When Dustin Lynch was a student at Lipscomb University he was known as both a member of the golf team and as a talented country music performer. He performed in the Tau Phi Cowboy Show, performed at Shamblin Theater and at Starbucks on campus, but could also be found at various music venues ranging from “Lower” Broad here in Nashville to stages far and wide. Often a convoy of students would follow him to provide support. He graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and had entertained plans of going to medical school. The year 2012 has been a big one for Lynch whose self-titled debut album debuted as the No. 1 Country Album in the United States in late August. Lynch took time this summer to talk with Lipscombsports.com about his music career and his time at Lipscomb.
Dustin Lynch stood near the outdoor stage at Dave and Busters in Opry Mills and peered across the road at the Grand Ole Opry House.
The former Lipscomb University golfer had just been asked what club he would need to land a golf ball at the front door of the country music mecca.
“I could make it there with a wedge,” Lynch said confidently about an hour before performing in a showcase for his fans.”
Most golfers would need at least a seven-iron to make the shot. But Lynch was not just any golfer during his time at Lipscomb. He was solid member of the team, but he preferred to have a guitar in his hands instead of a golf club.
“I picked up the guitar when I was 8 or 9,” Lynch said. “It hurts a whole lot when you start so I dropped it. I started playing again pretty heavily when I was 15.”
Lynch has also proven he is not just any aspiring country singer. He has lived up to expectations with the release of his self-titled album, which debuted Aug. 29 as the No.1-selling country album in the United States according to the Billboard Country Albums Chart. He is the only male country performer to have a debut album open at No. 1 in 2012.
“I’ve always looked forward to this moment,” Lynch said. “It is the proudest moment of my life. I get to share my music with the whole world.”
The year 2012 has been filled with highlights. His first single, “Cowboys and Angels” has passed 500,000 units in sales and earned a spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. In June he opened for Dierks Bentley in South Bend, Ind.
Pegged as one of Billboard’s “Most Anticipated Debuts of 2012”, he was listed as one of Country Weekly’s “Ones to Watch in 2012”. Lynch also found his name on Nashville Lifestyle’s 2012 “Hot List”.
On March 2 of this year he used his voice and his guitar to get a hole-in-one at the Grand Ole Opry. Making his debut appearance in “the circle” on stage was better than walking on any green on a golf course.
The appearance was made even more special by a revelation from his grandfather, Buddy Lynch. His grandfather is a former minister at the Two Rivers Baptist Church across from the Opryland complex.
“They had never seen me play before,” Lynch said. “I was getting ready to go on stage and finally step in that circle. Before I went out on stage my grandfather said, `I don’t want to burst your bubble, but I have preached a sermon in that circle before. It was so neat to be able to share that with him.”
Lynch graduated from Lipscomb in 2007 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He had contemplated pursing a medical career, but his love of music had taken too strong of a hold on his ambitions.
He made a promise to his parents that he would earn his degree before attempting a career in country music. But he didn’t promise not to play or listen to music in his spare time. After his parents helped him move into his room at High Rise dormitory on the Lipscomb campus he made his first trip to the Bluebird Café in Green Hills, a venue that has provided the opportunity for a number of top performers to audition, including Garth Brooks, one of Lynch’s influences.
“I was late getting there, but I watched from the windows that first night at Lipscomb,” Lynch said. “I always wanted to be like Garth since I was 5 years old.”
But it wasn’t his first exposure to the Bluebird.
“When I was in high school I saw where they had open mike nights at the Bluebird on Mondays,” Lynch said. “My parents let me drive from Tullahoma to Nashville with a buddy to play. We realized we weren’t terrible. We got claps at the Bluebird. I was 16 years old and went out and started a band.”
Lynch has been quoted several times as saying that one of the reasons he chose Lipscomb was because it was near the Bluebird Café. But that wasn’t close enough. He eventually moved into an apartment behind the Bluebird and spent a great deal of time listening to performers on writers’ nights and sometimes taking the stage to perform. Somehow he managed to be a member of the Atlantic Sun All-Academic Team throughout his time at Lipscomb.
“I didn’t know a person in Nashville,” Lynch said. “At the Bluebird I started networking with those guys and learning from those guys. I didn’t realize I was creating relationships that would come in handy years down the road, but I was.
“I didn’t know if could sing at the time. I would go to the Bluebird to dream. I would also go there to try to figure things out as a performer. It was frustrating a lot of the time, but it was also fun. You are a lot better swimmer when you teach yourself how to swim.”
Like most performers who appear to the public to be overnight successes, Lynch has paid his dues writing more than 200 songs according to at least one published report. He played local music spots and became a regular on the Southern college circuit. He also had a day job to help pay his bills after graduating from Lipscomb.
“I’m a nine-year overnight success,” Lynch said. “I’ve played basements in frat houses to anywhere I could find in order to keep the lights on.”
Often, however, the experience on stage proved to be more valuable than the money.
“I have sung for four hours straight sometimes and not made any money,” Lynch said. “You can sit at home or go out and get better. That’s what I was doing. The key is to make everybody feel like they are part of the show and let them know you appreciate them being there.”
He remembers vividly the smallest crowd to hear him sing, three people at the Second Fiddle on a Tuesday night on Broadway. It was quite the contrast to the standing-room-only crowd that greeted him enthusiastically at the showcase sponsored by WSiX-AM and at most of his other appearances this summer.
“You don’t know if you are good in this business,” Lynch said. “It is not like playing golf where if you shoot a 68 most of the time you are going to be in the top 10.
“Out here it is opinions. You are surviving song-to-song and show-to-show. But that’s fun for me. There are reasons why guys like Ronnie Dunn and Alan Jackson are still out there getting it done. It is in your blood.”
Lynch has turned in his golf shirts and visors for a cowboy hat and a Western-style shirt on stage. He is at ease with his audience and clearly enjoys performing.
Golf and country music are vastly different pursuits, but Lynch thinks his time on the links as a competitive golfer has helped him as a performer.
“I think the two are related,” Lynch said. “Whether playing golf or being an entertainer it is all on your shoulders and all in your head. Golf is mentally really tough. I think it is the toughest part of the game. Anybody can hit a ball, but when the heat is on the guys on tour making the money are the guys that are strongest in their heads.
“Golf teaches you a lot about yourself. Golf is a game of character. Music is a game of character in many different ways. There is art in music. There is a business sense. It is all about relationships, who you know and how you treat people. A lot of folks who fizzle out in this business are the ones who don’t stay true to who they were when they started.”
Lynch tips his hat to the professors in Lipscomb’s biology and chemistry departments, especially professors Oliver Yates and Phillip Choate for teaching him the value of self-discipline and endurance in terms of getting a job done.
“I was really good at biology in high school,” Lynch said. “Being a doctor is not a bad thing in life. I took a pre-anatomy course and fell in love with that.
“Those all-nighters and a summer of organic chemistry were so stressful while playing golf and music, but they prepared me for these hours on the road. Having to get up and sit in an airport and then go sing on TV at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. is nothing compared to completing organic chemistry in one month. I know what hurt is. That is what I learned from being in pre-med.”
Lynch wishes he could have found time to take some business and marketing classes. But he admits that when he looks back he really misses Bible classes.
“The Bible classes were the most fun of the week for me,” Lynch said. “The professors in that department are so unbelievable at breaking down a book in the Bible and making it apply to real life.
“I know who is in charge of this. I have worked hard, but God is helping me write these songs.”
The new album, on Broken Bow Records, is special to Lynch for many reasons including the fact that he wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 13 songs. He co-wrote “Cowboys and Angels” with Josh Leo and Tim Nichols.
“The greatest part of it for me is that the crowds know `Cowboys and Angels’,” Lynch said. “Not only do they know it, but it means something in their lives.
“I wanted to keep the soldiers in mind when I wrote it. They are overseas and away from their families for months on end. Those are true cowboys.”
Entertainers are always expected to have a second act. Lynch likes the process that goes into deciding what songs to choose as singles as he looks ahead to what is next.
“It is always a challenge,” Lynch said. “You are always looking to see if what you think is a great song is a great song for radio.
“It’s a fun game. It is a pretty grueling game too because there is no guarantee. But I think that is why everybody keeps doing it. You are always looking for the next thumbs up or high five. That keeps life exciting for me.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.