Dan + Shay FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview

With the record breaking success of 10,000 Hours, Grammy wins and number 1 – do you feel added pressure to match such success with every release?

Dan Smyers: Yes! Patrick Tracy and I thrive on the creative aspect and that creative direction starts with the two of us. We grew up together in Pittsburgh and have been best friends for almost 20 years. We moved to Nashville together in 2011 and work together on pretty much everything. We always joke that he is the “+” in Dan + Shay. I am usually writing the video treatment while writing and recording the song, but if we’re ever stuck on an idea, we’ll pour some tequila and pace around my backyard until it comes to us. There’s a cool video on our socials of us writing the “I Should Probably Go To Bed” treatment, from scratch, in my backyard during quarantine. “Steal My Love” came about in a very similar fashion.

With the record breaking success of 10,000 Hours, Grammy wins and number 1 – do you feel added pressure to match such success with every release?

Dan Smyers: Absolutely, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t. We’re competitive to a fault, but I think it’s a huge part of the reason why we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve accomplished so far. We feel a responsibility to our fans and everyone on our team to keep raising our own bar. When we sit down to write a song and someone suggests an idea, we often ask the question, “is it as good as ‘Tequila?’ ‘Speechless?’ ‘10,000 Hours?”’. And if it’s not, we keep digging. We owe that to everyone who continues to support us on our journey.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song ‘You’?

Dan Smyers: The song “You”, much like “Speechless”, was written shortly after our weddings. I brought up the idea of writing a song called “You and Only You”, and vividly painting the picture of a first dance. Conceptually, we wanted the song to stay very “in the moment”, and we were intentional with the words to make sure it did just that. It’s really gratifying to see fans tagging us on social media using the song in their own weddings. We always say that is one of the greatest honors of our career. Someone’s wedding is arguably the most important day in their life, and out of all the songs that have ever existed, they choose ours. That’s pretty incredible. It’s only been out in the world for a few weeks, and it’s already raising its hand as a fan favorite. It’s one our favorites too!

What do you say to people who take issue with Country artists drawing too much production inspiration from other genres?

Dan Smyers: We don’t let it bother us. We’re grateful for the fans that appreciate what we do, and we’ll continue to focus our energy on pleasing them. The trend in country music right now is a more traditional sound, which we respect and enjoy listening to, but is obviously not what we naturally do. Personally, I think people connect more with authenticity than the ebbs and flows of fitting into a current trend. Like it or not, we are unapologetically ourselves, in and out of the studio, and if someone doesn’t like it, that’s ok. Country music is in a really great place because there is something for everybody.

What’s been the biggest change to your creative process on this album?

Dan Smyers: The most obvious difference on this album was doing a majority of the songwriting virtually. During quarantine, we spent a lot of time on Zoom writing with our frequent collaborators, and had quite a bit of luck with it. We feel like it brought us back to how we used to write songs. Sitting down with an acoustic guitar in a quiet room and digging deep until someone uncovered a great idea. It was a challenge to bring the records across the finish line without access to major studios and musicians, but we found a way and are proud of what we accomplished.

How did lockdown affect the writing process of this album?

Dan Smyers: I honestly believe it helped the writing process, in a roundabout way. We are accustomed to being on tour 250+ days out of the year, which leaves very little time for writing and recording. Since we were unable to tour for a year and a half, all of our energy was dedicated to writing and making the “Good Things” album.

What’s most exciting about your upcoming tour?

Dan Smyers: Just being able to tour again is very exciting, but I would say the thing that we look most forward to (other than seeing our fans in person) is playing new songs. Our last album was released 3 years ago, and we originally built the arena tour around that album, but having a new batch of songs to pull from has made the show bigger and better. Hearing the fans sing the words back to us when the songs have only been out for a little over a month is absolutely surreal. We’re grateful that they’re connecting with the music so quickly.

What is your best tour story?

Dan Smyers: Hmm, so many good ones! This one comes to mind because I was just looking at some throwback photos, but in 2014, we dressed up as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Halloween and wore them on stage. After that night, our fans brought us TMNT gifts at every show for at least 2 years. I’m talking suitcases, stuffed animals, books, t-shirts, candy, everything you could ever imagine.

What’s been the biggest creative hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

Dan Smyers: The biggest creative hurdle we’ve had to overcome is continuing to grow and challenge ourselves musically without alienating what got us where we are in the first place. We never want our fans to feel like we’ve abandoned what they love about Dan + Shay, so we try to stay hyper aware of that in the studio. Like I mentioned before, we want to keep getting better with every album we make, because our fans deserve that from us, so we push ourselves as hard as we can.

What’s something you’ve done recently to benefit your mental health 

Dan Smyers: Full disclosure, my mental health lives in a constant state of shambles, but that’s to be expected working in the music industry. In the age of social media, it’s tough to stay unaffected by criticism and comparison. I would say something I try to do daily is make a list. It gives my day a bit of purpose and objectivity, and I can look back on it and feel like I’ve accomplished something. I think my brain goes into panic mode with too many unfinished tasks, so this helps give me some structure and focus.

What is your FAULT? (Personal flaw)

Dan Smyers: My biggest FAULT is definitely being unhealthily competitive. I often overlook good things (no pun intended) and find something negative to dwell on. I’ve let a lot of special moments pass me by because I was worrying about what I could accomplish next, and I hate myself for it. I’m working on getting better about staying in my own lane and not looking at what other people are doing, but it’s tough with social media. You’re only seeing the best of the best, and you can easily get caught up measuring yourself against everybody else. Being in a duo definitely helps, because we can celebrate the wins together, and help each other through the losses. The highs are even higher, and the lows aren’t as low.