While the world may look a little different these days, for Canadian Country star Dallas Smith, some things never change — pun intended.
This year, however, there’s more to celebrate than the usual musical accolades.
In addition to logging his 10th No. 1 hit with Like A Man, as well as a fifth Juno nomination for Country Album of the Year — not to mention starting up the Sticks and Stones Podcast alongside 604 Records President Jonathan Simkin — Dallas recently became a dad for the third time with the birth of daughter Everyn.
Fact is, spending more time at home with the family has been a blessing for the always-busy musician, as the little ones have been keeping him just as busy as ever — and he’s loving every minute.
We recently sat down with Dallas via Zoom to talk about what it’s like to work from home and how technology is changing the game, as well as reminisce about years of Juno memories past.
This is the fifth time you’ve been nominated for Country Album of the Year, one for every record you’ve released in the genre. And you’ve taken home that trophy for Lifted in 2015. How did that feel to get up there and win big on your second album?
The first year I was nominated I was actually playing a charity gig that night, but in 2015, I was there. To hear my name called and that record being called up — and have my entire team there and celebrate that with them — was amazing. Back then it wasn’t the situation like it is now, in an arena with lots of fans. This was when the country category was presented at the gala the night before. But still being the Juno’s, it was all music bigwigs and a lot of very famous people that you’re talking to. It was a very different experience. I’ll never forget that.
In London, we’ve been lucky enough to host the Juno’s as well as the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards — clearly, you’ve been a staple at both. Is it much different to be surrounded by industry people from so many different genres versus a purely country-based community?
No, I think it’s fun either way. I mean, there’s a lot of the same music industry people that are there that cover all genres — media, record label people, managers, etc. And you make friends across the board. I’ve been in the Canadian music industry for almost 20 years now (both with rock band Default and as a solo country act) so I’m always happy when I get the chance to see a lot of friends from different genres over the years.
Have you ever run into anyone at the Juno’s that you were just so starstruck to finally meet?
Yeah, Sarah McLachlan was a big one — probably the biggest. It was great. I remember we were up on stage one year and we were playing Summer Of ‘69. She came over gave me a kiss on the cheek, I was just like — wow. The guys were giving me a hard time afterwards. I was like yeah, I know. But it was worth it.
So, the new record is Timeless, and I couldn’t help but notice there’s a lot of real heavy hitter songwriters on there; everybody from Brett Eldredge to Thomas Rhett and Rhett Atkins, and, of course, fellow Canadian Steven Lee Olsen. How do you go about choosing songs to record? What about them speaks to you enough that you want them to be part of your album and your story?
I think the song has to relate to my life somehow. It’s all about being authentic, when you’re trying to deliver a song and emoting in the right way — trying to tell that story. It’s really important. We go through quite a few songs, but at the end of the day, I try to just grab the ones that touch me.
I don’t want to hit the same type of song too much on the same record. I want to be able to tell a story and hit those emotions that most people feel throughout their life. So, that’s just kind of how I like to build the records. One of the biggest songs off this record is Drop, and to have fellow Canadians participate in that — Joey Moi and Steven Lee Olsen — it was cool. It’s a pretty magical song. I think it’s my highest streaming song to date.
Speaking of big songs, tell us about Some Things Never Change, with Hardy. How did that collaboration come about?
I’ll give you a bit of a backstory. So, I hang out quite a bit in the studio at Big Loud when I’m in Nashville. It’s where my friend Joey works out of, so I spend a lot of time there even if I’m not recording — I’ll just pop in and say hi. There’s this board on the left-hand side — the guys producing the Nickelback records, Joey and Chad, they used to do this all the time — just put a board up about what’s needed and check things off like songs and what artists are needed, stuff like that.
I saw this name Hardy on there, and I recognized it from different song credits. I pieced it together at the time Joey was working on Hardy’s record. The songwriter at Big Loud. I’d cut a couple of his songs and I got to get a sneak preview of the early stuff that he was already doing.
He’s been around, and he’s the same management, record label, producer team, and so I’ve watched him come up behind the scenes a little bit. And he’s just exploded. So, luckily, I was able to convince him to hop on a track and it’s actually a track he co-wrote, as well. So that’s how that one came about.
It’s kind of funny that it’s Some Things Never Change, and it’s been a year of all the changes. But people love that track.
Yeah, it’s gone over really well, and this year has been crazy. I’m really excited to get back out on the road. I’m trying to think of the last time we played live. I think Drop was the single, so we’re talking 18 months ago. So, we’ve never played Some Things Never Change. I want to play a festival with that one, it’ll be a banger, for sure.
Has there ever been a track that you really, really loved, but it just never made it out there as a single?
Oh yeah, there’s been lots. There’s been a lot of great songs on records that I wasn’t able to release. One was called Heat Rises, a couple records back off Lifted.
There was another one off that album called Wrong About That, that was one of my favourite tracks back in the day. 50/50 was a song off Side Effects that I think could’ve gone out and done some damage but we just never got there. We’ll still play those ones and keep them in the set because you can tell people are still connected with them.
More to that point, has there ever been a song that you’ve maybe put in your setlist that you were surprised people sang back to you?
Ah, yeah. One happened when were in Abbotsford, when we played last tour. It’s really funny, each area and each region — you’ll see what song has really connected there for whatever reason. Not sure why, it just happens. The last show with the tour here locally — Abbotsford is pretty much a hometown show — we played Rhinestone World, and the chorus just had everybody singing along. It was so huge that night, but it really stood out. So, it happens quite often.
What was it like putting out an album in kind of a weird way where you can’t tour, but you still managed to score some No. 1s? Was that kind of a weird feeling?
Fact is, it’s an even playing field for everybody. Nobody can do anything. It’s been a really different experience. The way this record was cut, I did my vocals all here by myself and sent the files down to Nashville to be finalized. So, it was weird. But it was interesting — instead of having a producer there to give you instant feedback — it was more of a self-critique, which is a good and bad thing. But it was a good experience to be able to self-diagnose and look at exactly what I needed to do and what was missing before I actually sent it the producer.
What’s the first thing you want to do when everything gets back to normal? Other than play a live show?
I want to go to Disneyland. I want to take the kids, and just go to a hotel and walk over and have a Denny’s breakfast early in the morning and then get over there and hop into the park. I don’t know, that’s just so much fun for me. I think I get more excited about it than the kids do.
And as far as playing live shows, are you looking forward to something like a stadium, or would you be totally open to playing something smaller?
Oh whatever, it doesn’t really matter. The industry has to get going here, it just does. It’s not even just me and the crew guys and the bandmates, but the production companies — all the way up and down the ladder. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care where we play, how it’s managed. Just get it done, and I’ll be glad to be there.
Keep up-to-date with new music and everything Dallas Smith go to dallassmithmusic.com