There are certain inescapable touchstones for modern musicians, and almost anyone who commits to a vocal harmony in 2018 probably owes a debt of gratitude to the Beach Boys. Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay is no exception, which is why he released the isolated vocal tracks from his duo’s latest singles, “Tequila” and “Speechless.”
“Tequila,” in particular — a song that went to Number One on the Country Airplay chart earlier this year — takes on a ghostly, ruminative quality, stripped of its sweeping production and pared down to a warm, crackling fireside confessional reminiscent of Bon Iver’s impressionistic “Woods.” While “Tequila” almost feels like another song from the original, it’s almost impossible not to hear the familiar swing of “Speechless” — released earlier this week as a single — although singer Shay Mooney’s layered inflection and phrasing pop in a different, more expressive way without the full-band production surrounding him.
Smyers took to Twitter to explain the thinking behind releasing the raw vocal tracks. He says he was inspired by the four-CD Pet Sounds Sessions box set, a 30th anniversary reissue of the Beach Boys’ 1966 classic and what Smyers calls “one of my favorite records of all time.” One of the CDs on that collection features isolated vocal tracks, which Smyers says he spent months studying. “The fact that their a cappella tracks are available for listening made me want to release ours to the fans who like to dig deeper,” he writes. “And I hope, that maybe someday, they might inspire a young singer or producer, like myself, to create something special.”
“Tequila” and “Speechless” both appear on the duo’s self-titled third album, which Smyers co-produced with Scott Hendricks. Dan + Shay play the Ruff Mortgage Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana, tonight, August 9th. On Tuesday, August 14th, they’ll host a special “Tequila Tuesday” on Music Row and donate proceeds to Musicians on Call.