“We knew we needed to step up our game” - hmv.com talks to country stars Dan + Shay
As they release their new self-titled third album, we talk to country pop duo Dan + Shay about making the LP, working with Kelly Clarkson and why their wives are their best A&Rs...
How did you want this album to move on from you’ve done in the past?
Shay (Mooney): “There was definitely a lot of pressure on this album. We knew we needed to step up our game. This album is where we’re going with Dan and Shay. The reaction to the songs we’ve put out so far has been great and we’re so excited for fans to hear it.”
Can you talk us through some of the songwriters you’ve worked with on this album?
Dan (Smyers): “We worked a lot with our buddy Jordan Reynolds, he’s got six cuts on the record. He’s someone we’ve believed in for a long time and we’re so proud of him. He’s one of the most talented guys in Nashville and we’ve given him his first single on country radio. He’s a big part of the album.”
“After that, it’s a bit of a mix and match, we’ve written with a lot of people. We’ve got our friend Nicole Galyon on there, Laura Veltz, she’s incredible, there’s even a song with David Lee Murphy, who wrote ‘Dust In The Bottle’. It’s a real mix of people, but it’s worked out really well.”
Do you have a lot of songs written for the record?
Shay: “We did. Dan and I have not stopped writing and we have so many songs. We loved putting together this record, we tried new things, some songs that came together differently, we know there’s a lot of pressure. This is our third record and we know we have an audience now, you don’t want to alienate the audience that got you where you are and completely disregard your old sound. This is Dan and Shay 3.0.”
Did you agree straightaway on which songs would make the record?
Dan: “No, we’ve got a great little committee to help us through the process, and that includes our wives. Our wives are our best A&Rs, the best choosers of songs. A few folks from the label and management too, but most of the time it’s me and Shay and it’s rare that we don’t agree on something. We had a lot of songs in the mix, but we know it’s a self-titled record and every song had to represent us. By the end of it, everything was unanimous. Everybody is excited about this record.”
You’ve got Kelly Clarkson on the record, how did that collaboration come about?
Dan: “We wrote that song, ‘Keeping Score’, at the start of 2017 and it feels really prevalent. The idea of comparison is a big theme on this record, everything is so quantifiable in the music industry, you’re constantly measuring yourself against everybody else rather than appreciating what you have. That song is about letting go. When we recorded it, it felt special, but we agreed it would sound better as a duet.”
“I think Shay is the best singer I’ve ever heard and I knew we needed a duet partner who could match up with him, there are very few who can. But when you think of powerful voices, Kelly Clarkson is one of the first that comes to mind. We sent her the song and within an hour and a half, she was in. We flew out to Los Angeles and tracked her on it, that was it. We just hope we get to play it live with her someday.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to the album?
Shay: “The title sums it up perfectly. It’s us, it’s where we’ve been and where we’re going. Both Dan and I are married now and we’re in a different place to where we were on the last two records. There are love songs, more sweet ballads, but we can step into the storyteller mode and play scenarios. We can still write about heartbreak even if we’re in happy relationships. That’s the magic of country music, you tell stories.”
Was it always going to be self-titled? Or did that come later in the process?
Dan: “A self-titled record is always easier than naming a record! It came after the sequencing, we felt like it was the right thing to do. Our first record was a bunch of songs that we’d written, they were basically laptop demos that we put out, the second record was more experimenting, figuring out who we were. Now we know, we’ve figured it out, we know where we want to go. This feels like the right time to do it. We want people to know that this is Dan and Shay.”
Finally, when will we see you back in the UK?
Shay: “We’re trying to figure that out now. We’re out supporting Rascal Flatts in the US for the rest of the year, but we’re looking to come to the UK as early as we can in 2019. The fans in the UK have been great and we can’t wait to come back with a headline tour. You’ll see us soon.”