David Adam Byrnes has many years of recording and releasing music under his belt. He’s spent time on Music Row, and like many artists who prefer the sounds of fiddle and steel in their music, Byrnes’ music was slapped with a label of “too country” and left him as an outsider.
Byrnes wouldn’t let that label stick, though. He packed up and relocated to Texas, where those sounds weren’t only loved, they were encouraged, and he found both immediate and consistent success on Texas country radio and the Texas country charts. That success has culminated in the release of his latest album, Keep Up with a Cowgirl, set for release on Friday. With a release strategy that saw Byrnes release nine of the album’s sixteen songs as singles before release day, he was able to gauge what his audience connected to, and in turn, he’s delivered a collection of Texas country gold.
We caught up with Byrnes to talk all about Keep Up with a Cowgirl, as well as his move back to Texas and subsequent success, hitting the road and more!
Pro Country: Prior to the release of your new album, Keep Up with a Cowgirl, you released nine of the album’s twelve full-band studio tracks as singles, and the last time we talked, you mentioned enjoying the process of not having to spend too much time between recording sessions. How was that release strategy helpful to you prior to release, and what insights were you able to gauge from your listeners in doing so?
David Adam Byrnes: I really enjoyed this. Instead of trying to pick 12 songs all at once, it gave me a chance to write as we went from session to session. I was able to know if there was a vibe, style, content, or sound I needed. I could just try and write it rather than searching for songs and have to be stuck with a certain “list” to pick from. I also felt that I was able to show who I am and my growth as a person throughout this record, rather than who I was at the time of writing them. As far as insights, it was easy. You just watched the sales and streams and we were able to see which ones were the strongest songs of the record and which ones were truly “B sides.”
PC: “Keep Up with a Cowgirl” serves as the leading track on its album. What went into the decision to have that song serve as the title track from the album?
DAB: You know, we recorded this song last summer on the very first session, and I knew that it was a special song when I wrote it. When it came to life in the studio, it was even more special than I thought. I knew I wanted something special on this song, rather than just throw it out to the streaming world. My patience paid off as it became evident I wanted it to be the theme of the record, and the pieces of the puzzle just fell into place as it became a music video, single, and ultimately, the title track. Even more, I’ve just always loved cowboy/cowgirl themed songs as far back as when I was a kid, so to finally write and record one was very special to me. I don’t know why it took me this far into my career to do so, but better late than never, right?
PC: “One Honky Tonk Town” recently became your seventh consecutive number one single in Texas. How encouraging has your consistent success at radio been for you in this stretch?
DAB: I almost feel like a broken record using this same quote, but it’s just the truth: It’s proof I’m where I belong and that I’m finally doing music how I’m supposed to do it. When you’re in the Nashville machine and told day in day out that you are a great artist, but you’re just too country, that just didn’t sit well with me. True country music is all I am and have ever been, so to not feel like I have to second guess what I want to write, record, and sing, it just makes life amazing. I constantly have fans and friends that have seen me over the years, before my move to Texas, and the constant thing I hear from them is how happy I look now and that it’s obvious how much fun I’m having. They are absolutely right. When it all comes together and you’re doing music you truly love, there is just nothing that compares to the feeling you get. Add the recognition and it’s just the cherry on top. I’m very thankful and blessed.
PC: You’ve mentioned in the past that “I Find a Reason” is your favorite song on Keep Up with a Cowgirl. What is it about the song that makes it so special to you?
DAB: I love the waltz feel for starters. Lyrically, I feel it’s one of the best songs I’ve been a part of writing. It’s just a very well written story line, and I think anyone that has ever had a breakup that they just couldn’t quite move on from can relate to it. How many times has someone made so much progress in moving on and done that one little thing that takes them back a few notches to square one and then you have to start all over again? I just feel like it’s such a real song, and I’ve loved singing it since the day we wrote it.
PC: “I Find a Reason” has also been the best-performing streaming song you’ve released from Keep Up with a Cowgirl so far. What do you think it is about the song that has allowed it to connect with listeners the way it has?
DAB: Well I probably answered this in the last question but it’s just so relatable. I also have released how much people love waltzes. It’s funny because they were such a “no no” back in my Nashville days, but the Texas scene loves them. It definitely fills up that dance floor every time we play it.
PC: “All I’m Missing” is one of the newly released songs from Keep Up With a Cowgirl. Can you take us in the room and talk about how the song came together?
DAB: You know it’s pretty funny. We were getting down to the wire on the last session, and I just didn’t feel like I had captured the missing feel for the record. My publishers loaded me with writing sessions for about a month, and just nothing was clicking. It almost felt forced. Then in that last week, we wrote three out of the four last songs we had recorded. This particular song, I knew that I wanted an old school shuffle song. I had the title in the back of my phone for years. I threw it out to my longtime cowriter Jay Brunswick and Jason Blaine and they ran with it. We just thought out all these things that men love and “make life complete,” but at the end of the day, if you have them all alone they aren’t quite as fun. The song really almost wrote itself. It was one of the really fun songs to write on this album. Some songs need to be really well thought out and some songs just need honesty and to be real. I feel like this one is just real.
PC: You close Keep Up with a Cowgirl with an acoustic cover of Dan Seals’ “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).” What is it about that song that you love and drew you to cover it?
DAB: I’ve always loved the song but I’ve never performed it out live because I just can’t do the falsetto part, and I never felt comfortable doing it. When it came time do some sort of cover song, I wanted it to match the theme of the title track just as “Dim Lights Thick Smoke And Loud Music” referenced the chorus of Neon Townon my previous record, so I knew I wanted some sort of cowgirl song. “Everything That Glitters” was the first song that came to mind, and I wanted the challenge of making the song my own, so I sat down with a mic and just recorded myself singing it over and over and finally I got that one take that just felt perfect and I knew it was the perfect book end to this record.
PC: The last time we talked, you mentioned that with your move back to Texas, your mindset of picking songs has changed more towards what your listeners want as opposed to what Music Row would want. With that said, would you say Keep Up with a Cowgirl is the truest representation of yourself as an artist that you’ve released so far?
DAB: You know it’s funny, because I heard so much about how “traditional” Neon Town was, and I remember thinking to myself that I really wanted to make an even more traditional record at the time, but I was still playing the Music Row game at the time of the sessions. With this record, all the songs that were brand new were written at least after two years after being out of Nashville, and the ones that were old were ones that were “too country” per the industry, so I really feel like this is the truest form of the kind of country music I really grew up on and enjoy. I’ve said over and over I think it took almost two years to un-brainwash myself from the machine mindset when it comes to writing. My goal was to make a record that I personally would want to listen to from start to finish, and I feel this record is just that. I really dove into that old dance hall country vibe that artists like George Strait influenced me on as kid. “Better Love Next Time” is the main song that comes to mind when I think about that particular feel and sound. Even more this has more true story songs on it with songs like “Accidents.” I love when the story has a big twist at the end, and I’ve never really had the chance to record anything like it. Even more, with being able to record this record, we released songs as we went and really got a true representation of my life over the last two years. There was time of heartbreak, having to just start over, a few too many beers, meeting someone new, falling in love, and ultimately getting engaged. I don’t know that we picked the song order in a way that represents that, but you can see that evolution of my life the last few years for sure.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Keep Up with a Cowgirl after listening all the way through?
DAB: I am finally recording music I want and doing it for myself. I know there’s a little bit of selfishness there when I say that, but at the end of the day, it’s about what the fans want and it appears to be working. For years and years, I’ve heard the phrase “country music is dead,” and that is the farthest thing from true. Artist like me may not be getting played right now on mainstream radio, but the roots of country music are alive and well. If you’re willing to dig, we are here doing our best to carry the torch of the artists that influenced us. I think I steered away from the question a bit here, but in the end, I just hope listeners find true country music that they can love and relate to the way I did with all the music that I feel in love with.
PC: Is there anything you’d like to add?
DAB: I just hope to see everyone out on the road at some point. If you like the music, you’ll absolutely love the live show. And anytime you hear someone complain about today’s country music, just show them my way and hopefully we’ll give them something they’ll love and be proud of.