Dustin Lynch may be new to the country charts, but he certainly knows how to enter them with a bang! His self-titled debut album, which includes the hit "Cowboys And Angels," started off right at the top, landing at No. 1 on the country albums chart last week. Seems like a case of the cliched "overnight success"? Well, Lynch, who's 27, has been building up to this moment systematically--and for many years at this point.
"I've got a list of dreams that I wrote when I got to town, and with the success of 'Cowboys And Angels' I'm getting to check a lot of them off this year," he explains. "2012 has kept my bucket-list marker pretty busy! It's an amazing feeling--I'm pinching myself, and I keep repeating to myself, wow, this dream really came true."
Lynch arrived in Nashville at the age of 18--"I didn't know one person"--with a promise to his parents that he'd attend college before embarking on a music career. He kept that promise; however, while staying busy with his studies, he also familiarized himself with the workings of Music City and began writing songs in earnest. He ended up penning hundreds of compositions before graduation. "I was also in what I like to call 'songwriting school,'" he jokes. "You get better with every song you write; I'm a firm believer in that. Those four years were great. Did a lot of growing up, and got a lot better at songwriting."
When he got out of school, Lynch continued making a go at music, taking what he terms a grassroots approach and "building a little bit of a buzz." Then one day--"wham!"--he received a call from a manager who helped put the pieces together for Lynch's next moves, including signing to red-hot indie label Broken Bow (home to Jason Aldean, as well as Thompson Square and Randy Houser on sister label Stoney Creek).
It may seem like it happened quickly, but Lynch credits his years of sweating it out live on stage as a true key to his success. "It's power of getting out and playing shows on the road," he notes. He also looks to YouTube as having been a key element of getting his music out there, explaining that fans were already familiar with many of his lesser-known songs due to watching them on the video-sharing site.
True to form for a young artist, social media in general has been a fun and invaluable tool for Lynch, who says communicating with fans is one of his favorite things to do--and he really listens to what they have to say. "This morning I was on Facebook hittin' everyone back--I love to interact with my friends and fans--but more importantly I'm learning a lot from them," he stresses. "I learn what songs they liked from our shows; what songs people are posting on Twitter and Facebook that aren't always the single yet." (When asked what artist he'd have liked to tweet back in his younger days--before Twitter existed--Lynch says "It would have been awesome to communicate with Garth Brooks.")
So, aside from what fans think, what song off the new album does Lynch himself like best? "I don't know if I have a favorite. I've written hundreds of songs, and we narrowed it down to 13, so they all mean something to me," he demurs. However, he does cite one that is particularly personal.
"The bonus track, 'Your Plan,' we're talking about a special song--it's actually a prayer," he notes. "I was having a tough time--I didn't know if music was gonna work out for me. And I was just kind of broken. I walked down to the basement one night and wrote this prayer in about 10 minutes. It's the last song on the album and I can't think of a better way to wrap it up. So that's the most personal song."
All in all, for an artist who likes to check off goals on his "bucket list"--it's been quite a year. There's still a few things left for him to conquer, however. "I still haven't had a number one single," he says. " I'd love to have a platinum album...the list goes on. It's a mile long!"
Ultimately, though, his list really has only one main goal. "If I'm fortunate enough to have a career with a couple great songs, songs that leave a thumbprint on this genre, that's probably the greatest on my bucket list. If one of my songs is being played years from now, that'll be amazing to me."