There’s just something about reminiscent songs that just seem to hit us every time. Whether it’s an old flame, an old friend or aa hometown that was left behind, like clockwork, it transports us back to that place as we place ourselves inside of the song.
With his debut single, “Burns Like Whiskey,” Johnny Dailey reminisces on the feelings that arise when a reminder of a young love come through. Twanging guitars and a chorus made for windows-down weather accompany the lyric as Dailey clearly taps into his 90s country influences as he continues to hone in on his sound.
We chatted with Dailey all about “Burns Like Whiskey,” as well as the artists that made him fall in love with country music, finding his sound, getting back on the road and more!
Pro Country: Your bio mentions that you discovered your love for country music as a kid riding in your cousin’s truck. Who were the artists that you were hearing that built that early love of country music?
Johnny Dailey: We were listening to it all. My cousin had a couple of those CD binders, and he would always show me the new music. It was mostly mainstream artists that were big at the time like Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley, George Strait, Gary Allan and Tim McGraw. We would listen to every song on the album so we could get into the deep cuts as well as the songs on the radio. There are a lot of songs that take me back to that truck when I first heard them.
PC: Your bio also mentions getting your first guitar at just 12 years-old and clinging to it. What was it about playing the guitar, and music in general, that struck you at such a young age? When did you realize you could pursue it as a career?
JD: I remember, when I was a kid, I would always listen to my Walkman CD player while going to bed. I would listen to those country artists that I loved and would always run across songs that would hit an emotion in me the way nothing else could. Every song was like a short story, and I connected with them one way or another, even if I hadn’t lived it yet. My dad bought me my first guitar, and when I learned to play, it was just another way to tap into that part of myself. I played for a few years in church, but it wasn’t until junior year in high school that I really saw the opportunity to make a career in music.
PC: You signed your first publishing deal with Warner Chappel Music in 2019, joining a roster of legendary songwriters and mega-talented up-and-comers. Is there a level of validation that comes with catching Warner Chappel Music’s eye and joining their team, especially just one year after you moved to Nashville?
JD: Definitely. It’s surreal for me because I’ve had dreams of signing a publishing deal for a long time. It’s been really cool getting to write with some of my heroes and also some guys that moved to town around the same time I did. It constantly makes you want to be a better writer and singer, and I’m always trying to hone in on my craft.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music for the first time with your single, “Burns Like Whiskey”?
JD: I think, of course, that you have the emotions of hoping everyone will connect with the song, but also, I was just thinking about all the years that it took to get to this point. It’s been a journey to get here, so it’s just exciting to get this music out.
PC: You wrote “Burns Like Whiskey” with Aaron Eshuis and Jimi Bell. Can you take us in the writing room and talk about the inspiration behind the song?
JD: I had written with Jimi a few times before that, but that day was my first time writing with Aaron. Jimi came in with that title and somehow we got on the topic of Bob Seger. Aaron started playing that awesome guitar riff you hear at the start of the song, and then it went pretty easy from there. This song wasn’t inspired by any particular situation, but it’s more about looking back on that “young love feeling” with someone. You might be with them still or not anymore, but there’s certain things that always take you to that moment.
PC: You told Country Now that you are planning additional single releases and an EP to follow. What information can you give about your upcoming releases? What can listeners expect to hear?
JD: Oh yeah. We’ve been working hard on this music and I think it really defines who I am as an artist right now. The next song we are releasing really speaks to the way I grew up, and I think a lot of people will relate to it. Expect more of the same sounds and some great stories!
PC: Your bio mentions that you are honing in on your sound. What have you discovered about the artist you want to be and what you want your music to sound like during this exploratory period?
JD: I think my sound is always evolving, but lyrically I want to tap into the things I was surrounded by growing up and also living on the coast for a few years. The music has to have honest lyrics that I relate to or it’s hard for me to sing it.
PC: You are set to play some dates with Old Dominion this summer. Given that the past year-plus has largely put live music on hold, how much are you looking forward to getting back on the road and in front of audiences again?
JD: I’m fired up, especially with new music coming out. I can’t wait to get out and play it for people. I know everyone is ready to hear live music again, and I’ve definitely missed playing shows! The next few months are going to be fun, that’s for sure!
PC: Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
JD: A little bit of everything. My wife and I have two sons that we enjoy spending time with. I’m sure we will take them to Charleston for some beach time, and then back to the farm in Alabama. Other than that, maybe some woodworking and writing songs!
*Feature image by Kristen Balani*
**”Burns Like Whiskey” is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!**