David Adam Byrnes is no rookie to the country music business. Having released his first album, “Premium Country” in 2011, Byrnes has found himself a solid fanbase that has been chomping at the bit for new music. They will get their wish with a new single to be released next month.
However, Byrnes says he is just now truly releasing a record that is the perfect portrait of himself as an artist. He is back to making the music he wants to write and make, and with the full support of his new label, Silverado Records, he is set to release his new album, “Neon Town” soon.
In this interview, you will learn about Byrnes’ influences, the writing process behind some of his biggest songs, rediscovering himself as an artist, and fans can expect from him going forward.
JL: Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
DAB: George Strait was my absolute hero, and I was majorly influenced by Tracy Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt, Daryle Singletary, and Keith Whitley. Once I was in high school and playing the honky tonks, I really started digging into Merle Haggard, George Jones, Gene Watson, and some of the older artists like that.
JL: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to make music for a living?
DAB: My folks took me to see George Strait when I was 3 years old and from that day on, there was never a doubt that country music was what I was meant to do. I don’t guess I really looked at it as a living until my years in Nashville. It was just always what I loved.
JL: You wrote 10 of the 14 songs on your debut release, “Premium Country.” How important was it for you to get as much of “you” into you debut release as possible?
DAB: You know, I was so young when I recorded that record and green to the business that I don’t really think I even thought about that. I just wanted to record a record that I personally would have wanted to hear. The songs on there that I didn’t write were ones that I personally fell in love with, and the ones I did write were where I was as a writer and artist at the time. To me, it’s about a great song first, but every song on there I definitely felt fit me like a glove.
JL: “She Only Wanted Flowers” was your first song that really caught on with fans. Can you talk about the writing process behind this song? Why do you think this song connected with fans the way it did?
DAB: Yeah, that song has been great to me. We’ve actually recut it for my new record, and I hope that it goes a step further. The funny part was we did a huge push with a nation wide radio tour on “Sweet Distraction” that broke the top 60 that most don’t even know and then we did nothing more than shoot a video for “She Only Wanted Flowers,” and everywhere I go, someone knows the song and wants to hear it. We actually wrote it the day after Mother’s Day. We had a melody and part of the second verse, but were stuck on where to go with it and my cowriter Jay Brunswick had sent his mom flowers and she called in the middle of the cowrite thanking him. Adam Fears (the third writer) and I heard her and instantly knew where to take the song from there. As far as connecting, I just think it’s a real song for the most part. Every man on earth has done everything to impress a woman, yet forgot to just do the little things. Guys see it as a wakeup call and women have lived it.
JL: “Alcoholiday” has become perhaps your most popular song to date, written with Jason Matthews, who has had some solid success as a songwriter. How did this song come to be and how easy/hard was it to write?
DAB: Man, that was such a fun song to write. It was my first time ever writing with Jason and I knew I better walk in with a cool idea. I had the song idea itself in my pocket for several years, just waiting for the right time to throw it out in the writing room. It came from a night in Champaign, IL with a whole lot of alcohol (figures) and I knew that title was a big song just waiting to happen. I threw the idea out to Jason and he instantly jumped on it and put his twist and clever touch on it, and I filled in the gaps but that’s one song that I’ll definitely admit, I let Jason do his work on. It was so cool for me to have clever ideas within the song and then him be able to make it come across as cool as it did. He’s definitely one of the best!
JL: The “Tell Me I Won’t” album is an overall much more progressive-sounding record than “Premium Country.” Was this intentional or did the writing/recording process take you naturally in that direction?
DAB: It was a mixture of factors. I went through a process where I was out of my first record and publishing deal and for the first time in my life, I chased the music business for about 2 years and tried to be “commercial.” I had the reality check after many nights on the road and realized that I just didn’t like what I was doing, so I went back to me. The kicker was, I needed a new record and I had a bunch of songs to choose from that weren’t what I was aiming for. We went with the songs that closest fit who I was at the time. It was fun and a challenge, and Justin Wilson really urged me to let him work his magic as a producer to help us get a new record deal. It was a great representation of where I was at the time, traditional but still chasing.
JL: How did you come on to Silverado Records’ radar? How cool is it for you to share a label with a legend such like Joe Diffie?
DAB: Really, it was a factor of me just getting back to me and it’s working. I hate to put down any type of music, but I made it a factor to “un-bro” myself, and it was really hard. I had dumbed down my songwriting and steered away from who I was so long that I had to really retrain myself again. It started with just writing what I wanted to write, and then I’d take it out on the road and people just seemed to start relating to it again, and my numbers started growing. As a result, it caught the attention of Silverado Records. They actually sent me a message on Facebook, and I didn’t take it seriously because I thought “who sends a message on Facebook” (laughs). I’m glad I did. They loved what I was doing, saw the same direction I did, and this new record is the first time that I feel I recorded a record that is 1000000000% me. Being label mates with Joe Diffie is really cool. I mean, I grew up watching the guy all the time, and now we are doing shows together and on the same label. It was definitely one of those surreal moments when I processed it.
JL: Your newest single, “Already High,” is quickly becoming a fan favorite. How validating is it for you as an artist that your first single from your upcoming album has gained the traction that it has in such a short time?
DAB: Well, we’ve actually decided to let it be it’s own single and not put it on the new record. We had released it on the “Tell Me I Won’t” project, and the label loved the song and wanted to re-release it themselves, but we did all this super traditional stuff on the new “Neon Town” record, and it didn’t make sense to have one single song that Trent Willmon didn’t produce on it that didn’t completely fit the rest of the record, but I’m really glad we put the song back out and that people are jumping on it. It was another one of those songs that the co-write was just such a blast. Michael White is a very witty person and writer, so we really just cut up and cracked jokes and it turned into a song. It’s definitely amazing to see something that I created start to work. Makes me feel like I’m doing something right (laughs).
JL: You’ve shared a stage with artists such as Cody Johnson, Aaron Watson, and Josh Abbott. What have you learned from touring with artists at the top of their game right now?
DAB: Most of all, it made me realize that I don’t have to be something I’m not to be successful. I’ve watched those guys just play country music without being flashy, and watched sold out crowds singing along to every single word. It’s such a breath of fresh air. Most of all, the crowds they attract just seem to get me, and I can definitely relate with them much more. I guess the reference of trying to stick a round peg in a square hole comes into play. It made me realize that I just need to find people that want to hear traditional country music and play for them.
JL: Do you have a favorite song you’ve ever recorded? If so, which song and why is it special to you?
DAB: I think that answer always changes. I would have told you “More Afraid Of Living” from “Premium Country” up until I recorded “Pretty Blue View,” and then that was my favorite. Now with the “Neon Town” record done, I’d have to say it’s one I wrote called “Beer Bucket List.” I think with 11 years in the music business, I just relate to it so much because it’s about having a wakeup call and doing the things you want to do now instead of waiting on the right time. It just sums everything in my life up right now.
JL: When looking back at your career, is there anything you know now about the industry, yourself, etc. that you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
DAB: Heck, have you got a year? I could go on and on there. I’ve definitely learned so much from every single experience I’ve had in this business. There are so many things that I wish I could go back and change that may have made me more successful or changed my path in certain ways, but I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I’d have never made the move from Nashville to Texas had the path I chose not been paved the way it did. None the less, I’m much smarter, wiser, and most of all I know what I want and don’t want now.
JL: What are your thoughts on the current state of country music?
DAB: Music is a business if you do it for a living. Do I like most of what is out there? Honestly, no; but I’m not the one buying the tickets. Artist, writers, and labels do things because they work and fans are buying it. I personally wish that pop artists would be pop artists and let country music have it’s genre back; but if we want to be honest, this is nothing new. Garth Brooks was “killing country music” in the 90’s, John Anderson and Johnny Cash were “too rock”, and Conway Twitty was a total pop sell out for his time. Country is and will always evolve. I just hate to see it losing it’s roots when it comes to the song and instrumentation. The most confusing thing I hear is when someone says that something is “too country”.
JL: What is next for you and your career?
DAB: Well, I just wrapped up my new record with producer Trent Willmon, and he is the musical soulmate I’ve been looking for my entire life. I think listeners will see the most genuine me they’ve every seen. There are songs that I wrote as early as 2011 on this new record that have just been waiting for the right time. This is the first record that not one single song was forced upon me, so to say I’m excited is an understatement. Silverado Records is 100% behind it and we are just in the strategy mode as of now but the first single will drop in late June, called “Tequila, Salt, and Time”. I guess the biggest thing is just getting into new markets and letting people know that we are here and ready to make some noise. The main thing is that I have the best job in the world. I get to play country music for a living, and I’m just ready to take the next step and start the next chapter of my career with an awesome label, a new record that I couldn’t be more proud of, and I’m ready to get it to the fans that have been behind me on this crazy journey and meet all the new ones that will hear it all for the first time.
*Feature Image courtesy of David Adam Byrnes’ Facebook page