Dustin Lynch Keeps His Eyes On His Audience…And On Keith Urban
By Kurt Wolff
All this week, Radio.com is taking a Country Jet Set Tour of the American South, traveling to seven cities to see seven different artists in seven consecutive days. And this isn’t any ordinary road trip either, as we’re traveling by private jet! Below is our latest installment.
Day Six: Bossier City, Louisiana
If you’ve ever seen Dustin Lynch perform, you’re familiar with his wide smile. In person he’s plenty friendly, too, but what comes clear once you talk to him for any length of time is he’s also laser-focused on the intricacies of his music and career. Whether it’s writing songs, keeping tabs on the singles charts, or shifting the order of the songs in his live show each night, the Tennessee artist is never sitting still. He’s paying close attention to every detail.
And for good reason. Lynch is an up-and-coming artist with just one album to his name so far and one Top 5 single (last year’s “Cowboys and Angels”), so he’s got to stay focused if he wants to keep growing his fanbase and moving his career forward.
Lynch is currently touring as the opening act on Keith Urban‘s Light the Fuse Tour (which also features Little Big Town). Radio.com caught up with Lynch backstage after his set this past Saturday (Oct. 26) at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, Louisiana.
“Every show we learn something new,” Lynch explained. “This past week we added a couple new endings. And then we realized we were a little short of our 30 minute slot–which is a long slot for an opening act. We’re blessed to have 30 minutes, and we were using about 28 and 15 seconds. So we changed the set and added some new stuff. It’s fun, man, that’s what we live to be. Tonight was the first time we ran that show.”
See what we mean about precision? He found he had 105 seconds of set time that he was not using–so he moved quickly to remedy the situation.
When Lynch talks, his eyes are as wide as his smile. His answers and stories come fast, too, but another thing you also quickly notice is that he listens–and does so with intensity. While ambitious, he has less experience than many other artists around him. So to his credit, he’s not only willing but truly eager to hear what they have to say.
He also listens to his audience each night–or, rather, he reads the crowd and makes decisions based on what he sees.
“We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma last night,” Lynch said, “and I felt like doing a Garth Brooks song [Brooks hails from Tulsa]. So we added [‘Friends in Low Places’] to the set. We just did a verse-chorus last night, and we realized it wasn’t long enough, so we had to to most of the song tonight. He’s the reason I got into country music when I was two feet tall, so I like to play Garth whenever I can. And it seems to be working, so we’ll probably keep doing it.”
Lynch told Radio.com during an earlier interview that he often includes a medley during his set that features hits by Justin Timberlake and Trey Songz, to grab the attention of his audience and shake things up. But he didn’t play them tonight in Bossier City–or the previous night in Tulsa.
“The pop stuff works great in certain markets,” he explained. “It doesn’t work great in Oklahoma.”
Another move he made was to shift his previous single “She Cranks My Tractor” to the opening slot in his set.
“We used to save ‘Tractor’ for the third song, just because I wanted more people to finish their hot dogs before we played the single [laughs]. I wanted more people to be here for it.”
But moving the song into the lead position, he explained, “was a good transition for us since we went indoors [vs. playing in outdoor arenas and at festivals], because it’s not light outside. It’s a lot easier to tailgate at amphitheaters, and it’s a whole middle school/high school thing, where if it’s still light out they don’t dance.” Now, he said, it’s dark from the very start of his set, and the difference is noticeable. “When we play ‘Tractor,’ all of the sudden it’s a free-for-all, people trying to get to their seats. So I think it’s bringing them in a little quicker. They identify, ‘Oh I’ve heard that, let’s go hear it.’ It frees me up, to have the first song kind of come out and punch ’em in the mouth.”
Lynch, by the way, isn’t the only artist on the Light the Fuse Tour who’s making these kind of changes. “Keith’s still tweaking his set,” Lynch said. “Even tonight’s show from last night’s, it’s going to be different.”
“He had a transition from the album [Fuse] coming out, so he got to add some of his songs off that record to the set. And he’s just been moving those around sequence-wise. And I think last night he realized he needs to break up his first chat [when he takes a break and speaks directly with the audience]. So he broke it up into two parts. And he’s not done that yet this tour, so we’ll see how it works tonight. All these things I learned from sitting out front.”
So does Lynch still watch Urban’s show from the audience? “Every single night!” And this night in Bossier City was going to be no different. “I want to see how this new set works. He’s not broken up his chat like he’s doing it tonight. He’s coming in quick with it, then he’ll come back to it. We’ll see how it goes.”
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