Track by Track Discussion: Heart Of A Flatland Boy with Erik Dylan
I had the privilege of sitting down and having a track by track discussion with Erik Dylan, regarding his new, independent album, entitled “Heart of A Flatland Boy”. I hope you all buy or download the album because it really is a breath of fresh air in this day in age of country music. The following are my thoughts after listening to the album followed by where the origins of each song came from by the artist himself …
Heart of a Flatland Boy
MTMS: When I hear this song, I hear a straight up heartland song written for the people who work hard and won’t be knocked down, no matter what. And the way you sing it is raw and unapologetic, sort of the way those its written for live their life.
Erik Dylan: Where I’m from in Kansas, we have a lot to be thankful for. But we also have a lot to be angry about. My people don’t get enough credit for what they do. They are the ones who clock in every day, drive tractors, pour steel, bust their asses and raise their babies. They are also the first to get screwed, laid off, and forgotten. I’m just sick of it. I guess I would consider this song an anthem for the under appreciated shrinking middle class. I feel like in many ways it is my job as a songwriter to write vicariously through them. And I’m damn proud to take that job.
It Aint Broke
MTMS: I love how this song was strategically placed the follow Heart of a Flatland Boy, as its also written about the small town people, but less from the point of view of not being knocked down, but more about how much they love the life they live and appreciate the small time living. The verse about the guy giving up the scholarship for love and a piece of land, but not regretting it really stands out.
Erik Dylan: This song is best described as pure flatland philosophy. If something is working, don’t fix it. There is a beauty in knowing some things will never change. It inspires me. I wrote it about my hometown in Kansas but honestly, this could be anybody’s hometown. It’s beautiful to me. I watch wrecking balls turn history into high rises & parking lots every day on Music Row. It wasn’t broke. It was alive. They broke it. Glad that won’t happen in my town.
MTMS: To say I love this song would be an understatement. From the edgy songwriting to the musical breakdown, this is a hell of a song. Who thought that a song about getting revenge from domestic abuse could also be so catchy. Where did you come from in writing this one?
Erik Dylan: I had that phrase “pushing up pink flamingos” in my head for a few months. When I sat down to write the song with Adam James we came to the conclusion that somebody just had to die in this song. We didn’t want it to go down the typical murder ballad road. I wanted to write it from the perspective of the people who saw what happened and looked the other way. I’m not saying it is right, but I do understand why they pled the fifth. Sometimes bad shit happens to good people. And sometimes small town justice prevails.
Willie Nelson T-Shirt
MTMS: So many emotions run through my mind when hearing this song. It starts with true love, then immediately switches to heartbreak, anger, disgust, and then humor. It’s clever and fun, while still being heartbreaking. How are you able to execute both sides in a single song as a songwriter?
Erik Dylan: I think this is pretty typical of most guys. It is our grieving process after being done wrong. Hurt turns to anger. Anger turns to disgust. And in the end the all you can do is get your favorite Willie Nelson T-shirt back and try to make her jealous as hell on the rebound.
The Good Life
MTMS: Out of all the songs on the album, I could see this being the live show anthem. It’s got such a build and emotional progression. It’s relatable to every listener and brings about a sense of optimism no matter how dark life seems. The line “life ain’t worth living if it ain’t hard” hits you in the heart and gut at the same time.
Erik Dylan: I felt like writing a song that celebrates the struggle of living the so-called “good life”. This song is a tip of the hat to every guy that takes care of their family and hangs in no matter the cost. It’s a song for the ones who get through the rough patches running on faith and love. My dad is one of those guys. I want to be that guy for my family.
Girl That Got Away
MTMS: Your album does not have the prototypical love song, where the writer describes all the great feelings he has when he’s in love. Instead, you bring a heart wrenching approach that brings all the emotions to the surface right after you lose the girl of your dreams and it was all your fault. The slow build and the background sound effects make this a hauntingly beautiful song.
Erik Dylan: I wanted the lyric to stand front and center. I’m incredibly prod of this lyric and wouldn’t change a word. Jake Mitchell & Westin Davis wrote the hell out of this song with me. The music needed to enhance the emotion in my voice. The steel guitar haunts me. Russ Pahl set the mood with steel and created a vehicle for the listener to follow the lyric in. It’s a song about missing a one in a million girl. It had to be dark. I am proud how it turned out.
MTMS: When I first heard this song, I thought what the hell? But, each time I hear it I love it more and find myself singing “Copenhagen habit and a GED”. And it is situated perfectly in the track list as it changes direction from the seriousness for a song and just lets your rock out. Where did the idea of how this song was going to be sung come from?
I needed a black sheep for the record and Astronaut was perfect. We sped the song up 6 clicks and went Ramones on it.
The idea came from a construction worker running a jackhammer outside my publishing office. I was writing with Randy Montana & Driver Williams that day. It was loud all day. Another writer from the building dropped in on us bitching and moaning about how loud it was. I turned to him and said “Ok… We write about our feelings all day at our job. That guy runs a jackhammer for 8 hours a day. Shut the F up.” That’s how the idea started.
Your Way Down
MTMS: This seems to have the simple message of a guy who is so in love with a woman that he tells her he will wait for her. But it has a little twist, as he throws a dig in there that he knows she will climb the ladder and fall back down.
Erik Dylan: I have seen this a million times. The girl that thinks there is something better to chase out there in the world. She walks out on the one guy who really loves her and has the strength to do it because she has a parachute. He’s gonna be there when she falls because he truly loves her. There is a lot of anger in this tune but I think it is warranted. However, if you love somebody you have to forgive them eventually if you ever want a shot at that white picket fence & two kids in the yard.
MTMS: I am an emotional train wreck when I hear this song. The songwriting and the story are just perfection. I think the lyrics speak for themselves for all who listen. My question is how in the world do you hold it together enough to sing it live?
Erik Dylan: I don’t. I had tears in my eyes at my last show. I’m never going to hide my emotions on stage. I think I owe my audience that kind of honesty. It’s ok to feel something. That’s why we are here. That song continues to make me feel something every night. It reminds me to call the ones I love and never take them for granted.
Map Dot Town
MTMS: When I hear this song I get such a sense of nostalgia mixed with pride as I think every listener will bring themselves back to a time in their life where the words from this song connect with them. I know I have heard a version backed by a full band, but you chose the acoustic version for the album. I think it’s a poignant conclusion to this heartland adventure, how did you come about that decision?
Erik Dylan: I wanted the listener to hear the song how it was written. One guitar and one voice in a room. It had to be all about the song. I wanted the world to hear it on my back porch at 2am with Jake Mitchell when we wrote it. The only thing this recording is missing is the sound of the crickets in my backyard.
I know where I’m from. It has made me who I am. The heart of this flatland boy will always be in Muscotah, Kansas. I write what I know. And I know where home is.
A Conversation with Erik Dylan at Cornman Music Studios in Nashville, TN
I had the unique opportunity of spending a full afternoon on Music Row with one of Nashville’s up and coming artists, Erik Dylan. Erik has a publishing deal with Cornman Music and has a self entitled EP available on iTunes. We spent the afternoon at both Cornman and Sony Nasvhille, as he gave me an up close and personal view into the daily life of a Nashville singer-songwriter. Make sure you all buy his EP https://itun.es/us/ERdv4 and check him out at www.erikdylan.com . I hope you all enjoy what he has to say as this interview is as real and true as it gets:
MTMS: Tell us about your journey from Kansas to Nashville…
Erik Dylan: I originally left Kansas to attend Middle Tennessee State University to work on a career in audio engineering, but found out I wasn’t really good at audio engineering. So then I decided to live in Nashville and make it my home. I had always written songs so it was just about trying to figure out how to make it in this industry.
MTMS: So it wasn’t that you moved here just to make songs, it started from the audio engineering aspect of things?
Erik Dylan: I had always wanted to make music. I have been writing songs since I was a little kid and played in bands growing up, but I wanted to be part of an industry. Actually, while I was at Middle Tennessee State, I tried getting into the songwriting program there but was denied by a certain professor. He actually told me I was not cut out to be a writer. Because of that I gave it up for a couple years after and it messed up my head until I realized I needed a second opinion.
MTMS: So once you moved to Nashville, what approach did you take?
Erik Dylan: I realized if I wanted to be a songwriter I had to be around other songwriters. So for seven years of trial and error, I learned about the industry and continued to try to be better. And seven years later, I got my first publishing deal.
MTMS: In those seven years, did you have a “big break moment”?
Erik Dylan: I am still looking for that, really. I am making a living off of it now and it is awesome, but we never know if it will always be this way. I worked full time for AT&T and played 200 open mics in 2011 while doing that. And Kip (Moore) saw me at one of those open mics, which is how I got my first meeting at Cornman and that is how I got my first publishing deal.
MTMS: That was my next question, the whole Kip Moore relationship that everyone is buzzing about. Can you talk about that?
Erik Dylan: He heard me at an open mic night from the speakers outside. He did not actually see me, he was walking by outside and heard my voice singing a song called “Marlena” that I wrote. He gave my wife his e-mail and told me to contact him because he had some people he wanted to introduce me to. So that was my break into music row.
MTMS: A lot of rumors have been swirling about Kip Moore’s new album and I know there is a song of yours that he did cut for it. Can you tell us anything about that?
Erik Dylan: I wrote a song called “Comeback Kid”. There are actually four writers that wrote it, Ross Copperman, Jeff Hyde, myself and Kip.
MTMS: The song was created in one day?
Erik Dylan: The bones of it had been there for awhile, but when you write a song you play with themes and titles. It was written for Kip but each of the writers related to the song from a different place with what the song means.
MTMS: What is your relationship to the song?
Erik Dylan: My wife worked a day job for seven years and as a songwriter there are times you question whether you are good enough or if it is all worth it. You need that someone there to support you. So the song in my mind was all about my wife because I was the Comeback Kid. Meanwhile, Kip is the Comeback Kid in a different way because he had his share of ups and downs and so many people told him he would not be a country music singer and look at him now.
MTMS: Besides the Kip cut, are there any other acts in Nashville that we will hear an Erik Dylan co-write on soon?
Erik Dylan: I do not know if they will make it onto albums, but I wrote a really great song with Eric Paslay that we hope will make it. Thompson Square also cut one of mine in November. I wrote Austin Webb’s song “Raise Em Up”. Chad Brownlee had a big hit in Canada with “Where The Party At” which I wrote and I actually released recently it as my first single.
MTMS: I saw the video for that recently, there were few fellow artists in it, no?
Erik Dylan: JT Hodges, Caitlyn Smith, Logan Mize, Jimmy Stanley, and Courtney Cole were all in it.
MTMS: Where was the video shot?
Erik Dylan: Tennessee Brew Works. Amazing beer, I freaking love that place. They donated the space for us and they may have even donated the beer for us that day too. Great guys run that place and I love it there.
MTMS: For those that do not know your music yet, what themes can the listener hear in Erik Dylan music?
Erik Dylan: I try to make it relatable to the listener. If I can get someone to relate the lyrics then I did my job. I think Springsteen did that to New Jersey and to the shore. I do not think I realized how much Springsteen really painted the picture of Jersey until I drove down there and paid the tolls and saw how life is there. I grew up in a farming community in Kansas and you will hear a lot of the blue collar and struggle in my music. Everyone likes to party and songs about girls, but if we just write songs about that we are not doing the Midwest or the US justice. I want people to feel things and that is what I love about “Comeback Kid” because people will relate to it for so many different reasons.
MTMS: One of the songs of yours that sticks out to me is “That Ain’t My Town”. Did you record that with the current state of country radio in mind?
Erik Dylan: I wrote that with Jeff Hyde and we were talking about where country is at right now. I love it where it is at in different ways, but I want more diversity in it. That is what I would want to change. I love party songs and girl songs, but country is so huge that we can have songs that talk about real things too. I wrote a song called “Colorblind” recently that is about real life issues happening around us. We need more songs about real issues.
MTMS: I am someone who cares most about the lyric and you seem to be someone who writes that way.
Erik Dylan: Well thank God for people like you! I do care a lot about that because I grew up listening to Steve Earle, Guy Clarke, Townes Van Zandt. It was all about telling a story in different ways. That is what the true masters do; it is about crafting a song and making art.
MTMS: Does attaining radio play mean a lot to you?
Erik Dylan: I feel blessed right now to be able to come into work and write songs. I want to make music organically and make songs that mean something. If I want to be a husband, a father, be on tour, and write songs all at the same time, the music needs to be about a representation of me and where I came from. If my music turns into radio play, that would be great, but I want people to parallel with my songs and be proud of it.
MTMS: Tell us about your publishing deal?
Erik Dylan: I am with Cornman Music which is owned by Brett James and is a co-venture with Warner-Chappell. They have been great. I came in as a songwriter who was writing more folk style songs and they have molded me into someone who can make modern country songs that can get airplay. The lyric was always there for me, but Brett just shoots straight and has helped me to a point where the lyrics and melodies combine. He has had 25 #1’s so he is an unbelievable mentor and person to be around. And here, as well as all of Nashville for that matter, I have noticed we celebrate each other’s hits and success. We are fans of each other and we take our turns.
MTMS: What does 2015 hold for Erik Dylan?
Erik Dylan: This month I have dedicated myself to writing and get in with all my ideas from the past few months. I will be writing songs with my friends here in Nashville. I am going out on tour with the Josh Abbott Band soon and there will be a lot more touring thereafter. I’m also writing a blue-collar type project called “Flattlands”. It is a record that reflects where I am from and I do not know if it will ever be heard on the radio, but it is not the reason I am writing it. We are getting some radio airplay with my new EP which was released. The coolest thing is my friends on Twitter and Facebook have grown so much. I think I started the year with maybe 100 followers. I have all these people that I recognize when I go to towns. I consider them my friends at this point. That is what is generating the most buzz because they want to hear what I am doing. If I can model my career after someone in current country it would be Eric Church. He started out grass roots and built fans that will follow him until he stops making music. I respect that and want to model my music the same way.
I want to thank Erik for spending some time with me and stay tuned to our site as we plan on keeping everyone up to date with his music and look forward to reviewing an Erik Dylan concert in 2015!