If you want to describe Dallas Smith’s chart success in western terms, you might say that he’s starting on his second six-shooter. You see, the JUNO, CCMA and Music Express Awards – winning artist recently earned his 7th Number One single with “Rhinestone World”, serving as the second consecutive chart-topper from his new EP “The Fall” and sixth consecutive chart-topping single as a solo artist. At this stage of the game scoring a Number One must be akin to falling off a log for the B.C. native.
“I just don’t want to screw it up,” laughs Dallas, who’s calling from his home in Langley, B.C. “Every time I release a song it’s like, man, is this the one that’s going to end the streak? It’s a really different mindset, which is really cool. The support of radio has been amazing.”
Rhinestone World is a romantic number which finds the singer looking for a diamond girl in a sea of costume jewellery. What grabs you first, however, are not the lyrics but the guitar-drum onslaught that drives the song’s course. This is in keeping with Dallas’ view of the amp being mightier than the word.
“Actually, I’m all about the melody,” Dallas says. “I never was a lyrics first guy. It was all about how a song made you feel and that could come from a million different places. For me, it could just be a really inspiring melody because that alone can make you feel something. It’s just the energy and how a song emotes that really stands out for me. The trick as a songwriter is to add lyrics that actually match the emotion that you’re making someone feel”.
While Dallas did not have a hand in writing the songs for the new EP, the songs fit like a glove into his extended body of work. This is not to say they are similar sounding as the title track, with its wistful pedal steel, is certified country while “Drop” starts off sounding more like, well, Coldplay.
“I can see that for sure. We have a few songs like that. “50/50” was a song off my last album “Side Effects” and we played around with some Coldplay-influenced stuff on that. I’m actually a big fan of that band and so is my producer Joey Moi, so it’s funny that kind of pops up here and there.
“I like to push country’s boundaries but it is also important for me to keep grounded as a country artist, and all my music has to come from that background and from that influence,” he continues. “But I always like having that dynamic on my records. If it was just straight up, one sounding instrumentation throughout I would get bored playing those songs.”
The song “Timeless” is quite nostalgic as Dallas effectively weaves together images of granddaddy’s caddy, fishing poles and Mayberry into a testament of love for his country belle. On the other side of the coin, The Fall parallels the end of a season and the end of a relationship, with the singer clearly wearing his heart on his sleeve.
“All of these songs I have to connect with in some way,” he explains. “I think that people can see when an artist tries to fake something. I’ve turned down some songs that arguably could have been hits for me because they just didn’t sound like something I would say at that point in my life The Fall is the song I connect most closely with on the record and that’s why we named the EP after it. It just spoke to me the most.”
The most raucous moment on the EP comes in the form of “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Alone,” which features guest vocals from Dean Brody and newcomer Mackenzie Porter. The song was a late addition to the record but it turned out to be an opportune choice as it led to the name of Dallas’ upcoming tour and got his tour partners into the studio with him.
“We’ve always kicked around the idea of doing a duet on one of my records. I did one with Terri Clark on her single “One Drink Ago” that went Top 10. I’ve toured with a lot of great female singers so we were kind of tossing around the question of who I should do a duet with. Once the tour started solidifying for Dean and me we started thinking about the name of the tour and that song started lifting its arm up. We modified the song’s title in order to call the tour “Friends Don’t Let Friends Tour Alone”. We got Dean in on that song and with Mackenzie on the tour as well it just made sense to throw her in there.”
The tour kicks off on September 18 in Sault Ste. Marie then heads east to New Brunswick before circling back and heading west where it is scheduled to end in Abbotsford B.C. on October 26. The show promises to be a real spectacle and there’s no debating who the headliner will be, as there simply will not be one.
“It’s going to be very different,” Dallas begins. “The idea was for Dean and me to come together and not do it in a traditional way. We’re going to come out, guns a blazing, with two drum risers and both bands on stage. We’ll begin by cranking out a couple of each other’s songs, maybe four in total. After that, we’ll get into more of a traditional format where I will play for about40 minutes or so, and then we’ll come together again in a different transition and Mackenzie and Chad (Brownlee) will be involved at that point. Dean would take the next 40 minutes and then we all come together again. Dean and I will just flip-flop on who does their set first depending on the market.”
The Fall is currently available on all digital platforms and Dallas says that later in the year he will record some more tracks and turn the EP into a full-length album that will also be available on CD and vinyl. In the meantime, he’s preparing for the tour and just chilling with his family. (“I’m just going to try and normalize myself for a while.”) There is also some promotional work to be done around the new EP and the first evidence of this is a larger than life ad near Toronto’s Eaton Centre that seems to dominate the city’s skyline. (“Yeah, it’s pretty strange and it’s not like I look like a friendly dude.”) Dallas looks a lot friendlier in the publicity photo for the upcoming tour with Dean Brody, but it’s a bittersweet shot as the beaming Dallas is wearing a jacket that bears the logo of his beloved Vancouver Canucks, who will not be around this spring for the NHL playoffs. Still, the topic gives Dallas an opportunity to stoke the east-west rivalry in Canada.
“Yeah, golf season is going to come up real quick,” he chuckles. “I’m a huge Canucks fan and it’s been a rough go. But every team the Leafs play right now I become a huge fan of.”
Dean Brody is also back on the charts with a new single ‘Tea In A Whiskey Cup’. It’s a catchy little ditty about a girl who he describes as ‘tea with a 90 proof twist’. He talked about the inspiration for the song. “I kept seeing this phrase ‘whiskey in a teacup’, and Reese Witherspoon even released a book with that title. I figured I’d write a song using that line and I hope everyone digs it.”
Nova Scotia native Drake Jensen’s vocal style is an earthy combination of Cape Breton country and East Coast roots rock. On his new single, a moving break-up song called “Talk Me Down”, Drake shows he is also well-heeled in terms of his southern rock influences.
A cowgirl to the core, Reba McEntire has never been bashful about her Country roots and the iconic entertainer proves it with “Stronger Than The Truth”, her forthcoming studio album which is out on April 5. “The response to my last album ‘Sing It Now: Songs Of Faith & Hope’ reinforced my love for recording songs that speak to the heart,” Reba says. “When I started selecting songs for this album, I stuck with that same formula – go with the songs that touch my heart, and hopefully when you hear me singing it, they’ll touch yours too.”
Open Spaces’ friend and Music Express alumnus Lenny Stoute has some health issues and many of his musical friends are gathering for a March 28 concert at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto to help out with some of the expenses. Roots/Blues luminary Kim Doolittle, musical virtuoso Big Rude Jake and everybody’s favourite singer/guitarist, Danny Marks, are just a few of the names on the bill. Come out and tip one back with Open Spaces for a good cause.
by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces