Country singer Dustin Lynch is a fast-rising star. He’s just returned from playing Crash My Playa 2015, a blowout country music bash held in Cancun and he’ll be flying from a date in Orange County, California to play House of Blues. And he’ll have one helluva summer, too, as he sets out with singer Luke Bryan (he’ll be back in Cleveland in September to play FirstEnergy Stadium). We got him on the line for a quick phoner yesterday to talk about last year’s chart-topping Where It’s At, a terrific collection that veers from hard rocking anthems like “Hell of a Night” to poppy tunes such as “To the Sky.”
How was Cancun?
We had a great time. It was a great resort. Being the first year, it all ran pretty smooth. It was good to get down out of the cold for a bit and get down there and get a suntan.
Talk about your approach on Where It’s At. Did you try to do something differently on this album?
Absolutely. That’s what keeps making music fun. You say something you haven’t said or try something you haven’t tried. Being as young of an artist as I am, I have more doors to walk through. For this album, it was all about finding that new chapter and that new life and energy in my music. That helps us with the live show too.
You wrote five of the songs. How do you think your songwriting has evolved?
I think I’ve gotten a lot better. I know that. I have gotten better at what I’m good at saying and what radio is good at playing and all that good stuff. Making the first album, you just don’t have a clue because you haven’t done it before and it’s kind of a guessing game. Being out in it, playing the small clubs and even the big festival, we realized there are certain types of songs that work better than others.
What first inspired you?
It was just being a country music fan. For some reason, I had a desire to go try and do it. I’m a country fan first and foremost. I had this itch to go write songs and see what it is all about. When I was 18, I moved to Nashville and decided to go for it. I wanted to be a songwriter first and then become an artist and sing. There’s kind of a ladder you have to climb in Nashville.
Do you remember your first concert?
Yes, I do. It was an Incubus concert, believe it or not, at Nashville Municipal Auditorium when I was 16. It was like, “Holy cow! What is this?" It was when they on the Morning View tour. I knew every song from top to bottom. My head was sore the next day from all the head banging I did. It was epic. I know they’re making new music right now and I’m excited to see where they take it this time around. They dialed it in so rock and pop radio could get on some songs and then they went way left and kind of disappeared. I don’t care if they’re on the radio or not. I’ll buy their records and go to their shows if I can.
Songs such as “To the Sky” and “Halo” have pop appeal. Is that what you were going for?
Yeah. I’m not looking to crossover and be a pop guy ever. It will be tough to do that wearing a cowboy hat. I listen to all sorts of music and those influences rub off on me. That’s my Incubus background. When we’re in the studio, I’m trying to get the guys to give me some different flavors. I tell them I want this kind of guitar sound or that kind.
Are there synthesizers on the album?
Absolutely. There’s a lot of synth stuff going on, even some synth bass in a couple of parts.
Your press release says you have “traditional influences.” Talk about that.
I grew up in love with George Strait and Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson in the early- to mid-’90s. I still listen to that music a lot. It got me into songwriting learning the songwriting process was all about knowing those great songs.
“Hell of a Night” has been rising on the charts. I like the fact that the song rocks so hard. Talk about what you were going for with the tune sonically.
That’s kind of a statement song. It sets the tone for our live show. It’s new territory for me. We like to shock people here and there. We’re seeing a great reaction for me. Country radio is very conservative in some places but where they’re playing it, people are reacting well. It’s going to be a life changing for the live shows. It’s going to increase our crowds and get people excited to see that kind of energy on stage. It’s a turning point for us. “Cowboys and Angels,” which I love because it’s one of the best songs I’ve written, makes it tough to get your hands in the air to it and dance and get a girl on your shoulders. Having a song like “Hell of a Night” and “Where It’s At” has changed our lives as a touring band.
The video for "Where It’s At" looks like it was fun to film. Talk about making that music video.
Yeah, that was a great time. I don’t want to say that I was acting but I guess I kind of was. This was trying to get away from standing there with a guitar. We filmed in a few different locations in Nashville.
I love the “yep yep” in the refrain. What inspired that?
A few buddies of mine wrote the song. Initially, there was a hole. We wanted to put something in there that people could chant. It stuck. That’s the thing about songwriting, you just make it up and you never know what’s going to stick. Now, we have it on T-shirts and it’s become a thing. That’s what’s awesome about music.
You’ve been named one of the sexiest men in country. Do other male singers give you a hard time?
Oh absolutely. My band guys really do. My mom loves it, though. With my dudes and my bros and people I hang out with, I do get a hard time.
Have you started thinking about the next album yet?
Oh yeah. I started writing. With Luke Bryan making a new album and other buddies of mine making records, I’m excited as a songwriter to get a cut on their record. Not that I have any yet, but that’s what I’m going for. If I really, really like something, and they don’t pick it up and record it, then we have a great start to the third album. I started dialing in what I want to try out. My producer and I had a conversation about it. It’s good to get in there early and get some things in the can so we’re not rushed. No matter how early you start, you’re crunched for time at the end. That’s what we’re trying to get away from.
Do you write on the road?
That’s where I love to do it. It’s nice to write on the road because the writers can get out there and see what we do as a band. They’re not guessing what our crowds are like. They’re seeing it all and that energy is in the air. I’ve fallen in love with writing on the road and having a couple of days to veg out when I get back to town.
Dustin Lynch, 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $27.50 ADV, $29 DOS, houseofblues.com.