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Dustin Lynch opens for Brad Paisley at Country Crossings

Country artist Dustin Lynch’s career-making hit “Small Town Boy,” a platinum-selling single that topped the country charts for a month, was released in 2017. The song followed another chart-topping single, “Seein’ Red,” which was released in advance of his 2017 album, “Current Mood.”

“Current Mood” hit No. 2 on Billboard’s country album chart when it released last September, and it’s still on the charts 10 month later.

“It’s been a great year, no doubt about it,” Lynch says in a telephone interview. “It comes from working hard and setting goals, meeting goals. But I think it’s also putting out the right music at the right time.”

Today, after landing main support slots on tours headlined by Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line, Lynch is spending his summer playing festivals and headlining dates.

That means Lynch will have more time on stage than the 45-minute slots he’s played as a supporting act. While getting the chance to introduce himself to fans of the headlining acts is a great opportunity for Lynch, the shorter sets somewhat limit the songs he can fit into a show.

“We’ve had enough hits that most of the time we’re on stage we’re playing just hits,” he says. “We could introduce a couple new songs, but you’ve got to play the hits.”

Lynch and his band open Brad Paisley’s show Saturday, July 28, at Country Crossings Music Festival at the Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Lynch’s show starts at 7 p.m.; Paisley’s at 9 p.m.

For tickets and information, click here.

During his show Saturday, Lynch will perform at least a couple of the tracks from “Current Mood” and his two previous studio albums: an eponymous 2012 album and “Where It’s At,” released in 2014. The songs on “Current Mood” are seen as the best he’s recorded, connecting with audiences more directly and personally than his previous efforts.

“That comes with my growth as a songwriter, my growth even as a person, and living a little bit,” Lynch says. “Life has changed, relationships have happened and I’ve gotten more comfortable as an artist. One thing I finally figured out is if I’ve felt it, if I’ve lived it, there’s no reason to be afraid to talk about it, everybody else has too.

“What I’ve learned is when I’ve let somebody in too much, too close, that’s where the magic happens,” Lynch said. “That’s opened me up as a songwriter.”

That growth is just one aspect of Lynch’s overall improvement, as he’s gone from promising upstart to consistent hitmaker — a run that began when he released his debut single “Cowboys and Angels” in early 2012.

Eight months later, Lynch’s self-titled debut album hit the top of the country charts and he was off, following the now-standard path for country artists of playing club and fair shows, releasing singles and albums, landing support slots on major tours, releasing more music, playing bigger headlining shows and getting direct support slots.

Following that path can bring an artist closer to the country’s top tier, but, Lynch says, if it were automatic, everyone would do it.

Rather, he says, he and the rest have to find a way to connect with audiences, first on the radio — which comes from the songs themselves — then during performances.

“It’s about being comfortable and confident,” Lynch says. “I learned a lot about that from watching Luke Bryan. I watched that guy have fun every night, where it’s cool and exciting and not too choreographed. If you feel like dancing with somebody, do it, don’t worry about what you look like. That’s what it’s about, being comfortable and making that connection, so that every concert is like a first date.”

Dialing in the pacing keeps him going show after show, Lynch says. A lot like being an athlete.

“There’s no doubt about that,” he says. “There’s a lot of similarity. You see college athletes get into the industry at this level. Jake Owen’s a golfer, Chase Rice and Lee Brice played football. Sam Hunt, too, and Colt Ford is a big-time golfer.”

As for himself, Lynch says he’s taken up fishing.

While he’s on the road this summer, Lynch also is at work on new songs, which are likely to turn up on an album either late this year or early in 2019, but may hit the airwaves well before any album is released. His new single, “Good Girl,” is on the charts now. Whether it will be on his next album is an open question.

“We’ve already started the creative process, the writing process,” Lynch says about his next record. “The landscape of music changes so quickly that I like the thought of releasing music when you know you’ve got something special. Toss the golden nuggets out when you get them.”

A few more hits and it’s just a matter of time before Lynch is headlining shows and looking for new artists to support him.

“The industry as a whole is expecting us to get there,” Lynch says. “In my opinion, we’re getting close. Then it’s continuing to pursue excellence as a performer and having people talking about what a great time they had at your show. You start doing that and eventually there’s not an arena that can hold you. I think it’s in the cards for us, going to that level, I really do.”

Country artist Dustin Lynch will open a show for Brad Paisley on Saturday, July 28, at Country Crossings Music Festival. Photo by Glen Sweitzer