Dan + Shay weren’t originally Dan + Shay. Sure, they were always Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney, but the singers reveal that folders holding their early demos came with a different vision.
The pair wanted to pay tribute to one of their favorite artists and influences: Tim McGraw. Fate — or casual common sense — intervened.
“We would always walk into these publishing houses in Nashville,” Smyers tells Taste of Country Nights Evan Paul, “and they would be like, ‘Gosh, Dan and Shay is here again.’ We were like, ‘We’ll just call ourselves that.'”
Those demos turned into their first album, and from there they dropped three more (and are working toward another), along with eight No. 1 hits, ACM and CMA Awards, etc. … In fact, a song called “You” was just released to country radio. Long story short, Dan + Shay worked out to be a great name, but what about that other idea?
“We had Ragtop Red,” Smyers says. “We loved Tim McGraw and it was like, ‘Red Ragtop, but what about Ragtop Red?'”
“It’s not as cool when we explain it out loud,” Mooney admits now.
“Red Ragtop” was a Top 5 hit for McGraw in 2002. It’s one of his most famous songs, in part because it touches on abortion in telling a story of love that never was. For that reason, the song was banned by some radio stations nationwide.
Smyers and Mooney say many of those early demos as Ragtop Red went on to become their first album, the Gold-certified Where It All Began album (2014). There is no merchandise or physical evidence of this time in the two friends’ lives, but that’s not to say there’s not evidence.
“There might be a Soundcloud,” Smyers admits. “I think I have a lock on it though.”
The internet never forgets:
As for the other part of Dan + Shay’s name, the pair say they opted for a “+” instead of an ampersand or the world “and” for a very specific reason. Early on, it drew some tough scrutiny, but they were always thinking big.
“The vision from day one was that, if someday we ever got to headline arenas, we’d have a “+” stage in the middle of the floor and make it do all kinds of crazy stuff,” Smyers said on Instagram in 2021. That dream finally paid off in 2021, as the pair completed a headlining tour first scheduled for 2020.
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