Dan Smalley Says Watching Ashley McBryde's Success Has Been 'a Dream Come True as a Friend' (Exclusive)

New artist Dan Smalley just released his first EP, If I'm Being Honest, but he already has a big songwriting credit to his name, having helped pen a track on Ashley McBryde's new album, Never Will. Smalley co-wrote "Velvet Red" with McBryde and Patrick Savage, and is friends with McBryde as well as a songwriting partner.

"It's been so much fun to watch her get launched into the stratosphere and she's a monster artist," Smalley told PopCulture.com. "She's an amazing person. All of it, to me, is well deserved. She deserves every bit of accolades, every one of the awards. She deserves all that stuff, the world, because she is that person. She's amazing. And getting to watch her rise to the top of country music has been a dream come true as a friend."

This year, McBryde had invited Smalley out on the road to open for her for three dates in March and April, though the March shows ultimately didn't happen due to the coronavirus pandemic and the April date is also likely to be affected. Smalley shared that he got the invitation from McBryde earlier this year, adding that the ACM winner is "a friend first." "When I talked to her in January right after the break and she let me know that she was inviting me out on her tour, I was just blown away," he said. "I mean, this is dream come true stuff."

Smalley and McBryde have now known each other for years and wrote "Velvet Red" back in 2016, when Smalley wasn't sure it would ever be recorded. "When I found out she was going to put it on her new record, it floored me," he said. "I was completely blown away. It was one of those songs where the plot of the song is not the kind of song that you just write and you say, 'That's going to be a cut.' It's one of those songs where you're like, 'I'm so happy we wrote that song. Probably won't be a cut but it's a very cool idea. It's a very cool story. The melody is beautiful.' And it was just left at that. And then, here it is, 2020. It's kind of mind-blowing."

"Velvet Red," which is named after a wine McBryde drank as a teenager, tells the story of two lovers fighting class dynamics set to bluegrass instrumentation and recorded in an old-timey fuzzy style. "'What if we could write a bluegrass-style song, and what if that was homemade wine, and what if it was across class boundaries or racial boundaries or whatever it is?'" McBryde told Rolling Stone of writing the song. "'If we’re gonna make it traditional, then it needs to be about sex out of wedlock, which hopefully results in a child.'"

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Both McBryde and Smalley's music is rooted in storytelling, and Smalley shared that he's hoping to follow in his friend's footsteps "and be another artist for people to look at and gravitate to for some real music if they need that little bit of hope in life," or, simply, "if they need to groove."

Photo Credit: Getty / Danielle Del Valle