The lyrics of “Made To Be A Country Boy,” the debut single from Dillon Carmichael are ones that, while are simple, definitely have a lot of meaning. What is being a “Country Boy” to him? “It’s something that is in your heart and soul. It’s not something that’s not about material objects. It’s a way of life – not one that is any better than anybody else’s, but I think it’s all about being proud of where you come from – whether it be your city, state, or country.”
The heartfelt sentiments are ones that Carmichael knows all too well, as it describes his own hometown – in the heart of metropolitan Mercer County, Kentucky. “I grew up on the lake which was created as a hydro-electric energy plant in a town called Burgin, Kentucky. The population has grown over the years to a whopping one thousand.” The town – at the intersection of Kentucky State Routes 33 and 152 – lives up to his description. “It’s a lake town, and everyone there works at the power plant. The school is there all in one building – from kindergarten all the way to twelfth grade. There was a baseball team and a softball team, but not enough to field a football team,” he says with a smile.
Music was a part of his growing up experience, as his father and uncles performed in a Southern Gospel Quartet, and his mother also sang around the area. Her brothers – future Country superstars John Michael and Eddie Montgomery – also made a name for themselves performing around the Eastern Kentucky area, as well. Dillon says that as much as it was a part of his surroundings, it was sure to rub off on him. “I knew eventually that it was something I was going to want on my own at some point, and I fell in love with it too.”
In 2012, Dillon – who also cited Vern Gosdin, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard as influences – decided to roll the dice, and haul himself and his belongings down Interstate 65 to move to Nashville. He says it took some getting used to.
“It was difficult being away from home at first. I had never been anywhere outside of my hometown,” he confessed, also admitting that the deep talent pool of Davidson County was a more than a little bit intimidating. “I jumped head-first into writing songs,” he recalled. “I didn’t dabble as much into the live show and being on stage as much as I did the writing at first. I think for my age group, I was always one step ahead of the writing, and one step behind in the performance game. That’s something that I was very overwhelmed by – was how good the singers and guitar players were. In a way, I still am. It’s just about doing the best that you can.”
Over time, he began to hone his writing skills, thanks to those who he collaborated with. “Co-writing was a big turning point for me. I got offered a publishing deal when I was seventeen. They started booking me with writers who already had success before. I started to learn with each appointment, and it changed everything for me. I began to see how they put their melodies together with the lyrics, and how they generated ideas.”
“Made To Be A Country Boy” is the first single from Dillon, and one that teamed him up with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Strurgill Simpson). He says that Cobb allowed him to approach recording the old-fashioned way, which he prefers. “I prefer having a live band in the studio rather than bringing in just one instrument at a time to record a part. Sometimes, you’ll go back and you will hear something that might not be right the first time. Being in the studio is one of my favorite parts of the creative experience.
Cobb also steered the ship for Dillon’s debut full-length album, and there’s not a better producer anywhere. “Dave is great, and very authentic. He’s a musical genius. He understands so many different types of music, and is also such a great guitar player. It’s important for me to be working with people who are just good and authentic people. I think that translates into the music, as well.”
Another track from the album that Dillon Carmichael is excited for fans to hear is “It’s Simple,” which is a tribute to the little things in life – which all too often are the biggest. “I wrote that with three other guys who were from rural areas, and we were talking about how life was just so simple and how the people there like it. You go to work, come home, grill out with the family, and the lyrics are ‘Love is for making. Kids are for raising. Home is that place in your heart,’ and the concept is that no matter where you go, home is the place in your heart – which for me is always going to be Kentucky. It’s a story about the old man next door who tells you that life is simple, and you shouldn’t overthink it.”
With stardom just around the corner in 2018, just how does Dillon Carmichael quantify success? “The Opry is a big thing to me. That’s always been a goal of mine. I think that success is moving forward. I think that achieving your goals is something that is never ending. I’d like to have a number one on the charts, and, of course, sell a million records. I’d like to play Rupp Arena in Lexington, as well as the FFA National Convention. I grew up going to that, and I remember seeing acts like Craig Morgan play it.” At the end of the day, Dillon Carmichael says he just wants to aim for the stars – and keep aiming. “I think that the biggest mark of success to me, is just achieving your goals – and setting new ones. I don’t think that ever stops.”