Devin Dawson's 2018 debut album Dark Horse was a pleasant surprise for country fans, as the Nashville-based singer-songwriter brought something different to the table—intricate, unexpected arrangements, hip-hop influences, and a melodic sensibility informed by modern rock. Dawson continues to surprise on The Pink Slip, a six-track EP that further establishes him as one of country music's more interesting wild cards. "Not on My Watch" almost leaves country behind entirely and channels '90s radio pop, while standout "I Got a Truck" returns to Dawson's roots and offers a fresh take on a familiar trope. Closing track "Who's Gonna Hold Ya" takes stock of life's more important priorities, ending the mostly playful EP on a thoughtful, hopeful note. Below, Dawson tells Apple Music how each of The Pink Slip's tracks came to life.
Range Rover "I wrote this one with Ben Rector and Mark Trussell. Mark says he has a single out with Billy Currington, and we're all joking, 'Oh, your girl's going to get a new car.' Mark was like, 'Yeah. She's talking about getting a Range Rover.' Ben and I didn't think she seemed like the kind of girl who'd like a Range Rover. She's not the stereotypical kind of trophy wife. We were looking at each other like, 'Should we write that? Is there a song in there?'"
I Got a Truck "I've had the same truck since I was 15 years old. It's in my driveway right now. The fuel's leaking and the transmission's out, but I can't let go of it. So I'd been wanting to write a song about it, but I couldn't figure out a way to do it that didn't seem so 'Truck Yeah.' So it actually came with a conversation I had with Tim McGraw. We'd been on tour with them, on the Soul2Soul Tour, which were some of the most amazing nights of my life so far. I got offstage and Tim McGraw is sitting in the hallway with his guitar player, Bobby. We started talking and he started telling me his story about how he got started. When he moved to Nashville he'd built up a good touring following and a good fanbase, but he needed somebody to believe in him. There was a guy in Nashville, a banker named Brian Williams, he's since passed away, but he was known for giving people a shot, if for whatever reason labels and publishers didn't believe in them yet. So he essentially gave Tim a loan. Tim had walked into the bank and more or less said, 'I have this shitty truck I can use as collateral,' and it was so inspiring to me because I also had that story. I knew exactly what that truck meant."
Not on My Watch "Sometimes it's a downfall of mine, but I also think it's an advantage that I come from so many different inspirations with the type of music I listen to. There's a lot of country, but there's also a lot of rock, a lot of R&B, a lot of soul, all of the things my mom introduced me to when I was a kid. I can't help but draw from that. I like to scare people. At least one time on each album, I want people to be like, 'Wow, he actually did that.'"
Whatever Forever Is "I wrote 'Whatever Forever Is' with Jordan Reynolds and Laura Veltz, two of my favorite songwriters. Laura was talking about how nobody really knows what forever means, but we all like to promise it to people. So it was this really big concept for me, because I had just gotten married. It's kind of like a cynic's love song, you know? Everyone throws around this word like they know exactly what it is. I've always said, 'I don't know what forever is,' but then you meet the person that you want to give forever to and it all makes sense.'"
He Loved Her "We were thinking about how we capture someone's life and honor their legacy. It doesn't have to be filled with spotlights and money and fame and fortune and acclaim and all that stuff, it can really be something as simple as loving the people around you in a way that lasts forever. I just thought about my grandfather and my dad and the kind of men they are, and I thought if I can be even half that I'll be happy."
Who's Gonna Hold Ya "I had just spent a lot of time with my wife's dad, and he is one of the most well-rounded men I've ever met. He gave a speech at our wedding that people still talk about. He's that guy. And he challenges me in ways, like with how he loves and his spirituality. I didn't grow up like that. My parents always wanted me to find my own definitions, whether it's politics or religion or love. But my wife, Leah, did grow up in the church and is very spiritual. It's easy for me to say I write songs and do all that, but it's more the bigger picture, about spreading love. So he said, 'I challenge you to think about who you'd be without [your career].'"