Dallas Smith on Going From Nu Metal to Country

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Dallas Smith was the front man for Default, the band that brought us one of the more frequently listened to rock songs of the early 2000s, “Wasting My Time,” and now he has successfully gone country.

The crossover from emotional alternative rock to country seems like a leap but Smith made the transition rather seamlessly and has had a lot of success doing so. “Tippin Point” and “Wasting Gas” are two huge singles that Smith has released and he has reached a level of country music success without having to rely on the fame of his former band in America. Not too many people initially make the connection between these new songs and his past, which is a testament to Smith’s talent. While Smith has had a slew of singles in Canada, his home country, he is just starting to show the States what he can do and we’re ready for more.

Pop-Break sat down to talk about the crossover, what lead to it, what’s different about rock and country fans, which ones are better and who his dream tour mates would be.

Dalls Smith photo

The first thing I have to ask you about, obviously you were not always country music….you crossed over.

Yeah.

Before we get into what you did before, what prompted you to want to cross over from that alt rock into country?

Well, a combination of a lot of things. As country music evolved through the 2000s, it really became that perfect storm of what I grew up listening to. I mean, I was a huge rock kid. I grew up just two hours north of Seattle, so I was really big into Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, all those bands and I skipped hair metal, I hated that stuff. That was my first music that my parents didn’t really get. I grew up on a lot of the blues based stuff, my dad’s stuff like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin, a lot of blues, classic rock.

Single Cover for Dallas Smith's Cheap Seats

Meanwhile, my mom was playing Reba records and Garth Brooks records, so I had a bit of both. So, this music kind of transitioned into what it’s kind of doing now and throughout the 2000s. Guitars got more prevalent in what’s going on and like I said, it was a perfect storm of what I grew up with. There’s this amazing energy in the guitars in country music and obviously the great voices and great stories that come along with it and just the lyrical content to be quite honest.

This last decade I find a lot less heartbreak songs, and just really good time feel good music. My personal life back in the day, in the rock days wasn’t that great so a lot of the songs came across like that. Now my personal life is a lot better. I’m a happier person and this type of music speaks volumes for me so it’s a combination of a lot of things.

It’s just so funny. Do you think people recognize you as the voice behind “Wasting My Time” and Default and this?

In Canada, in my home country, everybody knew what was going on and I’m like 11 singles deep in my own solo career up there so it’s a different animal, but down here, we’re doing the festivals and I’m playing that song. We did that in Manhattan, Kansas at the Country Stampede there and I kind of told the story about the song took me all over the world in the early 2000s and I played the song and I could tell everybody out there, or a lot of people, recognized the song so once I start singing that song they recognize and they kind of put two and two together and figure out who I was.

Do you feel like the crowd in country music festivals is different from when you did the whole rock thing?

Well, there’s a lot more females. It’s a better looking crowd from what I’ve seen.

Is that why you’re in a better place now – better people to look at?

Dallas Smith

I find there’s less aggression, there’s a lot less dudes with their shirts off bumping into each other. It’s just a really feel good crowd. Everybody’s here just to have a good time and it’s very rare you see any incidents or anything going on but back in the day there was a lot of BS on the stage that we were witnessing. I honestly prefer this a lot better. I think the crowds and country music fans are second to none. Honestly. They’re great.

Well it’s interesting that we have a country music festival here in New York – did you ever expect that to happen?

Well, it’s pretty cool. It didn’t really cross my mind, but then as soon as I heard through management there was one coming up here, we pulled every string possible to get on this because I wanted to be a part of it.

What question do you absolutely hate getting asked? I feel like on festivals you do so many different interviews.

No. I don’t hate any questions yet. To do what I do and have people interested in what I have to say and hear my story, that would be a pretty sad day if you get sick of that. Actually the one question I hate answering is what’s in your playlist right now, like what CD is in your car right now. I got this car a little while ago and all these cars, they don’t have CD players in them anymore. And my SUV does have a CD player but it’s my wife’s car so I basically listen to whatever she has so I never have a cool answer for that one so I hate that question.

So you released your album back in the fall. Obviously you had a huge single coming out of that. Aside from “Tipping Point” and “Wasting Gas,” you have released a lot of good music. Are you looking to release another single from that album or are we going to get new music?

I think we have the next song in the can, it’s done. We just finished it so it’ll be a brand new song that will come out in the fall. Pretty soon here.

That’s exciting!

Yeah. It’s very exciting. It’s a really cool song. It should be fun. I can’t say a whole lot about it. You’ll hear it soon. It’s an interesting tune.

And you’re on the road right now and you have to leave right after you’re done with the performance today?

Yeah, we might not make this flight. We fly out of Newark at 9 and we are out of here at 6 so I hope we make it. Then we fly to Chicago, we have a 9 hour lay over so we are going to leave the airport, sleep in the airport hotel, then hop back on the plane for a show tomorrow. Interesting 24 hours.

Photo of Dallas Smith

So you’re touring and spreading music. How are the fans dealing with new tunes versus old tunes?

Well, like I said, Canada is a different animal. We’ve released 11 songs and we pull out “Wasting My Time” so that set is pretty solid. It’s an hour of stuff that they recognize. Here we just keep it as up beat as possible and there are people that recognize “Wasting Gas” and “Tipping Point” obviously and we pull out “Wasting My Time” and a lot of people recognize that one. It’s really cool to see the difference between the two crowds. One knows everything, certain people know everything. I can really tell who has really been early buyers into what I’m doing and actually bought the EP and done their research and like the stuff so it’s great to see that.

So who is your dream tour with? If you could have two tour mates, what bands or musicians would they be?

As far as like my first, one of the first musicians that I loved, and still do, is one of my favorites, I mean I’d love to tour with Keith Urban. We’re doing, we’re opening up for him for a couple of shows up in Canada, those are big ones. I think Keith Urban, and I’m a huge Jaren Johnston fan so the Cadillac Three. I love those guys.

Do you find that playing a show here and with these types of bands that they don’t know enough old school country. Like is there a different fandom here than the south or Canada?

I don’t know. I haven’t really played a whole lot. I witnessed one of the artists play earlier and they were breaking out a Katy Perry medley and so it’s a really interesting time. You can really create a dynamic show. They will recognize the Garth throwbacks but you can do that. We’re going to do an Imagine Dragons song and just throw it in there and this will be a crowd that really knows and connected with that song too so you can really play around with it and introduce a lot of different eras.

It’s very funny to see the dynamic in this area.

It’s honestly really good. I mean you talk about the rock festivals and the ones now, going back to that question, like I saw the rock festivals die out. They just disappeared. The excitement for a younger generation was gone and it was pretty worrisome watching that happen. So it’s great to see the younger crowds even though they don’t know the older country. It’s at least exciting to see that they’re willing to spend their hard earned money on live music. We haven’t seen that for a while.

I actually cover country music and hard rock so it’s funny to see the difference. It’s just much more positive energy. You’re absolutely right, the crowds are so different. So last question, what message do you want to get out there, to your fans, to people who want to listen?

I just want to create records that never put you down, that never suck the energy out of you. I want, if you’re in a funk or you’re just looking for a good time or you want something to rock out in the car with, that’s what I want my CDs to be, just to be a good time and an escape from the BS from regular daily life and that’s really what I want my music to be for everybody.

Good elevator pitch! You’re creating a really good positive vibe and your songs put the listener in a positive place.

I did the other direction from that for a decade so I’m really really happy to be able to do this now.

For more on Dallas Smith, check out his website.


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