Songwriter and artist Erik Dylan isn’t one to take things for granted. A force in his own right, Dylan has also become a favorite among fans of Kip Moore, with whom he penned the cult favorite “Comeback Kid,” or Chad Brownlee, who released Dylan’s “Where The Party At.”
Like Brownlee and Moore, Dylan is an artist with something to say, sometimes leaning towards the rock side with slightly huskier vocal tone, and sometimes stripped to raw instrumentals to reveal the power of the song. Though some of his music fits well with the party-vibe popular at radio, it retains a sense of artistry, while staying true to Dylan’s Kansas roots.
“One thing that does bug me about some of the songs that I hear on the radio, the shiny jacked up trucks and the bikini babes in the bed of the truck and it’s always a party, there’s always a keg flowing and you’re riding down a dirt road,” Dylan says. “I wish that Kansas was like that when I grew up, I really do! It would have been amazing if every weekend we had girls in bikinis and we could all afford a $40,000 pickup truck that was lifted to the sky. We couldn’t do that, it doesn’t happen.”
“I think we need to focus on writing songs that don’t alienate the people we’re writing about,” he continues. “We do have fun, we drink beer, we drive dirt roads, all of that stuff is real and I remember doing it. But I also remember the struggle, and people being laid off, factories getting shut down, droughts, and babies, and getting married, and all these sections of your life that kind get forgotten.”
“It’s not all about the party or the meeting the girl or the one night stand that I wanna hear about, I wanna hear about the rest of the story.”
“That’s what I love about country too,” he says. “I love those stories that make the day job that you might not love have purpose. Like we don’t wanna work at a factory, I mean maybe it’s a dirty job and that’s just how you feed your family, but when you hear a song on the radio that takes a guy or a girl that works in a place like that and makes them feel like they’re doing something with purpose, that’s what I’d like to write. Like “Comeback Kid” that I wrote with Kip, that’s kind of a way of telling the girl, ‘Thank you for believing in me through all those years, when I was struggling’ and saying, ‘I’m still gonna struggle, and don’t ever give up on me.’”
Dylan’s desire to tell that other side of the story has led him to recently refocus his sound. Songs like “Experts on Sin,” a Doug Anderson co-write, is an anthem to imperfection, while “Bad Way To Go,” which he wrote with Caitlyn Smith and James Slater, hits the sweet spot between heart-wrenching, beautiful, and calming, making peace with death and laying a sonic bouquet of flowers on a fear of the unknown put to rest.
“I wanna write the songs that people respected me for and signed me for and not chase what’s going on anymore,” Dylan says. He’s published by Cornman, Brett James’ publishing company, which also publishes Kip Moore. “I think a hit song’s a hit song but there’s certain artists that’s out there – and Kip’s one of them, [Eric] Paslay, Eric Church, Randy Montana – they’re doing exactly what feels right to them and it might not sound like the hits that are on the radio, but they become hits because people realize it’s real.”
“I just think we need to continue to stay real and true to ourselves. I love playing these cities I’ve never been to and seeing what I connect with and seeing what someone says after a show, and I’m noticing they’re usually the songs I love the most that they connect to, and the songs that just sound like fun party songs, they might’ve had fun listening to but they’re not the ones they took with them when they left.”
Connecting with listeners is incredibly important to Dylan, and something that he does quite well, with a fan community that’s exceptionally advocative of him.
“I think it’s a beautiful time to be out on the road really learning who you are, and it’s made me more aware of what I wanna do for a living, as a writer and an artist,” he says.
“If I drive 10 hours in one direction to play 45 minutes and then drive 10 hours back that night to get back to my family, those 45 minutes have to matter, like I can’t play a song just because I feel like it might be a hit.”