Dallas Smith knows country music like he knows success.
He knows what it’s like to sell millions of records, because prior to his breakout country solo debut album Jumped Right In and its smash first single, “Somebody Somewhere,” and the new “If It Gets You Where You Wanna Go,” the Vancouver native furnished the pipes for the rock band Default.
Since their formation in 1999, the JUNO Award winners pumped out four albums, sold a couple million and paved the way for Smith to bring rock and roll power to his brand of energetic country.
It’s not such a startling transition for Smith, who grew up listening to a staple of ‘90s and ‘00s country superstars, especially when he spent his pre-Default days toiling as a sheet metal worker.
“I love both genres, and country music was always around when I was growing up,” says Smith, noting that his mother in particular would fill the family home with the sounds of The Judds, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn among others.
But it’s only recently, while Default is taking a breather, that he decided to “jump right in” and pursue his country dreams.
“My producer Joey Moi and I have been talking about doing a country record for years, but the timing was never right,” admits Smith.
Within a month of agreeing to the project, he and producer Moi (Nickelback, Jake Owen) were in Nashville writing songs and selecting material, and as the title of his brand new 604 Records album suggests, Smith has Jumped Right In, offering 10 upbeat, lively songs that are pitch-perfect for country radio playlists and to be performed on public stages.
“The album title describes how this experience has gone for me,” says Smith. “I kind of closed my eyes and made that leap of faith.”
Here’s the impressive part: with a natural drawl in his voice, the songs on Jumped Right In sound as though Smith has never sung a note of rock ‘n roll in his life…as if he was born to sing country.
And Smith makes it clear that his devotion to his new passion isn’t simply a passing fancy.
“I love the fact that in country, the focus is on your voice and on the lyrics,” he explains. “No matter what you’re singing about and how you’re dressed, the song is most important. And it’s perfectly suited to my type of voice.”
Although he’s exercised his songwriting muscle on a trio of Jumped Right In songs – including “What Kinda Love,” “And Then Some” and “Nothing But Summer” -- Smith mainly relied on the catalogues of million-selling Music Row hitmakers with proven track records to fuel the fire of the first album.
Noted Nashville tunesmiths contributing material to Jumped Right In include Rodney Clawson (George Strait’s “I Saw God Today;” Jason Aldean’s “Amarillo Sky” and “Crazy Town”); Jim Collins (Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy;” George Strait’s “It Just Comes Natural”); Zac Maloy (Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home”); Chris Tompkins (Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”), Craig Wiseman (Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” and Kenny Chesney’s “Young”), and Brett James (Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel;” Kenny Chesney’s “When The Sun Goes Down”).
Despite their pedigrees, Smith had definite ideas of what he did and didn’t want to include on Jumped Right In.
“I didn’t want the record to be ballad heavy,” Smith declares. “I wanted to bring something upbeat on the radio. I can bring stuff that is upbeat, rock-influenced and fun to play live, and have a great live show.”
Album highlights include “Somebody Somewhere,” the Clawson/Collins/Atkins co-write “bout a guy who just didn’t do the right things to keep the girl until the last minute,” Smith says; the “fun” Clawson/Craig Wiseman collaboration “Shot Gun” that offers a traditional feel; the potential second single “If It Gets You Where Wanna You Go,” another Clawson/Collins/Atkins number “that is the fastest song on the record and has nothing to do with relationships” and the rock country Rascal Flatts-ish “Nothing But Summer.”
There are plenty of others, too, and you’ll hear them for yourself when Smith plays your town with a first-rate band that includes former Bif Naked bassist Scotty Cook; ex-Nickelback drummer Ryan Vikedal, guitarist-for-hire Darren Savard (Deric Ruttan, One More Girl) and utility instrumentalist Matt Rose, who plays banjo, mandolin and guitar.
In the meantime, with the strong Canadian country radio bear hug that has greeted Dallas with his hits “Somebody Somewhere” and “If It Gets You Where You Wanna Go,” Mr. Smith has helped kick start summer with an album that has “excitement” stamped all over it.
“I wanted to bring something upbeat to radio and something that’s fun to play live,” he says.
Jumped Right In is that stellar debut: a blazing introduction to Dallas Smith, a phenomenal talent that will be around to thrill country music listeners and audiences for awhile…and then some!
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