70 miles separate Tullahoma, Tenn., from Music City. With that close proximity to Nashville, it's no wonder that Broken Bow recording artist Dustin Lynch became so enamored with the sounds he was hearing on the radio growing up.
"Nashville was obviously the big city for me growing up," Lynch recalls to Billboard. "I can remember coming up here for the malls and the doctor's appointments and the other big occasions. Each time I would see the skyline, there was just a feeling that would come over me -- 'Man, I'm in Music City.' It was always so exciting to be in Nashville."
He also recalls his first time going downtown. "My first time on Broadway, I drove myself up to see my first concert, the rock band Incubus. As many times as I'd gone to Nashville, I'd never gotten to go downtown. So, we rolled in with the windows down, and with all the people there and the music, I can never forget that moment."
The singer went on to say that even if you're not into music in Middle Tennessee, it's a definite part of the culture.
"It's something everyone from out of town thinks you're a part of, even if you're not. I can definitely see how it rubbed off of me at an early age," he says.
Lynch's debut single, "Cowboys and Angels," is quickly making an impact at radio stations across the country. He says it's hard to believe the direction his career has taken.
"It's a dream come true," he says. "I don't know if it's sunk in yet that I have a song on the radio. It's a dream I've had for years."
True to the nature of the viral world we live in, his first time hearing a radio station play it was online.
"I'm still waiting to hear it randomly. The first time I heard it, I knew it was going to come on -- so that took a little bit of the surprise factor off," he says. "But, what was really cool about the first time was we were on the bus in Alabama with the record folks on the radio tour. WYCD in Detroit called and say that they were going to do a 'New Music Spotlight' at 1 o'clock. So y'all tune in. We turned it on and heard it streaming online on the bus. Just to hear it with the team that has been working so hard was really cool."
When asked about his heroes, Dustin mentioned two icons: Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.
"Garth is my hero," he says. "I've been belting out Garth songs since I can remember. Alan is such a prolific songwriter, and has had so many hits over the years. Those two are my biggest influences."
Lynch definitely noticed how Brooks captivated his audiences - he was among them.
"I think he's universal to everybody. Just like with any music, there are people who don't like him, but he appeals to the masses. Performance-wise, he owns the crowd like no one else on earth can," Lynch says. "That's what I was amazed with by him."
Though he is enjoying success as a singer, Lynch says he was initially bit by the songwriting bug. "A television channel was airing live rounds from the Bluebird on TV. I was watching that show with Dad, and I had just gotten where I could play and sing some. I didn't realize that behind these Randy Travis songs, that there were really cool stories that the writers had. When I was 16, my parents let me come up here and play open mic at the Bluebird," and from that point on, Lynch knew what he wanted to do.
He's very pleased to be associated with the staff at Broken Bow Records, which has become one of the top labels in town.
"They've had a lot of success with Jason Aldean and Thompson Square, but the best part about them is that they are a family. Everyone cares about everybody, and that shows in the passion about my music. I'm excited to be a part of the team," he says.
Also a part of the team is producer Brett Beavers, who Lynch is very excited to be working with on his debut disc, set for release later in 2012. What are his thoughts on what he would like to accomplish this year with that album? He doesn't miss a beat, saying "A few hits would be great, but just being able to do music would make me happy." He says he's staying out on the road meeting radio at a fast and furious clip, but there are no complaints.
"You're busy and everything, but I'm soaking it up, I promise. It's not so overwhelming that I'm not smelling the roses as I pass them," he says.