Interview: Hot country newcomers Dan and Shay on T Pain and their hit single
Bandmates find each other in all kinds of ways: through mutual friends, through ads in music-oriented publications, through industry contacts…For Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, collective known as Dan and Shay, a tent brought them together.
Dan and Shay are one of country music’s hottest new duos: their first single, “19 You and Me” is bulleted at No. 15 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. They are touring with Hunter Hayes in March and Blake Shelton this fall and are up for an ACM Award for best vocal duo.
That’s a lot of activity for a duo that didn’t even know each other 18 months ago.
Both Smyers and Mooney moved to Nashville, from Pennsylvania and Arkansas, respectively, to pursue country careers. One fateful night in December 2012, Mooney attended a party at Smyers’ house. Smyers and his roommates couldn’t afford to pay their heating bill, so they had erected a tent made out of sheets in there living room to try to capture the heat. The pair bonded under the big tent. The next morning, they met at a Starbucks, still hungover from the night before, to write and by the end of the day, they had a song on hold for Rascal Flatts.
“There’s just something about when something’s right,” Mooney says, of the duo’s immediate writing chemistry. “There was something about our experiences and our backgrounds.”
“When we got together, everything clicked, we really complement each other,” Smyers says.
After signing a publishing deal, the pair continued writing together, but didn’t decide to form their own act until they noticed that girls were always asking them to sing songs. They signed with Warner Music Nashville, which will put out their debut album April 1.
The sunny, wistful “19 You & Me” showcases Dan and Shay’s harmonies and strong melodies that blend a pop and country sensibility. “Everytime we hear our song on the radio, it never gets old,” Smyers says. “When I hear it randomly come on, it’s insane.”
As for the rest of the album, which they co-wrote, “We have so many stories about love and a lot of the time it’s from personal experiences,” Mooney says. “Hopefully, that girl that broke our heart a long time ago will hear the song and feel bad,” he adds with a laugh.
Before they connected, Mooney was briefly signed to rapper T Pain’s Nappy Kid Entertainment as a solo artist. “It was really cool,” he says. “T Pain loves country music. He was very talented and we wrote some country songs together. Life takes you on crazy journeys.”
Smyers was producing other artists and even taste testing pizzas and Hanes t-shirts to make ends meet. “I knew if I was going to move to Nashville, it would be hard to give it my attention if I was working a side job, so I was part of research groups,” he says.
As far as the not so imaginative duo name, Mooney says they tried to come up with something —both Ragtop Red and School’s Out were bandied about—before eventually settling on first names. “But if we ever have a secret show, it will be under School’s Out,” he says.