A&E Dallas Smith bringing the hits to CN Centre
The population of bona fide stars in the Canadian country music scene is getting crowded, which makes the position of Dallas Smith even more special. He doesn’t have the field to himself, yet he is a standout in the nation’s country genre. Few have put more hits up the charts, few have had clusters of hits the way he has, and few have strung together years of sustained success the way he has. It’s getting to the point now that the name Dallas Smith is accompanied by words and phrases like “ever” and “of all time” when summarizing his career.
Even more remarkable is his young age and future potential. In baseball, he would be one of those rare veterans who still possesses upside. And Smith is starting to get that elite cred from music fans.
He is one of the very few Canadian country music acts to headline at CN Centre, for example. He was here just a little more than a year ago as a support act for Keith Urban and now he is back again, this time at the top of the marquee.
He called the Citizen during this 28-concert junket to talk about the differences between being an opener and being the headliner. On one hand, he was responsible for the entertainment value of the show. The fans paid their money to see him, not some other star, so he had to deliver the goods.
On the other hand, the headliner has a long set. The headliner can play a lot more songs, and he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t have the depth. Consider all the options: the platinum puncher Tippin’ Point, the ubiquitous ballad Autograph, the young love anthem Wastin’ Gas, the summer jam Cheat Seats, and the youthful gear-grinder Kids With Cars.
His most recent album, Side Effects, has launched six singles up the charts and he has two other albums before that to also draw from. (Remember, he was also the lead singer for the power-rock band Default so he could even reach back into that material if he ever wanted to.)
He said the setlist doesn’t change all that much from night to night, but there is some leeway and there is also a lot of spontaneity in the stage banter. He is a stage veteran at this point, despite being less than 40 years old, so he likes to mix up the chat. Each audience is different, he said, so he responds accordingly, especially when something really exceptional happens, like the times when couples get engaged right there at the show.
“Autograph has sort of become a big moment in the set where a lot of people want to reach out and use that song, use that opportunity, to make something special of it, so things like that have happened. It’s been really great. To have that song used in a lot of weddings and proposals and that sort of stuff, it’s what you hope out of a song. It has a lot of meaning for people, which is fantastic.”
The music industry has shown Smith a lot of love, these past few years.
He’s won bucketloads of awards, from the B.C. Country Music Association (he is based in his hometown of Langley), the Cana- dian Country Music Association, and even the highly prized Juno Award.
He puts little personal stock in the trophy case, but he can take the validation of the sales numbers straight to heart.
The figures don’t lie. He really is verifiably one of the best-selling Canadians in the history of the country music genre.
It makes the critical acclaim a little easier to sit comfortably with, and that often talks about his energetic stage show, but it almost always mentions his voice. He has a gift, the technical observers say. His throat is a rare instrument, and he cares for it as such.
“There are tricks you learn touring over the years,” he said. “Just get enough sleep, lots of water, and just taking care of yourself. It just comes down to being healthy, not getting sick, not overusing it. It’s holding up good. The trick now is lots of water because we’re hitting the prairies and the air is super dry. That’s where you can kinda get into trouble. And in the summer, making sure you’re not spending too much time in air conditioning. That can be a pain in the ass as well, counterproductive, so you just have to be mindful of it. I don’t drink a whole lot anymore because that kind of stuff (alcohol-based beverages) can dry your voice out. Once you start drying your voice out, things start swelling up and you’re in trouble at that point. You’ve got to really, really adapt and be mindful of the environment and use those tricks you learned over the years. It’s important.”
He has to watch it, with this headliner tour rolling out 28 concerts finishing in mid-November, less than two weeks off, followed by almost 60 appearances in 15 days on the CP Rail Holiday Train tour with Terri Clark and Kelly Prescott to raise funds and resources for food banks in Canada and the U.S. It’s the second year in a row that Clark and Smith have done the musical train campaign together.
After that, he will take a serious break to get his voice rested and ready for the ultra important task of recording the next album. He has spring sessions booked, aiming at a summer release.
So are you still writing songs for that project or has the material mostly been collected for the recording sessions?
“Mmmmmm, a bit of both,” he answered. “There’s lots of material but we’re always trying to improve on the stuff. You know, better is better, so we’re going to just see what we have at the end of the day before we hit record.”
Smith and his band (which includes Prince George guitar player Jer Breaks) will push play on Wednesday night at CN Centre. Tickets are on sale now at the venue’s box office or online at www.ticketsnorth.ca.
Dallas Smith opened for Keith Urban at CN Centre in September of last year. Smith returns to headline his own show at CN Centre on Wedensday night.