Dan + Shay aren’t just a country music duo, they’re truly best friends.
“We complement each other,” Dan Smyers told PEOPLE at the duo’s iHeartRadio album release party in New York City on Thursday night. “We’re very much the same and we have a lot of mutual interests but we’re also different and we balance each other out. I think that’s the beautiful thing about being in a duo. I can’t think about what we would fight about — something stupid probably, like whether we should have another Guinness or not.”
Shay Mooney calls his friendship with Smyers, 30, more of a brotherhood and admits that they feed off of each other’s energy and strengths. Although Mooney brings the powerhouse voice as the duo’s lead singer, Smyers brings the production skills, making their partnership unique because they feed off of the different “yin and yang” energy they each bring to the table.
“We complete the missing pieces that each other have and we’re able to bounce energy off of each other,” Mooney, 26, told PEOPLE. “If you’re by yourself and you’re traveling the world, it can get really tiring, but we get to do that with our best friends.”
The “19 You + Me” singers feel like they’ve finally found their authentic sound with their new record. As they told CMT host Cody Alan on stage on Thursday, their first two albums were more based on experimentation and seeing what the fans responded to. Even though they garnered a few No. 1 hits, like “From the Ground Up” and “Nothin’ Like You,” they felt like they were still trying to find a sound that they could own. With their most recent album, which is self-titled, they felt they finally struck that balance.
“We’re proud of all 11 songs on the record,” Smyers told PEOPLE. “That’s why we did a self-titled album. We finally figured out what we want to sound like — where we want to go.”
Originally the album was only supposed to have 10 songs and the two had submitted them all to their label, but ended up adding “Speechless” at the last minute. It’s one of the pair’s favorites because it describes the feeling they both had when they saw their wives Abby Law Smyers and Hannah Billingsley Mooney walk down the aisle on their wedding days.
The pair also approached powerhouse Kelly Clarkson to accompany them in a duet for the song “Keeping Score” on the album.
“She is one of the best singers on the planet,” Mooney said. “She was our first choice to be on that song. We knew we wanted to do a duet, so having her on it was just a dream collaboration for us. We have a lot of mutual friends and she hit back in like 30 minutes. She was so gracious to sing that and she did a crazy good job, so it was awesome for her to be on that track.”
The pair, who have recorded all three of their albums on a laptop, also enjoyed recording “All to Myself,” which originally began with a more electronic beat but quickly transformed into a Caribbean vibe with an acoustic guitar solo.
“It was the first song we put out after ‘Tequila’ so it was like the next representation of our album for our fans,” Smyers said. “It’s super fun to play live, super up-tempo, and a feel-good track, but it took a crazy spin from how we wrote the original demo.”
Their first single from the album “Tequila” currently has over 100 million streams, and the band just won their first-ever award at the CMT Music Awards. They recently made their debut on the main stage at CMA Fest, where they performed in front of 65,000 people in Nissan Stadium, and although it appears they’ve already solidified a spot in the country music scene, their main concern is staying humble and grateful to their fans.
“I think it’s really important to stay true to ourselves,” Mooney said.
Dan + Shay is available now.