It’s been a whirlwind year for singer-songwriter Devin Dawson. The Orangevale native saw one of his songs featured on the soundtrack of the movie “The Shack,” and his first single — the bouncy, catchy “All On Me” — land on Billboard’s Country chart.
He had his debut at the Grand Ole Opry and toured with singer-songwriter Maren Morris.
And now, he’s about to visit home — as the opening act for five stops on Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul World Tour.
Dawson is thrilled and grateful for the chance to perform with the country superstars.
“That means a lot as a new artist to have people believe in you,” he said — especially because he’s still working on his debut album, which will be released early next year. “To have those people be Tim McGraw and Faith Hill is pretty nuts.”
Playing a big show in Sacramento with his family and friends in attendance was on his bucket list, he said. He never expected it to come so early in his career.
Dawson grew up in the Sacramento area, just a few miles from Folsom State Prison. He counts Johnny Cash as one of the “three Johns” who have influenced his growth as a musician — and a tendency to wear a lot of black, he said with a laugh.
He didn’t realize how much of an influence Cash was on his musical background until he moved to Nashville, he said.
“You’re so close to something you don’t have the perspective to realize how cool it is,” he said.
The other two Johns are John Mayer and John Fogerty, Dawson said, singing a line from “Stuck in Lodi” for the News-Sentinel.
“I know every single one of those songs,” he said of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
All three musicians have signature sounds that blend rock, country and blues, though each one focuses on a different aspect, he said. And all three are lyricists, which is where Dawson’s own talents lie.
Dawson and his twin brother Jacob were once part of a metal band with a couple of friends from school. The band had a decent following on the West Coast and even got signed.
But after a while, the band no longer fit.
“I think it was just a matter of me growing out of that kind of music,” Dawson said. It wasn’t fulfilling anymore.
So he moved to Nashville for college and began working as a songwriter with artists there, as did his brother, who is still a producer and songwriter.
But that, too, wasn’t enough. He missed performing, he said.
“It felt like a really natural progression,” Dawson said.
Now, he’s writing songs for himself instead of other performers, and he’s thrilled to see “All On Me” doing so well.
“That’s my first single ever as an artist, you know? That’s a big deal,” he said.
A lot of artists don’t get noticed right away, he said. He and his team put a lot of work into writing and recording the song, as well as visiting radio stations to get it on the air, but they didn’t expect the payoff to be so big or so immediate.
The song hit the top 3 on Spotify’s U.S. Viral Chart, and landed on Billboard’s Country chart at 47 — so far. Dawson has been named a rising star to watch by Rolling Stone, CMT and Entertainment Weekly.
In the space of a week, Dawson shot the video for “All On Me,” had his TV debut on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and his debut at the Grand Ole Opry — though that last almost didn’t happen.
After filming with Seth Meyers, Dawson and his team got stuck at the airport in New York for hours. They pushed back his set time at the Opry and almost canceled, but Dawson decided to just go for it without rehearsing.
“The Opry band is the best band in the world,” he said. Even without the rehearsal, it went well.
That was a huge moment for him, because the Grand Ole Opry is a rite of passage for country musicians, he said.
“It was a crazy night. That whole week was probably honestly the best week of my life,” Dawson said.
And now he’s on tour with McGraw and Hill. Aside from the stop in Sacramento, he’ll be playing in San Jose, Denver — twice — and Little Rock, Ark.
It’ll be a busy week, but he’s hoping to spend a little time with family while he’s in Sacramento. They’re supposed to have a half-day off, he said.
Even though he’s barely had a chance to catch his breath in months, Dawson is having the time of his life and looking forward to getting his debut album out.
“Life is good. It’s just insane to be able to be doing this, and I get to do it for a living,” he said.