Dustin Lynch grew up just an hour’s drive south of Nashville, Tenn. But for the aspiring country singer-songwriter, the distance between his hometown and the country music capital sometimes seemed insurmountable.
“They were two different worlds,” recalled Lynch, who moved to Nashville at age 18 in hopes of jumpstarting his country career. Roughly a decade later, he’s one of the genre’s rising stars.
Lynch, 28, will perform Saturday alongside fellow country acts Easton Corbin, Brantley Gilbert and Eric Paslay at the Pozo Saloon as part of the fifth annual Pozo Stampede.
Growing up in Tullahoma, Tenn., “I really fell in love with country music when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Lynch said.
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“My mom would tell me ‘One year, you want to be Batman, the next year, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, the next year Garth Brooks,’ ” said the performer, who counts Brooks, Alan Jackson and George Strait among his greatest influences. “Those are my guys. Those are my superheroes.”
Even though music competed with motocross and baseball for Lynch’s attention throughout much of his childhood, “I always had a fire inside to perform and write songs,” he said.
When Lynch was 15, he joined his first “real band” — an Incubus cover band.
“There was no looking back for me,” recalled Lynch, who went on to attend Lipscomb University in Nashville. (He graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.)
According to his website, Lynch picked the private college in part because it was less than two miles away from Nashville’s Bluebird Café, a training ground for Music Row talent since 1982. It was there, Lynch said, that he studied his songwriting craft in earnest.
“You have to learn how to get in that headspace … and really focus on what message you want to deliver,” he said.
Early success came in the form of bar gigs and college fraternity parties. But when Lynch landed a publishing deal, he knew he had arrived.
In late 2011, Lynch signed with Broken Bow Records, which released his eponymous debut album in August 2012. It premiered at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart.
Lynch’s first single, the platinum-selling romantic ballad “Cowboys and Angels,” reached No. 2 on the Billboard and Mediabase country charts — earning him two American Country Awards nominations and a CMT Music Awards nod.
Although Lynch knew that “Cowboys and Angels” “was going to get people’s attention,” he didn’t expect such a strong response.
“Music is kind of funny. It’s all opinions. It’s all about thumbs up and high fives,” Lynch said. “You put a song out on the radio and you don’t know if it’s going to be a big smash or a huge failure.”
Lynch followed “Cowboys and Angels” with the party song “She Cranks My Tractor,” about a girl who’s “a Hollywood looker in a John Deere cap.” He said the song’s fun-loving attitude is reflected in his onstage presence.
Fans of “Cowboys and Angels” “don’t realize how high-energy our live show is,” he said. “We kind of shock (fans) with how hard we rock and how much we dance around onstage. We love to have fun and keep the show upbeat.”
Lynch’s latest single, “Where It’s At,” debuted on iTunes on April 14. He described the song — the first track from his as-yet-untitled sophomore album, due out this fall — as a sunny, summery ode to couplehood.
“So many songs are about looking at a girl in a bar and wanting to get (her) a drink,” he said, whereas “Where It’s At” describes the result of a successful courtship. “This song is about a relationship that’s good and lasting. … It’s about finding that person who you love to be with.”
Lynch, who spent 312 days on the road last year and recently wrapped up an eight-month stint as part of Keith Urban’s Light the Fuse Tour, said his busy touring schedule makes romance difficult, if not impossible.
“It would be too tough and draining to keep a relationship going right now,” he said.
According to Lynch, “Where It’s At” is a good example of how much his sound has evolved in the past few years.
Although Lynch considers himself as a neo-traditionalist, he said his music is broad enough to appeal to all audiences.
“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Hey, I didn’t like country music until I heard your stuff. What a great compliment,” said Lynch, adding that he’s part of a larger movement. “We’re bringing in a totally new crowd of people, and that’s great for the genre.”
Lynch simply hopes to stay relevant, just like his heroes Brooks and Jackson.
“Thirty years from now, I want to have songs that are still being played on the radio,” he said. “That’s my goal.”
IF YOU GO
1 p.m. Saturday, doors open at noon
Pozo Saloon, 90 West Pozo Road, Pozo
$34.50 to $150
438-4225 or www.pozosaloon.com
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.