When Devin Dawson came to Nashville eight years ago, he didn’t arrive with much. Little more than a truck, a dream and a story to tell … but it’s proved to be enough.
Since then he’s seen the success every new artist hopes for, from major tours to self-penned songs that climb the country charts. Dawson scored a Platinum-certified hit with his first single, “All On Me,” and followed up with his sleek manifesto of a debut album, Dark Horse, staking out a lyrically-electrifying territory all his own. Recently topping the charts again as a featured artist alongside Lauren Alaina on HARDY’s “One Beer,” Dawson also co-wrote a GRAMMY-nominated song for Blake Shelton called “God’s Country,” which was awarded the coveted Single of the Year trophy from both the ACM and the CMA.
But he’s still got that truck, he’s still got that dream and that story to tell. And now he’s driving toward a new goal.
“I don’t think you ever really arrive,” says the California native and Warner Music Nashville/Atlantic Records hit maker. “And you can never put your feet up.”
Tapping the “go-and-get-it feeling” behind its lead track, “I Got a Truck,” Dawson’s latest release, The Pink Slip EP, is the work of a man who’s grown into success, seen the world, fallen in love and gotten the girl. Named for the optimistic freedom his old truck’s proof of ownership title always represented, the six-song project finds him building on the edgy confidence he pioneered with Dark Horse.
But where that set found Dawson prowling the shadows of his own stormy soul, The Pink Slip EP punches through the clouds. His new headspace is filled with hope, and he wants others to know the anything-is-possible truth he’s discovered. So back once again with producer Jay Joyce, the pair aimed for something happier overall but by no means less challenging.
“I want to be honest and vulnerable and take the next step, because I always want to be creating music that’s fresh and different from anything I’ve released before,” Dawson explains. “There are definitely vibes on this EP that I wouldn’t peg for myself, but I like the unexpected nature of doing things that people don’t see coming. I’m always trying to reinvent the wheel, every single day.”
Tracks like “Not On My Watch” are full of determined bravado, returning to the sonic strut of Dark Horse standouts like “Dip” as it alchemizes frustrated anger into stand-your-ground courage. And likewise, “Range Rover” matches its refined-but-playful beat with a wry lyrical eye roll, dropping into low gear for a torquey tuneup Dawson calls “the country version of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger.’”
However, the remaining songs capture his shifted attitude. With its sunny devotion and bouncing romantic pulse, “Whatever Forever Is” embodies the love that led Dawson to his October 2019 marriage. And the reassuring Caribbean flair of “Who’s Gonna Hold Ya” was inspired by a question of faithful fidelity from his new father-in-law.
Then on “He Loved Her,” Dawson embraces the simple building blocks of legacies that last. Using his grandfather as a model, Dawson built the technicolor anthem around a man who valued integrity and reliability but was most proud of loving his wife. “If I could be half of that when I’m done, I’ll be very happy,” he explains. “It’s pretty simple, down to the bare bones of humanity, and that’s what I want to have accomplished when I’m going down the other side.”
In the end, he’s the same artist who arrived in Nashville on a Dark Horse nearly a decade ago. He’s just not the same man.
“I will always be a dark horse, but I have come a long way from the person I was, and I understand more of what it means to be an artist,” Dawson says. “I used to write songs for me to get through something, but I have more people in mind now. So if you’re still in that place where you’re trying to get somewhere – if you’re still in that first quarter mile? Just know that if I can do it, you can do it.”
“I’m still in black and white,” he says with a smile. “But the background is a little brighter.”