Country music has seen some major changes in the past few years, but when you listen to Dan + Shay, you would think it always sounded this way. Not quite country, not quite rock, not quite pop, the duo’s 2014 debut album “Where It All Began” is equal parts quintessential country and a sound all their own. Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney met in Nashville in 2012. Smyers, 28, was raised in Pennsylvania and studied finance at Carnegie Mellon University; Mooney, 23, grew up in Arkansas and was previously signed as a solo artist to T-Pain’s Nappy Boy Entertainment label. After two years of nonstop shows, Dan + Shay are following up “Where It All Began” with a tour that stops in Silver Spring on Sunday (with opener Kelsea Ballerini).
Where it actually all began
When Smyers and Mooney decided to pursue careers in music, they knew Nashville was the place to be. “I started trying to write [country music], which at first was a struggle, but then I moved to Nashville and learned the ropes,” Smyers says. He met Mooney at a house party there and the two began writing together. Within a few months, they had a single on the radio, the light and summery “19 You + Me.” That song was nominated for duo video of the year at the 2014 CMT Music Awards. The past two years, the pair has been up for vocal duo of the year at the ACM Awards.
A little bit country …
Smyers and Mooney base their music in country’s roots, but they’ve expanded on the genre with poppier melodies — think Taylor Swift when she still had twang — and rock-fueled tempos. You won’t hear much about Chevys with lift kits in their songs, but you’ll find the familiar themes of chasing girls and drinking beers on the weekend.
“We were just writing the songs that we wanted to write, and they came out in this cool style,” Smyers says. If you’re a fan of Florida Georgia Line but crave a less bro-y approach, this duo is for you.
Same album, different tour
When the pair rolled through D.C. last year, they played the 9:30 Club in support of “Where It All Began.” Fans who saw that show can expect a different experience this time. Aside from ramped-up lighting and equipment, Smyers says “we’re playing a few songs on the album that we didn’t get to play on the first go-round,” including fan requests submitted online. “We’ve been touring on this album for two years,” he adds, “so we’re going to go out with a bang and come out with new music for the new year,” some of which they’re previewing on tour.
Fillmore, 8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; Sun., 8 p.m., $31.50.
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