This Minnesota country boy likes to have fun and get into the music hard — as his new video proves.
“Music has been in my soul since I was in the 2nd grade. That is when I identified the spark in my soul. In one way or another I’ve been involved in music ever since.” That’s singer Dave McElroy, who has just dropped a new video for his country anthem “Trucker Hat.” We’re premiering it here, and we’ve also got a great eclectic Feel Good Playlist from this farm-raised Minnesota country boy.
Cowboys & Indians: Sorry, but before we even get to the music, I’ve got to ask: Where did you get those guns?
Dave McElroy: I grew up in a very European family with both my grandparents being farmers in the old country before coming to America. The reason I share that is my siblings and I were raised eating very clean and Mom and Dad worked us like dogs, which is where I learned my work ethic. So I built a very "farm strong” base of muscle. Then I went into college to be a Big Ten athlete for the Minnesota Gophers. Since then I’ve always used my body working on my acreage when I can’t I hit the gym. I do chest and back one day; shoulders, biceps, triceps the next; legs and glutes on the third day. Every day I mix in some cardio and core. I’m a mover on stage, so I need to be able to have great cardio to move as much as I do and not get pitchy. You will see me hop up on a speaker and run-shuffle across the stage so these are all reasons I keep myself dialed in — not only because I’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle, but also to give my very best show!
C&I: Love “Trucker Hat.” How did the song and music video come together?
McElroy: This song was written for women that ride trucks and shoot guns, but really, it’s about more than just that. As you will see in the video, it’s all about the good times shared by all, and a sense of togetherness and community! The setting for the music video was out in the country on the ranch, and it was a straight-up celebration of country life. That was the vibe and energy. The video is a fun expression of pure fun and community in the farm and country world, empowered women and friends celebrating life.
C&I: What were the sessions like?
McElroy: “Trucker Hat” was produced by Bridgette Tatum and was recorded at the famed Nashville studio The Sound Emporium. We had standout musicians Derek Wells, Miles McPhearson, Steve Mackey, David Dorn, and Tim Galloway on it, and Chad Carlson as our engineer.
The sessions were amazing. The energy in the room was fantastic, and everyone’s creative synapses were firing hard. The hang was especially great. We prayed before we started to drop tracks, and clearly the Lord had a hand in the outcome. It was a great few days in the studio, and for me in the booth dropping vocals. Bridgette and Chad did a great job of drawing the very best out of me.
C&I: Any good stories about crowd reactions when you’re performing the song?
McElroy: I’m telling you, performing it live always gets the crowd jacked up. I’m a mover on stage and really love to engage with our friends at the show. The energy when we’re rocking out to “Trucker Hat” is palpable — the crowd always loses it and engages. It’s a great feeling to see them smiling and dancing and high-fiving each other and me! I can’t wait to get back out on the road again. I really miss performing and the live interaction with everyone that comes out to the shows.
C&I: But back to Minnesota …
McElroy: I’m a Midwest boy, growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, then moving to Minnesota to be a student athlete for the University of Minnesota. Being a country boy and loving the outdoors — hiking, hunting, and fishing — it just felt like a natural fit. I now split my time between Nashville and Minnesota and have a residence in both. I love Nashville. Truly good people, great food. And being surrounded by the best musicians, writers, and producers in the country is just good for the soul. As for Minnesota, that’s where family is and my church, my longtime community, and my country roots. It is where my music comes from and it doesn’t hurt that this is where my favorite hunting, hiking, and fishing grounds are at!
C&I: What did you grow up listening to?
McElroy: I grew up on country, Southern rock, and many other influences too, but I’ve always been country to the core. My dad sold farm equipment, fertilizers, and chemicals to farmers in Wisconsin. By the time I was 11 years old, I would get three knocks on my door at 5 a.m. and the words “half hour.” That meant that I had a half-hour to get up, get ready, eat, pack my lunch, and be out the door with my dad. Every day was the same. My dad had a great vintage truck with an 8-track player. He would stop at his truck door, take a big drink from his coffee, so it wouldn’t slosh around too much when he put his mug on the floor board; then he would get in, turn over the truck, and put in one of the greats like Miss Loretta Lynn, and we would drive off to work in silence listening to the sounds of country greats and smelling my dad’s coffee throughout the cab. He would look over and smile and that is how our day started.
C&I: Who are some of your musical influences?
McElroy: Well this goes all the way back to the second grade. I was at a family gathering and my great-uncle was listening to Louis Armstrong. I was mesmerized by his voice. It was the first time I ever felt that stirring in my soul. My mom recognized this and went out and got me some videos of him to watch. When I saw him playing the trumpet with so much passion — wiping the sweat off of his swollen cheeks from blowing his horn — that was it; I was locked in. Little did I know that later in life it would be my frosty tone, just like Louis, that would define me and separate me from the other country artists. Keeping in mind that I was a true-blue country boy, I found myself being influenced by several other genres of music, in addition to country music, and you can hear that reflected in my music. A good example would be Stevie Wonder — singing his songs is how I learned to fluctuate my voice and expand my range. Every one of his songs was a tutorial for me.
C&I: How about breakthroughs and high points thus far in your career?
McElroy: I’ll be honest, I’ve had more than a few defining moments in my career, but they all belong to the Lord. To think that I could accomplish the things that have happened on my own would be pure ego. When I keep my hands off of it, the Lord does some amazing things. If I had to give you an example it would be sitting in the studio of Lil’ Ronnie Jackson (hits for Blake Shelton, Scotty McCreery, and Jo Dee Messina and many more) one month after cutting my two demos and having him tell me he wanted to work with me. It all began there. Ronnie and I wrote my very first Top 40 single.
C&I: What’s your process like?
McElroy: I let life influence my songwriting. Sometimes it’s personal experience; sometimes it’s shared stories from people I know or complete strangers. My phone is always with me and my audio recorder at the ready for any time I feel a stirring of a good song start, or a melody in my head. I immediately record it into my phone and then let it grow. Sometimes it starts with the lyrics, although a melody is never far away. And sometimes it just pours out of me when I hear someone strumming on their guitar and the melody moves me or evokes an emotion. More often than not, it starts with an idea, although the song goes where it goes when you’re writing. Where you start isn’t always where you finish. One thing for sure: I always write about shared experiences, shared pain, shared joy, and sometimes shared stupidity or plain fun. I’m kind of a dork. I love to laugh and have fun.
C&I: Hmmm. “Dork” is kind of surprising. What’s something else people might be surprised to learn about you?
McElroy: OK, so interesting factoid: I’m an amazing produce picker. My grandfather farmed his whole life and taught me the secrets of picking the perfect peach, nectarine, watermelon, or any other fruit or vegetable. It’s actually one of my favorite memories as a child — going to the market and him teaching me the simple things in life. We lived a healthy lifestyle, ate well, and worked hard, and a big part of that was the fruits and vegetables.
C&I: What have you been doing during lockdown?
McElroy: I’ve been doing a lot of Facebook Live takeovers for radio stations across the country and doing livestreams. I’ve been doing a lot of writing too. I head back into the studio in July to lay down some new songs written during this downtime. What I’m most happy about is the work I’ve been able to do to advance projects with several charities I work with. I have been using this time to get everything organized so when we are able to get back out there doing shows and see our friends across the country that we are the very best that we can be for them. I must say, I’m a pretty positive person and so the greatest joy during this lockdown is seeing all the amazing blessings that have come from it. God is great!
C&I: What should we do when we’re in your home state of Minnesota?
McElroy: In Minnesota, most definitely enjoy the outdoors and the arts. We are known for our parks and maintaining amazing green space, and you can’t go 10 minutes in any direction without coming across a lake to spend time on. Minnesota is also known for the arts, amazing music, theater, orchestra, and museums, both inside and out.
C&I: What’s next for you?
McElroy: The boys and I are gearing up to start hitting the road in some communities where it’s safe to perform. I will also be back in the studio to record some of the new songs to complete the album. We have one more single to release after “Trucker Hat” and then we will be coming with the whole album. There will be some fun sides of me on that album that our friends out there will get to hear. I’m excited to get it out there!
Dave McElroy’s Feel Good Playlist
“There are so many songs that lift my spirits and get me in a good mood, so I’m literally going to throw out the very first that pop into my head,” McElroy says. “Prepare yourself — it’s bound to be very eclectic!”
“Take On Me” — Ah-Ha
“Yeah” — Joe Nichols
“Running Outta Moonlight” — Randy Houser
“Father Knows Best” — Kirk Franklin
“It Ain’t My Fault” and “Shoot Me Straight” — Brothers Osborne (both just fun — favorite country band by the way)
“Austin” — Blake Shelton
“Cadence to Arms” and “Barroom Hero” — Dropkick Murphys
“Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
“Seminole Wind” — John Anderson (The way he sings this is just haunting and fantastic.)
“Heaven” — Kane Brown
“The Great Big No” — The Lemonheads
“When It Rains It Pours” — Luke Combs
“September” — Earth, Wind & Fire
“One Love” — Bob Marley
“I could go on and on. There are a million more in my head. That was just the first 15 that popped out!”
Photography: Images courtesy Robby Klein