Dan + Shay riding a tidal wave of success, but staying true to their music
By Tricia Despres For Sun-Times Media July 17, 2014 2:45PM
Dan + Shay are opening for Blake Shelton on his current tour, which includes at stop at Wrigley Field on Saturday night. | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
With: The Band Perry; Dan + SHay; Neil McCoy. 7 p.m., July 19, Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison. $45.75 - $89.75. Visit ticketmaster.com
OFFICIAL AFTER PARTY WITH DAN + SHAY
11:45 p.m. July 19, Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed. $10 or FREE with Blake Shelton Wrigley Field July 19 concert ticket stub. Visit joesbar.com
Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay is a real smart guy.
A boy from Pennsylvania that was always good at math, Smyers attended Carnegie Mellon University as a finance major. He worked hard to graduate in three years so he could get back to his teetering career in Christian music. Today he seems to still know as much about numbers and branding as he does about singing and songwriting.
It’s only natural to think he was the one who came up with the “plus sign” in the band’s moniker.
“It was definitely a collaborative effort,” laughs Smyers, of the symbol that lies between his name and his bandmate’s, Shay Mooney. “We were sitting there with one of my best friends, Pete Tracy, who has become like a third member of the group. We were kicking around logo ideas, and it was either that or an ampersand. I remember our label telling us it would be confusing, but as far as we were concerned, at least it would mean that people would be talking about us. Now our fans are always putting the plus sign in the air at our shows. Who knows, maybe someday we can sell a bunch of things with just the plus sign on it.”
Smyers and Mooney met in Nashville in late 2012 and in less than two years, the country/pop duo has skyrocketed to stardom via their Top 20 single “19 You + Me,” received award nominations from the Academy of Country Music and CMT and has already graced the historic Grand Ole Opry stage. Blessed with a Rascal Flatts-esque sound that seems to be delighting teens and ’tweeens as much as their fortysomething moms, Dan + Shay’s relentless work ethic is impressive.
“We have had three days off from the road. ... It’s been awhile since we have had that much time off,” Smyers says, without even a hint that he is kidding. “Being home, we have been getting back to writing two songs a day. This morning, we are writing with the incredible [Nashville songwriter] Brett James. But first, I must tend to the puppy that I can hear in the backyard [Laughs].”
Indeed, Smyers just might be at that magical point in his life where he has everything he could ask for — a new puppy, a beautiful girlfriend, a perfectly coiffed head of hair and a current streak of countrified hits that shows no signs of stopping.
“We have been on fire with writing,” says Smyers. “You can’t force magic, so there are times Shay and I have to step away and clear our heads. But once we do, we usually come back with a laundry list of titles and new things to bring to the table.”
Songs that might not only make it to future Dan + Shay albums, but might also make it onto the albums of some of their musical heroes.
“We might have something to put in Blake [Shelton’s] iPod this weekend,” laughs Smyers of the duo’s opening slot on Shelton’s “Ten Times Crazier Tour,” which stops at Wrigley Field on July 19. “But usually, we write songs for ourselves. We never want to fall behind in songwriting. We are somewhat ‘PG’ with our lyrics and don’t write too much about certain things. We are quick to judge about what is going to work for us.”
It’s this constant sense of just what is going to keep the duo on the top of the charts that has not only helped them pick their new single “Show You Off,” but allowed the two to stay grounded.
“I still can’t believe we have a backdrop with our name on it or T-shirts with our faces on it,” concludes Smyers. “And now we are going to play Wrigley Field in one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s insane.”