Dallas Smith – Hitting the Tippin Point
Updated: Sep 8
Dallas Smith backstage at the Santander Center in Reading preparing for a show with Florida Georgia Line and Colt Ford on November 17, 2013. Photo copyright 2013 Sami Speiss.
Hitting the Tippin Point
by Danielle Speiss
Dallas Smith is a veteran of the stage, but he is a newcomer to the US country scene. He's had a highly successful career as front man for the Canadian rock band Default, whose first record The Fallout achieved platinum album certification and spawned the smash hit single "Wasting My Time." That band was together from 1999 until the last year, when the members split amicably to pursue different projects.
For Smith, his project is country. He recently released his US debut single "Tippin' Point," written by Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard, along with Jaren Johnston. There is a full length album on it's way. He already has a critically acclaimed country album in his native Canada, which garnered him five CCMA award nominations in 2013. Smith toured with Bob Seger in Canada this year and is currently opening for Florida Georgia Line's "Here's to the Good Times" tour.
Pretty impressive for this country rookie. It appears his past success as a post-grunge rocker was not a fluke. This chameleon of an artist may well be on his way to the same level of success in his present genre.
I spoke with Dallas before the Florida Georgia Line show in Reading PA and learned a lot more about this personable Canadian singer. It's a pleasant surprise how remarkably calm and soft spoken he is, considering he performs on stage in front of thousands of people.
I was intrigued to see how his performance would go. Well, I found out a few hours after we met. Not having a full album yet and being the first of the three shows for the evening, he had a short set, which was the only disappointment. Smith has great vocals, high energy and got the audience going.
He ended his set with his single "Tippin' Point," which is very FGL-esque since they did write it. Smith had the audience singing along and ready for the rest of the party to come. Luckily Smith reappeared at the end of Colt Ford's set to sing along to "Dirt Road Anthem." That was a nice surprise and I do believe he stole that show! It was great. I look forward to hearing more. Here's what Dallas had to say:
For your fans of Default I need to ask, any chance of a reunion?
We did a charity show earlier this year in Alberta, but no shows on the horizon. I'm pretty busy with this and to be honest all the other guys are quite busy doing what they're doing as well.
So they're all doing different projects? I wondered if it was just you, if you were the catalyst or who the catalyst may have been.
We all just came to an agreement that we'd been doing that for a long time, everybody had their aspirations to go do different things. And yeah once that record cycle was finished it was not a goodbye but it was a let's just go and do other things and see where they take us. We can address things as we go. Never say never but from this moment here I'm pretty busy.
Is it amicable?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Everybody's good. To be honest, we spent so much time together that I think breaking at that point saved a lot of friendships. You get stuck with the guys for that long things become very tense. It's the perfect time to call it a day and move on.
Is anyone in the band doing what you're doing with country?
No, none of the others guys were into the country music when I was playing it on the bus. Danny [Craig], the drummer for Default, he's producing lots of stuff now. The other guys are off doing their own things as well so.
So how do you go from post-grunge front man to country music? How does that evolution occur?
It was a slow one. The household I grew up in was a lot of classic rock and 80's female country. A lot of Reba [McEntire] and the Judds. There was Garth [Brooks] kicking around and Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson, but my mom was mainly playing that. My dad wasn't into country. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, being in a rock band was the cool thing to do obviously. There was not a huge country market out in Vancouver because we were so close to the Seattle scene. That was a major influence on my friends. We did the rock band thing for over 12 years. It was around the time that artists like Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts came in. It was a lot more guitar driven. It caught my ear as the perfect storm between the great voice, the great country vocals, storytelling lyrics and that rock influence in country. That's when I started going: Hey this is the perfect storm of what I grew up with. And yeah I started singing along with Keith Urban when I was on the back of the bus.
It became more mainstream too, so the market was there for you I guess?
Now that you're touring solo, is there a big difference for you working with a band versus working solo on stage?
Well we treat this project as a band as well. I guess with a rock band you can be more anonymous. With this you have to be a little more involved on stage. You have to be more interactive as a singer. That makes a difference.
Was that hard to segue into?
Yeah, it was something I had to grow into. I feel like every time I get on stage in these situations I'm learning. Watching the FGL [Florida Georgia Line] guys and Colt and what they do. It's a lot different than with the rock bands I toured with.
How did your musical career start?
I have a bit of a strange story, lots of music around the house. My mom was in a choir. My dad played guitar and sang around the house. I guess when I hit five or six years old, my mom said I just shut up and I got really shy about singing. Nobody heard me sing until I was about 20 or 21. I used to sing in the car. I'd sing in the shower. I'd sing along to stuff. But I never sang in front of anybody. I used to watch the Default guys play in a different band. I'd go hang out with them on Friday nights and go jam in the garage and stuff like that. It finally came to the point where I wanted to get over the fear of singing in front of people, so I sang a couple songs with the guys on Friday nights. Within a year of that we had a US record deal. Then a year and a half after that we sold a million records in the US. So I went from not singing in front of anybody to having a US platinum record in two and a half years. It was kind of a different story than most. It happened fast. I was thrown to the dogs. I thrive in this situation. As a solo act I come out and get thrown on the FGL tour. Sink or swim, got to find a way.
I was going to ask if you have musicians in your family and you said your mom was in a choir.
Singing everywhere. My first memory of my sister singing all the time. My sister has a great voice as well.
Older or younger sister?
Does she sing as a career?
No, no, she's just a mom and lives up with her boyfriend and a couple kids. With a pretty voice.
Did your parents ever sing professionally?
No, but my mom was in singing competitions and stuff like that. Semi-professional.
Have your parents ever come on tour?
They've come out. My dad's come out a few times on the road and ridden on the bus with us. Not with this project but others. I opened for Bob Seger in Canada earlier this year. My parents came out for that show. People come out when they can.
How was the Bob Seger tour?
We did four or five shows. We did Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary, Regina, I think and Winnipeg. Four or five. They were fantastic. That was the classic rock my dad was playing. Never in a million years did I picture myself being in a situation opening up for Bob Seger and there I was.
How'd that happen?
I really don't know. Through management, through booking agencies. Somebody that thought I'd fit well with Bob and we got the call.
So what did you play on that tour? It was just a few months ago?
Well, we released my debut country record in Canada last year, the spring of last year. We had five singles up in Canada, [on] Canadian radio. This is my first venture down in the US. We played a lot of that record and a couple of the Default songs sort of to bridge the gap. We did the songs from the country record and countried up some of the Default songs. The shows went great and the reception was really good.
So do you live in Canada now?
I live in Vancouver, yup.
Any plans on moving down to the US? Do Canadian country artists do that?
Yeah, they usually all move to Nashville. I've got a nine-year-old boy. Me and his mom aren't together anymore. I've remarried and she's remarried. I'm very, very involved in his life, so I don't plan on making any permanent move away.
Has he ever come on any tours?
No. He's gone to a few local shows, but the bus, or the van, or wherever we are traveling, is usually not age appropriate for him. He's going to be nine early next year, so I can probably start taking him to a few things.
Does he ask or show interest?
Yeah, but he usually doesn't stand there and watch the show. He's usually hanging out with out with the other kids.
Does he show any musical talent?
He's got really good pitch. He sings along in the car with me a bit, but he's a sports kid.
Did you play sports growing up?
I played baseball. I tried soccer for a year, but I was terrible at it. Baseball. Being Canadian, we played hockey.
Do you follow sports?
So "Tippin Point" was written by Florida Georgia Line guys Brian and Tyler?
Brian and Tyler and Jaren Johnston from The Cadillac Three. We have the same producer Joey Moi. While I was putting the record together, this song got dropped on our lap. I was asked if I wanted to use it. There you go.
So it will be in the show then.
It shall be yeah.
Is your new album near completion?
We've got four or five songs done. We're getting there.
Will this US record have some of your Canadian songs?
It's possible there might be a few songs off that record from last year. We're not sure yet, but probably there might be a couple on there.
Do you play any instruments?
Guitar, but mainly singing is my thing.
What inspires you musically?
Listening to music that's not my own. Just a feeling I get from certain songs that drives me. As far as performing and being a musician a singer, it's the live stuff. Being on stage. That's where I get my thing. Studio's cool, traveling I hate, being on stage... that's where I get my thing.
Who are your favorite artists?
I've always been a huge Keith Urban fan. I really don't have a lot of time to be listening to outside stuff to be honest. I listen to the radio, country radio, I love the songs that I hear, but as far as the new stuff that comes out the only one I've gotten really is the Keith Urban record.
Is there anyone you'd like to collaborate with?
That's a tough one.
No surprises like Florida Georgia Line with Nelly?
No, no Nelly, but who knows?
What's been your most memorable performance?
With the Default guys we went out and played for all the guys in Afghanistan. The way the Kandahar base works, it's just a board walk. It's just a wooden walkway that goes all the way around. There's a TGI Fridays and a little French bistro and every country's got their own little thing around there. In the middle there's a stage in the corner. Canada's got their floor hockey rink, basketball, volleyball. All the troops are out there watching the show. It was dark and we're watching the planes take off. You could see the afterburners. Shit's going on, missions were happening while we were playing. I have to say as far as a snapshot of being on stage, that was pretty surreal.
Wow, I'll say. There were troops from all different countries?
Yeah. Dutch, French, Czech republic, yeah the whole coalition. The Canadians the and the Czechs, they were intense with that hockey game. There were no seats around the hockey rink, so they would pull up the personnel transports and tanks and stuff and rolled them right up. Three guys are actually sitting on the tanks. Whenever somebody scored you found out the tank has a horn.
Wow, that's so cool.
Pretty amazing yeah.
Did you take pictures?
Yeah I got pictures of that.
What type of venue do you prefer?
They've all got their things, but I think being a rock man the up close clubs. With people within arms' reach that's where I am most comfortable. But these hockey arenas... how is that not fun, as well?
Or an arena with tanks?
What's your favorite city you performed in?
I don't know. We just did New York. Spent three nights in New York. Not much beats that. We did some stuff in Australia, a little bit in Europe. Yeah, I'd have to say New York.
Do you have a favorite thing to do on your down time in a new city? If you even have down time?
We had a few days off in New York City. We got there early and my wife flew out. She's seven months pregnant, so it's kind of our last time together away from home before we hunker down and have a baby. So I try to bring her out as much as I can. On a normal tour, I try to get out as much as possible. Get some fresh air instead of sitting in a room like this all day.
Do you have any hobbies?
I try to golf as much as I can. Besides that I just watch sports. That's it.
Do you hunt? They hunt in Canada right?
Yeah, we have some of the best hunting. Me personally I've never gone out. Well I've done the prairie dogs and things like that. But as far as going out, my parents didn't do that. My son's stepdad, he's a big outdoors guy, so my kid just went out on his first hunting trip and got a deer. That was a pretty big deal for him. We fished a lot when we were growing up. Lots of outdoor stuff. My brother in law, he's a guide so he does a lot of hunting trips up in Alberta. He actually has been a guide for Rascal Flatts. It's kind of a random thing.
Is he a guide on his own property?
No, I believe he is hired on by a company. I'd love to go. I think if I have any down time, I am going to start. That's the thing. I spent my entire twenties just touring on the road, so anything I've wanted to do was skipped right over. I think I'd start off with a duck hunt with my brother in law or something. Start there and work my way up.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Happy and healthy no matter what I'm doing. We'll see where this takes me. I just want to be happy.
Copyright ©2013 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 21, 2013.
Photo Credit: © 2013 Sami Speiss. All rights reserved.
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