'Brothers' Dan + Shay on Their Decade-Long Friendship: 'We're Family at This Point'
As they release their fourth studio album, Good Things, Grammy-winning country duo Dan + Shay — Dan Smyers, 34, and Shay Mooney, 29 — discuss home improvement, their close bond and how they stayed creative during the pandemic.
You two had just kicked off your tour when the pandemic hit, but you still managed to turn things around and put together a new record.
Dan: Those first few months we were just like, "What are we doing? Are we still musicians?" Didn't know which way was up. And then we came to our senses. We texted each other like, "Yo dude, I miss you." We're best friends, outside of what we do musically. Shay came over the house, we hugged it out and then we sat down at the piano. And it was magic. It felt like the first night we met. When I heard him sing again, I was just blown away.
We were like, "You know what? Let's take advantage of this time. This is something that we may never have again." It allowed us to really leave no stone unturned. We hope that people can feel that — that we really poured ourselves into it.
Shay: We took our time just making the record that we wanted to make, and luckily, we did have that luxury. We're very, very proud of it. We're like, "Man, we really nailed this." Those are bold words, I think, from an artist. But even if we put this out and get a lot of hate, I would take to my grave that this is the best record we've ever made. Dan makes me sound good.
Dan: It doesn't take much to make him sound good.
Any unexpected inspirations for songs this time around?
Dan: I wrote the title "One Direction" down — I was looking at my dog Joy's face and it's turning white. Not to get too sad about it, but I was like, "Man, it's crazy that time moves left to right. You can't stop it. You can't slow it down."
Shay: When you know that you only have a certain amount of time, it makes everything matter more. For me, it's the little moments with my kids. You need to tell the people that you love, that you love them. I just love that sentiment. It just wraps up this album so perfectly. We don't live forever, but that's what makes all of this mean a lot more.
A lot of people learned new skills in quarantine. By the looks of your "Lying" video, you guys picked up dancing!
Dan: We've been lucky enough to check a lot of things off our bucket list. I was like, "You know what? We've got to do a dance video. Let's do it."
Shay: It's probably a good laugh for a lot of people.
Dan: I'm honestly the worst dancer of all time. I was in the room right above Shay at the hotel and he would hear tapping on the floor in the middle of the night. I'd be up there practicing. No shame!
What else did you get up to during the pandemic?
Dan: I would pace around my yard finding random projects. I was pulling weeds. I stained the fence, very poorly. I'm very frugal, and I couldn't bring myself to pay somebody to do it. It was absolutely terrible.
You finally got back onstage this summer. How did it feel?
Shay: I remember the roar of the crowd, and I got chills throughout my body. Dan and I looked at each other, and it was everything I could do not to get very emotional and cry. It truly was one of the greatest feelings that I've ever had. I've dreamt about it the whole year and it exceeded my dreams by a hundred million. I will be thankful until the day I die that we get to do this.
How has your friendship evolved over the past decade since you started making music together?
Shay: It's turned into more of a brother situation. We're family at this point. We work so well together because, in the best of ways, we couldn't be more opposite human beings. I'm a pretty optimistic guy, but I'm all over the place. Dan's a realist and he keeps me grounded. I make Dan have a little more fun than he normally would.
Dan: I can't even imagine being able to do this without Shay. It's just this intangible thing. The sum is bigger than the parts. That's something I'll never take for granted. The music industry is a giant emotional rollercoaster and it can take a toll on your mental health. There's no one who can truly relate to what you're going through. But we have each other.
Shay: We're still just a couple of idiots making music that we wrote and trying to bring a little bit of joy to the world.
For more from Dan + Shay, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.
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