When I last saw the duo during summer of 2018, their self-titled album was about to be released. 6 months on and it’s shaping up to be the biggest album of of their career with number one smashes Tequila and Speechless dominating the charts.
I caught up with Dan + Shay ahead of the final night of their sold-out UK tour at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. We talked about their Grammy nominations, the huge success they’re having right now, and the pay off they’re experiencing from investing time in the UK.
It’s been six months since I saw you last and so much has happened. Tequila was 2018’s most-streamed Country song of the year and a number one hit, Speechless hit number one too…
Shay: Keep rattling off the stats man, it’s making us feel good! (laughs).
You’re also Grammy performers and Grammy nominees…
Dan: It’s been absolutely surreal. It honestly feels like a movie. It’s like a movie script, it’s crazy. This tour has been super gratifying for us. Every show’s been sold out. Tonight we finish it off it at one of the most historic venues in London. I’m kind of nervous. There’s a lot of pressure because everyone’s been like, ‘oh that place has so much history… Prince has played there, Rolling Stones have played there, Oasis…’ and I’m like, ‘oh no we’ve got to bring the heat tonight’. We’re super excited. We walked out on stage for soundcheck and we could feel the energy.
This has been like the first time we get to play the whole record front to back. Last year we were supporting the majority of the year. Coming over here, where the fans know all the words to every song and are so respectful and so attentive to the music, it’s a really cool thing. It’s really awesome and we’re trying to savour every moment. I think that’s why we post a lot of videos and photos from stage every single night so we can look back on it and say, ‘man we flew all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and for some reason these people know our words! It’s really cool man!’
Social media has been going crazy this past week with your fans sharing videos and photos from the shows. I know a feel people who have been to the tour and been raving about it. The anticipation for tonight is pretty epic. No pressure…
(laughs from everyone)
Shay: That’s so much pressure. It’s been really cool. We’ve seen a lot of people, repeat offenders I guess (laughs), at the shows and that’s a really cool thing for us. I don’t know why they’d want to see us multiple times (laughs). I’d probably be sick of me by now but it’s really cool man. The crowds over here have just been next level. Even since the last time we were here it seems like the crowds have all doubled. We’re playing bigger venues and it’s just crazy to see the reaction to the new music. It’s wild man, we’re on Cloud 9 right now. Like Dan said I’m a little nervous about tonight because it’s a lot of pressure.
You don’t need to be nervous…
Shay: It’s a good nervous… it’s an excited nervous.
I remember last time I saw you guys and I said to you this record would be the one to take you next level…
Dan: Yeah you did!
I would like my cheque please… (laughs)
(laughter from Dan + Shay).
Dan: Yeah absolutely! Lisa (the band’s manager) will give it to you.
This record just seems to have blown everything else you’ve done out of the water and taken you to another level. Did you expect this reaction or have the last six months been a bit of a shock?
Dan: You can never go into it fully expecting it but we did work really hard on this record. I feel like your third record is a very important moment in your career. The first record kind of happened by accident, it was just a handful of demos that we had done as songwriters. The second record you’re trying different things, you’re experimenting, you’re trying this sound and you’re figuring out who you are. We felt like on this one that we’ve got the sound, we know we want to sound like and we know what we want to say. We really dug in and we just did it.
When we put out Tequila, we were obviously proud of the song, but we didn’t expect it to reach as many people as it did and it’s still going, it’s just insane. Then we put out All to Myself and Speechless, all these songs that are connecting with people, and we started to announce tours and they were selling out. We were like, ‘we might have something right here, this is really cool!’ We were proud of the record when we finished it and that’s why we called it a self-titled album. I guess that’s a lot of pressure too.
You only get to do a self-titled record once, unless you do a second self-titled record which is kind of crazy. Thankfully our fans and folks like you have supported the record and believed in it and dug into the songs. It’s changed our world, it really has. We’re playing bigger venues and doing more shows and getting more messages on social media. It’s really fun.
When it came to compiling the Top 10 Country albums of 2018, it almost caused a fight among the EF Country team. I fought hard to put your album at number one but ultimately you came third behind Brothers Osborne and Kacey Musgraves…
(laughter from Dan + Shay).
Dan: Thank you for vouching for us! Thank you man!
Shay: As long as it’s number one in your heart (laughs). It’s crazy man. Regardless of looking at the charts, obviously we love looking at the accolades it makes us feel really, really good, but the real accolade for us is coming over here and being able to sell out shows. To have so many people show up singing every word to every song is a crazy thing for us. We’re a long way from home and a lot of Country acts don’t come over here and don’t put in the time. People like Brothers Osborne and Kacey Musgraves have put in that time, which is really cool, and us. You see tonight how there’s so many people that showed up and that time definitely pays off. When you’re in the States and the label presents to you, ‘hey do you guys want to go to UK? You’ll start out doing (shows to) 50 people a night’ but we’re used to 5,000 (people) in the States. You’re like, ‘I don’t know if I want to put the time in’. The very first time we came here we were just ecstatic. The love for music is so passionate over here, it definitely spreads. It’s exciting to, not only the fans and to the label and everyone else, but it’s so exciting to us to have those fresh ears on your music. They’re so appreciative and it’s just an incredible place. Man we’re so, so glad that we took that leap of starting to travel here and tour. It’s just been unbelievable and truly life changing for us.
Congratulations on your Grammy nominations and being announced as Grammy performers this year. That’s got to be a big deal for you?
Dan: That’s a huge deal for us man. We’ve grown up watching the Grammys every single year and when we got the call this year that were nominated for two Grammys… I mean that’s surreal. That’s a crazy thing. It’s something we’ve dreamed of our entire lives. If all this goes away that’s something you can never take away – Grammy-nominated duo is really cool and it’s got a nice ring to it. To top it all off we get to perform… what an incredible opportunity for us. We didn’t know that the Grammys were going to tweet the first round of performances. It was Post Malone, Janelle Monae, Kacey Musgraves, Camila Cabello… some of the biggest artists on the planet and then our name. It was like, ‘how did we sneak in there?’ It’s incredible! We’re trying to savour every minute of it but it’s sneaking up on us really quickly. We’re looking forward and it’s going to be our first time attending the Grammys too. Win or lose we’re just happy to be there and hopefully we’ll get to get some autographs from some of our favourite artists.
You’ve got to win right?
Shay: (laughs) Don’t say that! We don’t have to win but we would love to win.
Congratulations on proving everybody wrong with your New Year’s Eve Times Square performance. You hear so many performers moan about the cold making it impossible to sing and you guys sounded incredible. How did that feel? It was a pretty epic way to end the year…
Shay: Thank you! That was one of the coolest things in the world to be able to do. I don’t know if I would want to do it again… (laughs) no, I’m kidding, we’d do it a million times. It was such an incredible experience. We got to bring our families up. A lot of people dream about going to New York City and Times Square for New Year’s Eve, that’s obviously a huge tradition in the States and all over the world. It was really cool to be able to experience it in that way. I don’t think that a lot of people ever get to do that. Even to be able to go there and be there as a fan is a crazy thing. For us to be able to perform… the energy in Times Square was a pretty crazy thing. We’re very happy we got to experience that. Ryan Seacrest was awesome. Bastille and Christina Aguilera were there with us so we were in a good company. We had a lot of fun… probably too much fun (laughs).
You sounded amazing!
Shay: It was raining more than you could see on TV. I’m surprised my hair kept any sort of structure whatsoever. I was drenched but it was cool.
Have you picked your next number one single from this album?
(laughter from Dan + Shay).
Dan: We’ve picked All to Myself as the new single in the States for Country radio. It’s been a fan favourite since the record came out and it’s a great live song for us. The numbers on it so far are crazy. It’s almost a Gold record in the States and it’s Gold in Canada. It’s doing really well for us so we’re going to run with that in the States and hopefully it takes us into another hit in the summertime. We just launched Tequila here in the UK and it seems to be reacting pretty big so far. It’s really cool and we feel it at our shows when we close with the song. The sing-a-longs have been absurd. I got a new iPhone finally, I’ve had the worst iPhone my whole life, and these crowds are singing so loud when I see a meter on it it’s fully red line, it’s so loud when the fans sing it back, which is the coolest feeling in the entire world.
You know I’m a huge fan of the Kelly Clarkson collaboration Keeping Score. Is there any hope for that song as a single?
Shay: It’s so tough man because there’s so many songs on this record that we’re so proud of. We’re proud of every song on this record. We’d love for that song to have a moment but we don’t know what the future holds obviously. Coming with a tempo at radio is definitely a smart move. We’ve come with two semi-ballad songs (so far). It’s been really cool to see it having its own moment with our fans. You’ll hear it tonight. They sing every word, that’s no surprise with the UK fans because they sing every word to song so loudly, but hopefully one of these days some kind of collaboration with Kelly and we’ll be able to do it live. We’ll see, we never know what the future holds. There’s a lot of life left in this record so hopefully we’ll be able to get All to Myself up there quickly and you never know what will happen.
Dan: We’re going to play it tonight so you guys have to sing it really loudly back to us.
Dan + Shay’s self-titled album is available now as are their singles Tequila, Speechless and All to Myself. Watch the video for Speechless: