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Interview: Dan + Shay’s ‘Magical’ Journey to the ACM Awards

"This is a rocket ship right here. You don't get these in life very often."
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By Annie Reuter

When talking with John Esposito, president and CEO of Warner Music Nashville, and producer Scott Hendricks about country duo Dan + Shay, one word came up frequently: magic.

Esposito recounted his first time meeting with Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, and hearing them play song after song, all originals. “These guys are the total package,” Esposito told Radio.com. “It was magic. I’m not even exaggerating for a second.” He knew immediately he wanted them on his roster.

And as if to emphasize the power of that “magic,” Dan + Shay had only released one single to radio when they earned a nomination for Vocal Duo of the Year at the 2014 ACM Awards. The duo’s debut album Where It All Began just hit stores today (April 1).

Related: See All 2014 ACM Award Nominations

Esposito wasn’t alone in his enthusiasm — Hendricks was equally bowled over. In fact, as he explained to Radio.com, Dan + Shay reminded him of a certain major chart-topping duo he used to work with: Brooks & Dunn.

“Brooks & Dunn, part of their success was based on their writing,” Hendricks told Radio.com. “Though this music is completely different, these guys have that. They’re just writing machines. We have the second album practically written and we’re not even done with the first one. It’s just a magical thing to be a part of. I’m so lucky they asked me to be a part of it. Their talent is off the charts, both of them.”

The lead single from Where It All Began is “19 You + Me,” currently in the country Top 20 and climbing. In an interview with Radio.com, the guys explained how that song came together.

“We were sitting around and talking,” Shay explained. “We wanted to write a love song and use our own personal experience to tell that story. We were just sharing our stories about meeting girls in the summer and that summer love that you had.”

Related: New Music to Know: How a Meeting Under a Tent Formed Dan + Shay

And that ACM nomination? That was, said Esposito, a happy accident in terms of timing — but also another indication of just what a powerhouse duo Dan + Shay are. He said he was “surprised” at the nomination, yes, but then again, “nothing about what’s happened them is like anything I’ve dealt with.”

“This is a rocket ship right here,” he said. “You don’t get these in life very often.”

Where It All Began is in stores now. Dan + Shay are nominated for Vocal Duo of the Year at the 49th annual ACM Awards, which air live from Las Vegas on Sunday, April 6 at 8pm ET/PT on CBS.

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