Dan + Shay found time for reflection after global success
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than a year ago, country pop duo Dan + Shay were just beginning their first headlining arena tour when COVID-19 started impacting the United States.
After just three shows, the Grammy-winning pair put their tour on hold, but they thought it would be temporary at the time.
"We kept hearing, like, 'It's gonna be two weeks and then we'll be back,'" said lead singer Shay Mooney.
Obviously, that's not how it turned out. Instead of touring last year, they put their energy into finishing their fourth album, "Good Things," out on Friday, fine-tuning the record inside Dan Smyers' home studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
Now, as they plan to restart their touring in September, the pandemic is again weighing heavy on their minds. With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, some festivals are canceling and other musicians are reconsidering tour plans.
"I'm very thankful to have this album out there and getting to put this out and to be able to do the shows that we are getting to do," Mooney said when asked whether they are concerned the pandemic will affect their touring plans for a second time. "You have to take it day by day. I just think as a general rule of thumb, none of us are promised tomorrow to begin with."
That's a mindset that the two singer-songwriters have felt a lot this past year. Following the release of their third album in 2018, Dan + Shay have become a household name with several crossover hits to pop radio, including "10,000 Hours" with Justin Bieber and "Tequila." They've won three consecutive Grammys for best country duo/group performance, performed on the Grammy Awards, amassed a haul of country music awards and reached global audiences.
The downtime finally gave them some time to reflect. "I think one thing you have to remember is not to look too far ahead because you miss the moments that you do get," said Mooney, a father of two.
Since meeting at a house party in Nashville nearly a decade ago, they still often stick to DIY methods of recording at home, with Mooney soaring to ever impressive vocal heights surrounded by noise-dampening mattresses, while Smyers does his whiz kid magic on instruments, production and backup vocals.
The new album is tailored for arena-sized crowds of pop and country fans with lush, stacked harmonies and samples, hooky choruses meant for big singalongs and tales of falling in love and heartbreak. This time the pair had access to major pop and country hitmakers to craft the songs.
On top of the Bieber collaboration that was released in 2019, the album includes tracks co-written by Shawn Mendes, Julia Michaels and Tayla Parx ("Thank U, Next"), as well country songwriters Ashley Gorley and longtime co-writer Jordan Reynolds.
Songs would often take on multiple iterations in Smyers' home studio, starting with acoustic demos, adding more layers of drums, guitars and background vocals, and then sometimes starting over from scratch.
"I didn't sleep much during the process," Smyers admitted.
Mooney and Smyers got to know Mendes after opening for him on tour, but even Mooney felt a lot of pressure going into the writing room to try to come up with something special. The result is "Body Language," a smoldering sexy jam.
"Shawn's got a great body, so probably there was something subconscious," Mooney joked. "I think honestly all day long we were just writing that song about Shawn, because he's just a very good looking guy."
And no Dan + Shay album would be complete without a wedding song, following in the footsteps of "10,000 Hours" and "Speechless." The pair have even been known to sing at celebrity weddings, including Bieber's ceremony with Hailey Baldwin, and Joe Jonas' and Sophie Turner's surprise Las Vegas wedding. Their newest offering for the perfect wedding playlist is called "You," in which Mooney and Smyers are backed by a choir as they profess an everlasting love.
"We say it's going to give us longevity in our career," Smyers joked. "If all else fails, at least we can probably get hit up, like 'Hey, man we've gone through the list. No one's available. Dan + Shay, you guys are probably affordable.'"