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Working On A Dream: A Chat With Rising Country Star Dustin Lynch

The Tennessee native released his debut album in August.

Broken Bow Records

Most of us entertained crazy, impractical dreams as kids. Dustin Lynch was no different.

“At first I wanted to be Santa’s elf [laughs] … and then I wanted to be Garth Brooks,” the Tennessee native and rising country star told us in a phone chat last week. “I think somewhere in there, I wanted to be a trash man, too. But Garth – he was just an icon. He was my superhero.”

Here’s where the enviably handsome 27-year-old singer gets a leg up on the rest of us, though: The response to his debut single, “Cowboys and Angels,” has put what was once a crazy dream within reach. On top of that, the ballad’s heartfelt lyrics and earworm melodies have earned him favorable comparisons to his musical hero. 

Back when Brooks was conquering the music world, Lynch was a small fry growing up on his family’s horse farm in the tiny community of Normandy.

“I grew up on the outskirts – I often claim [the neighboring town of] Tullahoma because that’s where I went to high school,” Lynch said. “Tullahoma is your typical small American town. Weirdly enough, we have an Applebee’s and a movie theater, so we’re the ‘big city’ of the area.”

Cowboys & Indians: What was it like growing up there?

Lynch: I had a great childhood. … I loved to hunt and fish and ride dirt bikes. It was nice. The way life is there, you grow up riding the back roads. That’s all there is to do. Fill the gas tank up, go to field somewhere, hang out with friends, and crank up the music. That’s what I still love to do. It rarely happens. But I’ve got a couple of songs about it on the album – “Dancing In The Headlights” is about that kind of hang.

C&I: You might be getting at what some folks don’t realize about the sudden rash of backroads anthems on the radio. That life’s very real for so many.

Lynch: For sure. That’s why these songs keep coming out. It’s a way of life. I look forward to seeing where the second album takes me, because my life’s changed so much. But, you know, when I write songs, I go back to the Tullahoma days. I go back to being that guy; I put myself in that guy’s shoes.

C&I: We know when you started dreaming about it, but when did you start playing music?

Lynch: I picked the guitar up when I was 8, and it just hurt really bad to play, so I put it down for a few years. And I think I got back into when I turned 14 or 15. I started trying to write songs, and it was fun to play a song I’d written for somebody. The feeling was contagious.

C&I: Did you ever perform live as a teenager?

Lynch: Oh yeah. Me and my buddy went to Bluebird’s open mic [in Nashville, a little more than an hour away] when I was 16, and we actually did a song and got a courtesy clap, which was awesome. … We ended up starting a band, but the other guys hated country music. I loved it, but they were too cool for school, and had to do something rebellious. So we were an Incubus cover band. They would let me do one country song a show.

C&I: What song?

Lynch: Usually it was “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson. And we’d throw a little “Friends in Low Places” in there from time to time. That was a big hurdle for me to jump – performing on stage in front of people. I like the feeling of being a nervous wreck.

As soon as Lynch moved away from his rural home to attend a small college in Nashville, he knew exactly where he needed to start the country-music ball rolling – the storied songwriters’ café where he’d once received that courtesy clap.

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