When Dan + Shay were brainstorming titles for their sophomore release, one word kept appearing throughout their social media accounts: obsessed. Upon the release of the album's lead single, "From the Ground Up," fans kept using the hashtag #obsessed to describe the song. So, Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney decided Obsessed was the perfect title.

Obsessed is the follow-up to the duo's 2014 debut, Where It All Began. Since their first release, Dan + Shay have seen their fans with their song lyrics tattooed on their bodies, and the songwriters say it was important to pay tribute to their fans by releasing the best music they could.

"We want to stay true to what got us here in the first place, and not alienate our fans and the sound that we created on the first album," Smyers tells Taste of Country at the Warner Bros. offices. "We owe it to our fans. We put out 12 songs on Where It All Began and we owe it to our fans to deliver and step it up and beat every single one of those songs for the rest of our career."

We're not alienating our fans that fell in love with the first record, but it is definitely a step forward.

Smyers and Mooney say Obsessed is a step up musically, as they've gotten better as songwriters and decided to push the envelope by recording with a horn section on the title track. "Obsessed" features legendary musician Jim Horn, who has played with Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney and Elton John. The guys call the song Dan + Shay 2.0.

"It was something new for us, and kind of a next step," Mooney confesses.
"We're really excited about the direction. We feel like it was the best representation of Dan + Shay, the next step. We're not alienating our fans that fell in love with the first record, but it is definitely a step forward."

While the fun, up-tempo sides of Dan + Shay still remain on Obsessed, they also show their depth on songs like the poignant "How Not To" and the heartbreaking "Lipstick." "How Not To" is one of two outside cuts on the album,  and "Lipstick" is the first time the duo wrote a song from a third person perspective. The song tells the story of a girl getting over a breakup by attempting to go out on another date. "Even though she knows that ain't gonna fix it, she's putting on her lipstick," they sing.

"We fell in love with country music because of the storytelling, the emotion and the connection," Smyers explains. "It's why we moved to town. We still drive down Music Row and get nostalgic and think about songs like 'There Goes My Life' by Kenny Chesney, and just these pieces where you really fall in love with the lyrics of the tune."

Coming into their second record with such a strong fan base, Dan + Shay say they wrote each song with their fans in mind as they dug deep into each lyric and fought for every line in order to connect with the listener. One of those examples is the heartfelt first single "From the Ground Up," which they say is the most honest song on the album. So honest, in fact, that Smyers admits he was scared to put it out to radio.

We had a lot of fun making the album, and I think you can tell when you're listening to it front to back.

A song that began from a conversation between the two bandmates about their grandparents, who were married for 65 years, "From the Ground Up" pays homage to their family and long lasting love.

"It was so personal and it's such a vulnerable moment," Smyers says. "All the stories in that song are real. All those visuals. Every time we listen to it now I go back to my grandparents' house and seeing them, and seeing our parents and the love that they shared. Putting that out there is like, 'Man, what if people don't like it? That's gonna hurt.'"

Luckily for Dan + Shay, that didn't happen.

"Everyone's been so receptive," he concedes. "We had a lot of fun making the album, and I think you can tell when you're listening to it front to back. You can tell there was this enjoyment."

Dan + Shay's Obsessed is out now.

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