Rising Country Singer Devin Dawson on the Rapid Success of 'All on Me': 'I Enjoy the Speed'
One of the biggest success stories as of late from Music City has been the rise of Devin Dawson. The California native released his debut single, "All on Me," in April 2017 and watched as it peaked in the runner-up position on the Country Airplay chart in March, nearly a year later.
How does it feel to know that he has connected with an audience? "It feels great," he tells Billboard. "I think every single -- especially for a new artist like me -- [is important] to keep telling people who I am. It’s about letting them in on each little part of the story that helped build this album. I co-wrote all of these songs, so they are all part of my own truth, or at least started from my own experience. I’m very thankful to have had as much success as we have had so far with just one song. A lot of my heroes may not have gotten the traction until the fourth or fifth single, so to have 'All on Me' go all the way to No. 2 is pretty incredible."
Dawson says he knows he wouldn’t be here without the push of his label, Warner Bros., which was in his corner before the ink on the contract was dry. "I was lucky to have the support and a huge push not long after I finished the record. I signed, and literally, the next week we were in making the record." He says that the feeling of having a song move up the charts for the first time was overwhelming, but also his dream. "I feel like all of these things are goals that I’ve set, so it was like check boxes that I kept checking off. I feel crazy about everything, but it feels right. It’s right where I want to be and where I want to continue to go."
So, was he intimidated by the fact that everything in his career advanced at a quicker tempo when the song took off? Not on your life! "I enjoy the speed," he says. "Complacency is what scares me."
The devotion of his label to breaking him as a recording artist came from the top, as label head John Esposito made it clear that Dawson was -- and is -- a priority. He appreciates that fact, saying that Esposito's "2017 goal was to have me break through, or at least see the beginnings of that. I’d say that having the success of 'All on Me' and putting an album out, and doing the tours we’ve done, I’d say he accomplished that goal. I couldn’t ask for more than what they did. They threw everything at me, and they continue to do so. It’s one thing to have people say they are going to do something, but it’s another to have them do it. I’m really thankful for this whole office. It truly is a family, and that’s why I’m here -- because of the passion, warmth and support that an artist needs to create their best work."
As a new artist, Dawson is still trying to get used to being known among his peers. He says that several of his fellow artists have been welcoming, but one in particular really shocked him. "We do this on one level just to impress our peers that we look up to or those we surround ourselves with. Thomas Rhett has really encouraged me and shared with his fans an appreciation for what I do. He’s been incredible. It’s cool to have people that you look up to say such positive things about what you’re trying to do. It gives me the confidence to keep taking those steps forward every day."
Dawson indeed is moving forward, with the release of his second single from his debut Dark Horse, "Asking for a Friend." Currently No. 59 on the Country Airplay chart, he says the song drips with honesty. "It’s a song about a guy who is trying to apologize without having to say sorry. He tries to keep his pride a little bit -- which is me. I’m not so good at telling people how I feel in a relationship or in a conversation. But when I hide behind a guitar or a song, I feel like I can say whatever I want. He’s trying to make it sound like he’s asking for somebody else, but he’s asking for himself -- 'Do you think you could ever love him again?' That’s where it gets to by the end of the song, and it makes you work for it. That song is the quintessential country song to me. I grew up listening to country music, and I learned how to write songs from listening to the classics like 'The Chair' and 'We Danced' -- those songs where you hang on every line and lyric. They tell a story. I wanted this song to be a true story, one that could be relatable to people that have a problem saying I’m sorry. It doesn’t ever say what he did or how it ends up. That allows the listener to put their own story into it, which is important."
Is there anything specific that Dawson has ever asked forgiveness for? "Too many things," he says with a laugh. "I’m one of those guys who isn’t afraid to say when I’m wrong. The problem is, I just never think that I’m wrong. I think that in a relationship, you need to make sure that you prioritize, balance and that you share. I’m not always the best at that. Everything happens for a reason, though, so I’ll keep writing apology songs if I need to!"