By Maxim Mower
When you first hear Dylan Gossett's strong, direct vocals and his stripped-back, rough-around-the edges production style, it would be easy to dismissively label him as one of the many Zach Bryan imitators to have emerged in the past year or so.
However, to do so would be a lazy and unwarranted conflation. Although Dylan's sound undoubtedly draws inspiration from the harmonica-infused, fiddle-driven and purposefully lo-fi feel of Zach's chart-topping aesthetic, the Texas prodigy is intentionally - and successfully - carving out a sonic path that feels unique and authentic to him.
This is captured throughout Dylan Gossett's newly released No Better Time EP, which finds the singer-songwriter deftly flitting between the twitchy angst of his viral hit, ‘Coal’, and the gentle, peaceful buoyancy and rose-tinted optimism of ‘Beneath Oak Trees’.
It's arguably this sense of welcome contentment that sets Dylan Gossett apart from his peers. Although it was the frustration of ‘Coal’ that propelled him into the spotlight, his music often imparts an endearing feeling of ease and equanimity.
That's not to say Dylan's lyricism is uncomplicated, because this comforting warmth often arrives in the midst of existential turbulence and anxieties, epitomised by the EP's motivational title-track (“Cause sweat on your skin's better than regret on your heart”).
Speaking to Dylan Gossett on the eve of the release of No Better Time, it's evident that this underlying optimism flows naturally out of him in the writing room, “I don't know if it's something I do on purpose. It might be the way that I play it and the kind of the energy that I sing it with...Funnily enough, ‘Lone Ole Cowboy’ is a murder ballad, but I was talking to some people that said it's one of the happier sounding murder ballads they've ever heard, as it has some major chords and it starts in C”.
In addition to this serenity that's somewhat atypical of Dylan Gossett's sub-genre, there's a captivating honesty and rawness that pervades the 24-year-old's music.
The intimacy he engenders through his vulnerable lyricism is a quality that's come with time, “I would say I truly started finding my groove and how I liked writing in late college...Now, [songwriting] helps me organise my mind and how I'm feeling”.
When releasing music to a small, tight-knit community of fans, this openness would seemingly be easier to achieve, but continuing to bare one's soul for a quickly expanding listenership inevitably adds an extra level of pressure to any artist.
This is something Dylan Gossett is aware of, but does not feel too troubled by for the time being, “For me, I think it kind of relieves some pressure. This is something I've always wanted to do my whole life. I've just released a EP that is very personal to me, and they're my stories and my lyrics...At the end of the day, I just love making music. I'm already blessed enough to have people listening to it”.
The earthy, stripped-back and no-frills feel of his sound is reflected in Dylan's appreciation for the simple things in life. Given the fact that the singer-songwriter's meteoric ascent is showing no signs of slowing down, it'll no doubt be a challenge to avoid getting caught up in the business and hurry that goes hand in hand with a touring artists’ life.
However, for Dylan Gossett, although he's chasing down his dream, his family remains his priority, “My wife is always with me every step of the way, and I don't even know what I'd be doing without her, honestly. We got married this February, and it's just been such an insane ride since then. I like to think I'm still a very grounded person - that's how I was brought up with my family and my faith, so I really don't see that changing”.
This mindset born from Dylan Gossett's childhood in Austin, Texas clearly colours his mentality looking ahead to the future, as he humbly explains what a ‘successful’ career looks like to him, “I just want to be playing music for as many people as I can, and making a living out of it. If I still love doing it, and my wife's happy, my family's good and I'm making music - that's really all I can ask for...I already feel so blessed for what I'm able to do. I'm able to put out music and do this as like a career right now, which I never thought would be possible for me”.
As for more concrete objectives, one venue in particular is high up on Dylan's bucket-list, “Something I know I want to do one day is selling out a headlining Red Rocks show. Ever since I saw Mumford & Sons play ‘I Will Wait’ there on YouTube, I was like, ‘That's it. That's the goal’...That's going to be a crazy moment if we ever get to do that”.
With the speed at which Dylan Gossett's fanbase is currently growing, it seems headlining the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado is not as lofty and distant a prospect as he suggests.
But even when Dylan does scale those heights, it's refreshingly evident that the man behind No Better Time will always, at heart, be the protagonist from ‘Beneath Oak Trees’, contentedly strumming his beloved guitar beside his wife on a bucolic carpet of green leaves.
In addition, Dylan delved into the inspiration behind a number of songs from the new EP, his upcoming debut album, his primary musical influences and more.
“‘Coal’s a very personal song. It's funny because sometimes I'll see comments saying I look like a happy guy - and I am, I'm a goofy, happy dude. But at that point in my life, about two and a half years ago, I just felt like I was stuck in a rut, where nothing was really working. I was just throwing stuff at the wall, and nothing would stick. I started it with the main line, ‘If pressure makes diamonds / How the hell am I still coal?’ And then the rest of the song came in 20-25 minutes”.
“I love songs like ‘Big Iron’ [by Marty Robbins], and also Colter Wall and his whole thing...I've always loved writing stories, songs that have a start and an end. There'll be many more of those...‘Lone Ole Cowboy’ was a pretty quick one to write, because I saw the story play out like a movie in my head, and then just detailed it”.
“My very first influence was Ed Sheeran. That's the reason why I play. He was the best when I heard him in Middle School or Elementary...Mumford & Sons were also massive for me, just the energy they brought. Nowadays, it's Shane Smith and The Saints - that's one of my favourite bands. ‘Hummingbird’ was my wife and I's first dance”.
“We're setting up some headline shows right now. Nothing's solidified, but we're getting a band together. We're going to hit the road. I 1000% have plans to go to places such as the UK and Australia... I have a strong fan base there right now. On my Spotify for Artists, one of my top cities in the world is Sydney, so I'm super excited to perform overseas”.
“The song idea really started from thinking there's literally no better time than now to try this music thing, like ‘Sweat on your skin is better than regret on your heart’. I don't want to be 10 years from now and think, ‘I could have done it, but I'll never know’...I was sitting in my living room with my wife and a couple of my buddies, and we were just brainstorming names for the EP. It was all made from my bedroom, so we said, ‘Should we call it ‘The Bedroom Tapes’’? And we were like, ‘No, that sounds an R&B record’. Then I was just like, ‘No Better Time’. It fits perfectly”.
“‘Singer-songwriter’ I think is the first step. Then there's roots of country, Texas country, folk and Americana...Then when you mix in Shane Smith and The Saints, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and Tyler Childers, you get this new sound that I've just loved my whole life”.
“It's very much in the works...I'm starting to record songs and building the band next month and going into Q1 next year. I can't wait for my debut album. I'm already planning the songs I want on it, and how I want it to look, sound and feel”.
“I play the entire EP, and then I also add a song called ‘Back 40’, which I'm really, really excited about and I'm going to record soon. I start with ‘To Be Free’, because it's the very first song I ever put out...Then I bounce around a little bit, play some harmonica on some songs and try to talk to the crowd and get comfortable. Then, of course, I end on ‘Coal’ and let people sing it back to me, which has been the craziest thing ever”.
“The obvious answer is ‘Coal’. When I'm hearing everybody scream it back, it is just the the best. It's insane. But my favourite song is ‘Lone Ole Cowboy’...It's fun to play and I really like telling the story...That one or maybe ‘Flip A Coin’, which is really stripped-back”.
“I wrote that song over two years...I had the ‘Let's flip a coin / Heads for North / Tails for South’ line, and I was like, ‘I can't think of a better song entrance’. Like, that's how you start a song....It's about just doing the little things that make you feel alive. I end it in a sad way, saying sometimes it feels like we're living just to die...But whether it's taking a walk, laying in bed or going on a random drive...[that song's about] the simple, mundane things that can become some of the best parts about living”.
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