The country singer stopped by Billboard to perform his hits 'Cowboys and Angels' and 'She Cranks My Tractor.'
"My era of guys is the class of '89: Garth [Brooks], Clint Black, Alan Jackson. Early '90s, mid-'90s country is still some of my favorite music."
At a recent visit to Billboard's New York offices, Dustin Lynch revealed his influences, which center on a period in country music history that emphasized love songs and melody, perhaps more so than in today's time of more rock- and attitude-driven stylings. It's no surprise, given the Tullahoma, Tennessee, native's way with a ballad. The baritone's debut hit "Cowboys and Angels" rose to No. 2 on Billboard's Country Songs chart in October. Not that he can't rock, too (as have Brooks, Black and Jackson). Uptempo follow-up "She Cranks My Tractor" has spent eight weeks on the tally, the last two at its peak to-date of No. 32.
"'Cowboys and Angels' is a universal love story and 'She Cranks My Tractor' is a ... universal love story ... just in a different way," he says with a laugh.
Lynch's self-titled debut Broken Bow album, featuring the singles, entered the Country Albums chart at No. 1 the week of Sept. 8 and has sold 112,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Like some of his musical idols, Lynch's career sprang from Nashville's Bluebird Café, an intimate venue that for more than 30 years has served as a launching pad for aspiring country singers and songwriters – including Brooks. "When I moved to Nashville at 18, I didn't know a person," Lynch remembers. "It just felt right to go to that place. The first night I got to Nashville, I drove straight to the Bluebird, after my parents helped me move in, and caught my first round on the sidewalk, because I got there late and it was at capacity.
"I just watched from the sidewalk through the windows."
If he was literally an outsider upon his arrival, the now 27-year-old has since seen his career take flight. "It came full circle for me. I wrote my album liner notes right outside the Bluebird, where it all started."
In Lynch's future could even be a song written for and recorded by his "hero," Brooks. Having co-written nine songs on his debut set and penned another on his own, Lynch marvels at the possibility. "The word's out that [Brooks is] looking for songs [for his first album of all-new material since 2001], so there's gonna be a buzz. Nashville's really cool, because when George Strait's cutting songs, you can feel the town shaking. As a writer, it's a dream to get a George Strait cut. It's gonna be the same with Garth.
"When you've got however many thousands of songwriters in town gunning for one spot, you can feel it in the air."
Lynch introduced himself as an artist with "Cowboys and Angels," a tender take on how men and women mesh despite their differences. "I've got boots and she's got wings / I'm hell on wheels and she's heavenly / I'd die for her and she lives for me," Lynch sings in the track, which he co-wrote with Josh Leo and Tim Nichols.
Having begun as a songwriter, Lynch seems just as excited to have authored a modern classic love song as to be its singer. "That's the fun part about writing songs. You never know when you're gonna walk into a room ... there's just air, a couple buddies and a guitar ... and you could possibly write and record something that will be around 20 years later."
And, should Lynch – who'll tour later this year with Little Big Town and format cornerstone, and new "American Idol" judge, Keith Urban – hear his debut hit on country radio in, say, 2033, he'll likely be just as thrilled as he is now, when it dawns on him that he's become a part of the airwaves he used to tune in to when songs by Brooks, Black, Jackson and other veterans before him reigned.
"When 'Cowboys and Angels' comes on, there's always a smile and a fist-bump," he says.
"It'll never get old."