Gary James' Interview With
Dallas Smith

He achieved great success with the Rock band Default. Then, he decided to strike out on his own and he's achieved even greater success! He was nominated for Male Artist Of The Year, Single Of The Year and Album Of The Year by the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association). In March of this year (2014), his EP "Tippin' Point" was released in both Canada and the U.S. The title track, "Tippin' Point" was a Top 5 single on the Canadian Country radio chart and was declared the fastest Country single to be certified Gold by Music Canada. The single went on to be certified Platinum in Canada and the video "Tippin' Point" was ranked Number One on CMT Canada. In the States, his song "Tippin' Point" went to Number One on SiriusXM's The Highway Hot 45 Countdown. The gentleman we are talking about is Mr. Dallas Smith.

Q - Dallas, your story is kind of different. Here you had all this success in a Rock band and you go out and pursue a solo career as a Country singer. Why Country?

A - I grew up in a household with that. A good song is a good song. A lot of those songs are Classic Rock that my dad was playing and a lot of the good songs my mom was playing were Country songs. It's just kind of what I grew up with. Obviously Default was more of a straight-ahead Rock band, which came from my dad's influence. But as I got older and Country radio started infusing a bit more guitars, you could hear the Classic Rock influence with some of the artists coming out. I really started listening primarily to Country radio and fell in love with that format. The music on Country radio started to sound like the records that I really wanted to make that would make me happy as an artist. I talked about it with the guys in Default as years went on. They could hear me warming up for the shows in the back of the bus with Keith Urban records. They kind of saw this coming and knew this is what I wanted to do. It eventually got to the point where it made sense. A good friend of mine who I had worked with on some of the Default stuff as well and had a good friendship with, it just came to a time where we figured it worked for both of us and we headed down to Nashville and started putting together what ended up being my Canadian debut Country solo record. We started working on it four or five years ago and here I am now.

Q - Is there still a Default?

A - We haven't played a show in a long, long time. It is a legal entity. We're all still friends, but we haven't done anything as a band in a long time.

Q - What are the other guys doing?

A - My drummer, Danny, he's gone into a lot of production. That what he was really interested in doing. I could see that happening throughout the band's career. But he's now doing that. Mixing a lot of great stuff out of his place. The other guys are just off doing something they're interested in as well.

Q - Country music is popular in Canada?

A - Oh, yeah. It always has been. It's across the board. Everywhere it's become more popular and that's the case in Canada. In the prairies, Country music has always had a long standing history. Growing up in Vancouver and seeing Country music grow, it's the biggest format in this market and then you skip across to Ontario, Quebec probably not, but if you go to the Maritimes, Country has a strong, long-standing history there as well. I think it's safe to say it's stronger than ever. I think that goes for south of the border as well.

Q - Is Country music any different in Canada than say it would be in Nashville?

A - Well, if I could speak for the Country artists that grew up in the prairie, it's not too different from what a lot of the Country artists in the U.S. grew up with. Myself, being in sort of the West coast of Canada and not growing up on a farm per se, but I grew up with all those same songs, that was a large influence on me growing up and my taste and what I loved about music and songwriting and story telling. You don't have to grow up on a farm to appreciate what it is.

Q - Are there quite a few venues in Canada that cater to Country bands?

A - There are. There's one actually ten minutes from my house, Gabby's. That's been there forever. There's a couple in Vancouver. You go over to Alberta and Calgary and Edmonton and I would say the strongest Country markets are in there. They're everywhere. The Stampede has strong roots in that area of Canada.

Q - Do you have to work harder as a Country artist in Canada to get noticed than say if you were in Nashville?

A - I would say definitely. Even if you're from South Carolina and don't move to Nashville, I think it's more difficult. So, me being from the northern side of the border, I think it is difficult. I head down to Nashville quite often and I have great friends that believe in what I'm doing and believe in my ability, Craig Wiseman and the Big Loud Shirt camp. Those guys have pretty big credibility in Country music and like what I'm doing. They've helped me open up those doors and get the shot that I needed to make it in Nashville. I've got a young family in Vancouver so moving down to Nashville full-time is just not an option. Right there I gotta stack the deck against myself. Having relationships with those guys that have that credibility definitely helped my case.

Q - You did a tour last year (2013) with Bob Seger.

A - Yeah, I did open for Bob Seger in his Western Canadian tour. We did all the big arenas there.

Q - How many dates did you do?

A - It wasn't a ton. I think it was five or six dates.

Q - I know your influences were The Beatles and The Judds, but did you or do you realize how popular Bob Seger was?

A - I don't think anybody growing up, if you weren't influenced as a musician by Bob Seger songs... I don't know what to say. (laughs) His songs are everywhere. His style just crossed genres as well. If you're a Country music fan, there's probably a ton of Bob Seger songs that you love. Even if you just love Pop music, his music crossed genres. It didn't matter.

Q - Did you have a chance to talk to him at all?

A - He was a bit under the weather actually during that tour. He actually had to move a couple of dates. I did get to sit down with him, just him and I and catering and we had a brief, half-hour chat over dinner. It was really, really interesting to see a guy who had been through so much be so down to earth. He sat down and talked about everything but music, which is pretty refreshing. I would've love to have talked to him about songwriting, but we talked about family and different cities we had been to, what we liked about different cities. It was really great just to have a normal, candid conversation with him, a guy that had been through so much and means so much to music.

Q - How shy were you when you were growing up? You joined a band to overcome your shyness?

A - Well, yeah. I loved singing growing up. It was something I did behind closed doors. I was really shy about it. I was about twenty years old and I just said screw it! I want to get over the fear and I think I"m pretty good at it. My intention was just to get over the fear of it. So, we had a couple of beers on a Friday night with this band who ended up being the guys from Default. We sang a couple of cover songs and the next thing we knew we were writing songs together. A year and a half later we had a U.S. record deal. A year and a half after that we had a Platinum (record) in U.S. records sold.

Q - You make it sound so simple!

A - Yeah, it was very easy. (laughs) It's just the right guys at the right time. We just wrote the right songs that people really connected to. It's just one of those things. The stars have to align. They align in different ways for different people and that was my story and everybody's got their own. Mine's pretty different. I always say I just kind of stumbled into this unintentionally. I just wanted to sing 'cause I enjoyed singing, and here I am today, fifteen years later, talking to you about my Country career. It's strange. Life takes you in different directions. I've just always prided myself on doing what I enjoy doing musically. If it's successful, it's successful. If it's not, it's not. I learned over the years you just gotta enjoy what you're doing and that's what matters. The music industry will kick your ass. If you don't beieve in what you're doing and don't enjoy it, you need to get out of there.

Q - You need that passion.

A - You do and if you don't, it's tough being away. It's tough traveling. A lot of people on the outside looking in think it's glamorous. It's tough, man. The travel is the work. Getting up to play is the fun part. If you don't enjoy the hour and a half of playing 'live' that much, the work becomes too much work and it's not worth it. Luckily I haven't hit that spot in my career and I still enjoy it.

Q - You realize that most people have great difficulty standing up in front of strangers and talking. Singing has to be much more difficult to do.

A - Honestly, the singing part is easier for me. The challenge I've always had, that I still work on during the shows now, is the public speaking between songs and that sort of interaction. That hasn't come naturally to me as much as the singing has. I'm very confident with my ability and what I can do vocally and the songs I'm able to perform. It's always been the other stuff that's been a challenge and I'm more shy about.

Q - Did you ever do anything outside of singing?

A - I was in construction quite a bit. I went to trade school here in Vancouver, BCIT. I was doing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) stuff. I was doing a lot of commercial air conditioning stuff. Blue collar. Just regular construction jobs.

Q - Well, aren't you glad you're out of that and singing?

A - Yeah. A lot less cuts and bruises for sure. (laughs)

Q - And a lot less dangerous in some respects.

A - Yeah, some. It's just a lot more rewarding. Let's just say that.

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