Women in Music 2016

From Artist to On-Air Talent: Dustin Lynch Having a Blast With DJ Gig

Justin Nolan
Dustin Lynch

Thanks to a temporary gig as the midday host on KKGO (Go Country 105) Los Angeles, country star Dustin Lynch has a newfound appreciation for the work of real-life radio air personalities.

“The toughest thing for me — because I’m not having a conversation with another person — is getting in and out of the breaks,” he says, sounding like any other radio DJ who works without a partner or sidekick. “I have the stories, I have the concept, but [making it] sound like a conversation [when] it is just me talking to the wall has been the challenge.”

Lynch also ticks off the tasks of getting listeners involved, creating intriguing concepts every day and moving the station’s social media dial among his new challenges. But he notes that two weeks into the month-long gig, he’s getting the hang of all of that while having plenty of fun in the process. (You can listen to him 10 a.m.-2 p.m. [PT] at gocountry105.com.)

Lynch compares the radio recording process to songwriting, noting that they are both about “trimming the fat. With my breaks, it’s about getting them nice and tight and keeping the energy level up,” he says, again sounding like a radio pro.

Dustin Lynch Links Third Straight Country Airplay No. 1 With 'Mind Reader'

With KKGO currently between midday hosts, Lynch agreed to fill in on-air May 9-June 3. While he was immediately intrigued with the concept of hosting the show, Lynch admits, “We didn’t have any way to gauge whether this was a good idea or a terrible idea, [or] the kind of -impact it would have on my career, so it was a bit of a jump in the dark for us.” He adds with a laugh, -“Hopefully it doesn’t tank my career.”

That’s unlikely. KKGO PD Tonya Campos calls Lynch “a born DJ. He has added an amazing layer to this daypart by having the ability to add insight from a different angle — the artist’s point of view,” she says. “He is articulate, funny and truly a spark on the air.”

“I love tuning in and listening to the final product whenever I have a minute,” admits Lynch. “It’s mind-blowing to me. I can’t believe this is real life. I’m getting to host my own show on one of the biggest country stations in the country.”

Doing the radio show has also pulled back the curtain a little bit on a part of broadcasting that artists seldom see. “It’s kind of bizarre, actually ... to see a radio station’s logs,” says Lynch. “As an artist, that’s an interesting thing … You get to see where the songs are ranking and all that.”

Because he’s currently on tour with Luke Bryan and Little Big Town, Lynch is utilizing a Nashville studio to prerecord his three hourly breaks while in between gigs. He has enlisted the in-studio help of a professional — former radio personality Scotty O’Brien, now a regional promoter at Broken Bow Records, where Lynch is signed.

The tour provides plenty of on-air fodder for Lynch, who shares road stories, including one about the Frozen-themed birthday party Bryan recently threw for him as part of their ongoing prank war. (Lynch and former tourmate Randy Houser once surprised Bryan onstage by walking out dressed as red M&M’s.) And with Bryan’s birthday coming up, Lynch is promising retaliation for the Frozen surprise.

“Right now, as I’m on the phone, I’m watching Luke Bryan stuff his face with crawfish,” says Lynch while calling from Louisiana. He can bring such anecdotes to the Southern California audience that it “can’t get on Yahoo … I think that content is intriguing to the everyday country fan. I kind of give them that backstage pass on the radio every day.” 

In his final two weeks on the job, Lynch plans to incorporate artist interviews that he will record on his phone, starting with his high-profile tourmates. “After a while people hearing my backstage stories is going to get a little [old], so I want to mix some other voices in there with me,” he explains.

Lynch’s radio gig happens to coincide with the ascension of his third No. 1, “Mind Reader,” on the Country Airplay chart, and he admits it’s “kind of weird” to intro or outro his own song on the air at KKGO. “I poke fun about it,” he says. “If I’m coming out of ‘Mind Reader’ into a break, I’ll say, ‘Man, that guy can really sing,’ or just goof off with it.”

Now a few months into Bryan’s Kill the Lights tour, Lynch has carved out a schedule that allows a few hours a day to write songs for his next album, for which he has already recorded five tracks. His next single, due this summer, will be the first from that project. But that’s not the only new endeavor that has his attention right now: He will formally unveil his new apparel line, Stay Country, at June’s CMA Music Fest in Nashville.

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, just kind of waiting on the right time to release it and getting all our ducks in a row,” he reveals. “We’ve got good designs. We’ve finally got the clothes, the T-shirts and the products up to the standards I wanted, as far as the feel. We’ve been road-testing the clothes and seeing how they hold up. We finally have the combination we’re in love with, and the response [following a recent soft launch] has been incredible.

“It’s exciting stuff. I’m a songwriter, a creative person, [so] I love creating T-shirt designs,” he continues, adding that the designs and the name of the product line were inspired by his Tennessee upbringing. “It’s always intrigued me what merch designs kind of take off and people latch on to. Now this is another game I get to play, another venture that’s fun and exciting, and there’s no end. The sky’s the limit on this brand. It’s a brand I believe in.”

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.