
What advice would you give to a fellow artist who is on the fence about coming to play in the UK?
Shay –Oh man, I feel like everyone has to have this experience with the UK fans. Whenever you come here they are singing the words to every song, not just singles, and they are so respectful of the music. It is a lot like Nashville in that sense; people are really appreciative of the song and the songwriting process and everything that goes into that. It’s a long flight, and expensive to come over, but it is definitely worth it. We can’t wait to come back; we are already planning our next trip.
Thank you so much for talking to me tonight, it has been so wonderful and we cannot wait to have new music and to have you back soon.
Dan – Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time.