Dallas Smith – Country Music Awards Continue To ‘Drop’.

Roman Mitz - Open Spaces
Roman Mitz – Open Spaces

Dallas Smith has won a lot of Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awards. In fact, he has more hardware on his den shelf than you’ll find in aisle nine of your local home improvement store. His latest CCMA wins came on September 27 for Entertainer of the Year, Top Selling Canadian Album of the Year (“The Fall”) and Top Selling Canadian Single of the Year (“Drop”). He now has a total of 10 CCMA awards, as well as a Juno award and a bunch of B.C. Country Music Association trophies. His new album “Timeless” is a lock to bring him further future honours as it contains five consecutive number-one singles, which brings his total of #1’s on Canadian country radio to 10.  When asked which award means the most to him, Dallas says his thoughts on the matter have evolved.

“I used to try and make one worth more than the other,” he says, calling from his home in Langley, B.C. “But to be honest, over the years I began to question how the Male Artist of the Year is worth more than Single of the Year or Album of the Year. I’ve kind of put that behind me. Of course, it’s a rush for sure, but this year’s different, obviously, without a live crowd. It’s cliché to say but being invited to the party is the best part of it. I’ll panic once I don’t get that invite any more.”

“Timeless” should keep the invites coming for a couple of years at least as, beyond the previously released singles, there are plenty of other tracks bound to make for great radio fodder. One new song that Dallas is pulling for is “Damn Sun”, a very clever tune in which the singer wishes away the daylight so he can carry on with his night-time romance.

“That song has a kind of 50’s Doo Wop sound and that helped me gravitate toward it because it’s something I hadn’t heard,” he explains. “I think the lyrics of that song speak to a country audience that can translate them. There are a million songs that speak the same story but finding those ones that do so in an intriguing way, sonically and lyrically, can be difficult. “Damn Sun” definitely hits those marks to be sure.  I don’t know if it will be a single but I hope it will be. We’ll see if country radio is okay with that one.”

Country radio is indeed an ever-changing medium and it’s difficult to pin down trends and figure out what will and won’t crack the airwaves. The title track of Dallas’ album, “Timeless”, is a lovely piece of nostalgia that evokes images of Mayberry and fishing poles that people obviously connected with as the single went gold.  The song also name drops John Denver’s “Country Roads”, one of the last true C&W songs to crack the pop charts. Today, ironically, it would be considered too country for country radio.

“Country is weird now,” Dallas agrees. “You’re hearing stuff that they laughed at 10 years ago when I first came in. You would not hear the stuff that’s going on now. The Eagles would have been played 10 years ago on country radio, but now they would sound out of place.  It’s weird how it changes like that for sure. There are so many different things in country music now. I think if the song is good and if the heart of it speaks to a country audience I think you can get away with a lot of different influences.” 

“Take the song “Drop”, for example. I don’t know if you’d call “Drop” a pop track, but it’s definitely not traditional country. I don’t know where that one lands. My mom grew up on Patsy Cline and mainly just country music. But then my generation had all of those other influences that we listened to growing up, and I’m not afraid to use any of those things. There’s a line, obviously, but I hope to be on the forefront pushing some of those boundaries.”

Dallas Smith
Dallas Smith

While Dallas pushed the envelope musically, a lot of the songs reminisce about the good old days like the current single “Some Things Never Change”, which sings the praises of going to church then drinking beer. This song is really brought home by American singer/songwriter Hardy, a good ole boy if there ever was one, who guests on vocals.

“I was in the studio and Florida Georgia Line was working on a record that Michael Hardy had 11 co-writes on,” Dallas recalls. “He started playing some shows so I watched him emerge as an artist. I cut a few songs of his in the past but getting a sneak peek at what he was doing as an artist, a lot of his rock-influenced in-your-face country music resonated with me because it’s kind of my jam. I love that stuff and he and I just kind of clicked. “Some Things Never Change” is a song he had kicking around and I tried the verses a little bit, but Michael wrote those parts and they needed the twang that only he can do. He’s a hick for sure. That’s kind of how that song took shape and hopefully it can make some noise.

I think that one day you’ll see a traditional country revival,” he continues. “It’ll look different but I think that’s what you’re seeing with artists like Hardy and Morgan Wallen. There’s some real redneck stuff coming out. Jon Pardi’s been waving that flag for a long time. Everything is cyclical so it will come back and we’ll see a giant wave of it.”

Of the five # singles on “Timeless”, four of them appeared on Dallas’ previous EP “The Fall”. (“People may have heard “Drop” or “Timeless” on radio, but they hadn’t really heard all of the stuff on the EP so hopefully they can get the album and dig a little deeper.”) The new track “Like A Man” is his ninth consecutive single to go to #1 and one wonders just how long this streak will extend.

“Even five or six years ago the number of Canadians hitting #1 was so few and far between. It’s happening a lot now, which is a great thing, but it just never happened before. I’m trying not to be complacent about my #1 streak. The joke around here is which song is going to screw it up. It’ll probably be my highest streaming song but some other monster song will be on the Canadian charts and get in the way of it. If it’s #3 or #4 and connects really well, I won’t be disappointed.”

While many Canadian artists relocate to Nashville, the mecca for country music, Dallas is one of the few who remains firmly entrenched north of the border. For him, it is a case of knowing your priorities, and the fact that family comes first.

“My situation is a little different,” he says. “I had the pull to go down there a few times. When I signed different deals in Nashville I was kind of expected to move down. But I have a son from a previous marriage who is 15 and he lives super close by and I’m very involved in his life. My moving down to Nashville would have changed my entire family structure. Would it have benefitted my career to move there?  Yeah, I think so, but I wasn’t going to pass up the time with my son for that. I just kind of accepted the fact that there’s possibly a benefit to this. Besides the family aspect, I’m not down there getting the pull of what’s hot right now and the different sound that’s being chased. Because I’m not part of that whole machine I get another perspective living my life up here. I can take those different influences and kind of meld them with what’s going on down there into what I do. I’ve been able to stand out a bit more by living here.”

A playful collaboration with friends Dean Brody and MacKenzie Porter
A playful collaboration with friends Dean Brody and MacKenzie Porter

The album’s most rollicking song may be “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Alone”. Dallas is assisted vocally by Dean Brody and Mackenzie Porter who were also part of his similarly named “Friends Don’t Let Friends Tour Alone” tour in 2019. The only question that remains is what came first, the tour name or the song?

“The song came first actually.  Once we started talking about the tour and working with Dean we just kind of circled back to that song when we were looking for a tour name. It was like we’re buddies and our bands are buddies so let’s just go with this. We added Mackenzie Porter to the song because she was part of the tour as well. It was perfect timing. It just organically happened and connected the tour with the song.”

The album closes with “People I’ve Known”, a reflective number that pays tribute to those who play a key role in shaping a person’s life, from girlfriends to coaches to family. I asked Dallas if there was one person he could name who played a key role in his career, and as he reflects back he still can’t believe how things unfolded.

“Well, after 21 years the list is pretty long,” he begins. “The most influential people were really those that were there when I went into the studio for the first time. Joey Moi, my producer, was key because it was my first time in a vocal booth and I had no idea what I was doing in 1999. Put money in a wheelbarrow for that guy. A lot of the success was in the production with Joey, the writing and stuff. I also have to go back to Chad Kroeger and the Nickelback guys from all of the touring we did together.

“Going back to when it started, I was a 19 or 20-year-old kid and I’d never sung in front of anybody. All I ever wanted to do was get over that fear so I got drunk with my friends and we sang a couple of Stone Temple Pilot songs. A year and a half later we had a U.S. record deal. I truly stumbled into this and I still find myself shaking my head. It’s like how did I get to the point where I’m making music that I love to make and people seem to be digging it? I don’t know how I got here. I’m just trying to seize the opportunity. Fifteen years ago I would have never thought I’d be in a country genre. It makes sense now.
Dallas Smith Music Website

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Mackenzie Porter
Mackenzie Porter

Speaking of the aforementioned Mackenzie Porter, she is working on a #1 string of her own as she has had three consecutive chart-toppers.  The breakout country-pop star has just released her next single, “Drinkin’ Songs”, and let’s hope that there’s room for both her and Dallas to keep their respective streaks going.

Mike Robins
Mike Robins

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Colter Wall - Photo by Robert Stilwell
Colter Wall – Photo by Robert Stilwell

Colter Wall, whose dusty baritone voice and deep well of stories are almost single-handedly carrying traditional western music into the future, has released his latest self-produced album “Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs”. Numbers like “High & Mighty,” cowboy poet and rancher Lewis Martin Pederson III’s ode to a legendarily tough bronco, showcase Wall’s well-curated and hard-working touring band. Along the Blanco River bank, outside the small town of Wimberley, Wall and his band laid down these ten new songs at Yellow Dog Studios, deep in the heart of Texas.

Rich Baxter
Rich Baxter with Leigh Crowe

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