Outsider A-Side: Dustin Herring Tells His Story on His New Album ‘Acquired Taste’

by Clayton Edwards
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(Photo credit: Kiki Hilton)

Heads up, country music fans, we’ve got an early release this week that you won’t want to miss. You may not know the name Dustin Herring yet, but you should. He broke into the world of country music back in 2015 with his debut record Geneva County. Then, a year later, he released his sophomore full-length The High I Crave. Since then, Herring has been writing songs, honing his craft, and playing hundreds of shows across the Southeast. Additionally, he released a handful of singles in anticipation of his third album, Acquired Taste.

Finally, the wait is over Acquired Taste is available on all streaming platforms. But, don’t let the album’s title fool you. Dustin Herring isn’t an acquired taste. If you love real, traditional-sounding country music you’re going to love this record. From heartfelt original songs to a Garth Brooks cover with a deep personal connection, Herring brought it all with this record.

Before Acquired Taste dropped, Outsider was able to talk to Dustin Herring about the new record, his road to the world of country music, and more.

Dustin Herring Started with 3 Chords & the Truth

Dustin Herring: I just grew up loving country music, singing along with the radio, and not knowing that a regular person could end up being a singer and songwriter. The first time I got introduced to a guitar was in college. I learned a few chords and you’d be surprised how many great country songs you can sing with just three chords.

It isn’t too long after you start playing songs that you think “I’m going to see if I can try to write one.” Once you get that bug in you – it’s something I knew immediately that it was something I was going to do for the rest of my life.

Magic Happens When You Least Expect It

Dustin Herring: You have to surround yourself with other great songwriters. Some days, you’re not the brainchild. Some days, one of your friend is the guy or girl who has a great idea. And, if you can help them get that out or put a twist on it, sometimes those are the best ones that you never saw coming.

A good example would be “Captain Morgan Monday Morning.” That wasn’t my idea, that was Steve O’Brien’s idea. We were writing with a younger up-and-coming country artist. He’s really big in the college scene, so you want songs that are going to get people moving and sell beer and get tickets sold.

Initially, that was supposed to be a fun drinking song. For some reason, that day I was just like “What if it’s not a fun song? What if we start off with this guy drinking every night? At a certain point, that’s not fun anymore. You can make an excuse every day except for that Monday morning.”

It’s little things like that that really turn me on as a songwriter. You can take a song and a story where you want to. That song is forever going to be burned into my head. I know exactly where we were when we wrote it, I know exactly when the tide shifted, so to speak. That moment when everybody’s eyes lit up like, “You know what? Maybe that’s what we’re going to do today instead.”

I hate that we didn’t get a song for the Hayden Coffman record, but we got one for mine.

Herring on His Traditional Country Sound

Dustin Herring: I like making music I can play anywhere. And I think my voice is such a traditional-sounding voice and my favorite genre growing up was 90s country, what would be called “real country” I guess. I could do modern country stuff, it’s just not believable when I do it. And I don’t think people really relate to those songs as much. I have a good time and have had great success writing songs for other artists that are able to do the newer style of country. That’s their niche.

At the end of the day, I had to look back and see what songs that I previously released were successful. It’s always the ones that are more traditional sounding and have more of the traditional production. All that goes back to the fact that it’s real.

“Alabama Clay”

Dustin Herring: Growing up, that was one of our favorite songs. My best friend growing up, he passed away in a car accident and that was the song that was used at the funeral. From there on out, when I played shows back home I’d hear, “You gotta play ‘Alabama Clay’ for us.” I always told them one day – especially Justin’s family – I told them one day when I figure stuff out up here I’m going to record that song. I ended up recording it as a Christmas gift and it was never supposed to go anywhere else. It was just personal for us.

I wanted to wait until I had my collection, my story, and that’s what this record is. I couldn’t think of a better position to put it than the first song on the record. It tells where it all started, the seed so to speak.

The Pandemic Allowed Dustin Herring to Slow Down

Dustin Herring: Because Nashville was shut down and I am not an inside person, I went back to Alabama. When I got back to Alabama, it gave me a second to breathe and slow down. I got to spend time with my family and my grandfather, people I’d been gone away from since I was 19. What little time I spent here wasn’t quality time. It was pass through, play a show, get breakfast with my grandfather, maybe play nine holes of golf, then head off to play another stage.

Being here grounded me and let me see what’s important. It let me say, “Okay, what do you want in life? Is it running these roads?” That quality time gave me such a different outlook on what’s important and what’s real. Sometimes, we get so caught up in this rat race that all we can think about is the next show when that’s not even what we really want. What we want is to connect with people. That’s where I was able to say, “Okay, if we’re going to do that we have to make a record. If we’re going to make a record we have to do it right.”

Advice for Aspiring Artists

Dustin Herring: I would say that you have to love this more than you love almost anything else in the world. Your faith and your family need to be above it, but other than that you’re going to dedicate so much of yourself to this. You’re going to give more of yourself to it than you’re ever going to get back. At the same time, you’re going to experience some of the best things in life and meet some of the best people in life. And, you’re going to get to help some of the best people.

I learn something every day writing songs. Every day, I’m just excited to be able to get up and share my gift. I know how blessed I am. With this, there’s a whole lot of heartache that comes too. That’s just part of it. The highs outweigh the lows. But, being a songwriter or a musician is a series of highs and a series of lows. You’ve just got to make sure you love it.

Just be prepared because it’s not going to happen overnight. The ride is the whole joy of it. I get to get up every day and play another stage, another state. What brings me joy is playing a song for somebody for the first time and having them come up to you afterward and say, “Hey man, that really got to me. I needed that.” That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

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