TULLAHOMA, Tenn. — Country music singer Dustin Lynch performed to a sold-out, hometown crowd Tuesday night, Dec. 1, and local charities reaped the benefits.
Lynch, a Tullahoma native, split $18,000 raised at the benefit between two local charities: Northgate Mall’s “Trees of Christmas” program, which provides Christmas gifts for over 60 underprivileged teens and young adults; and the Coffee County Community Advisory Board, which helps provide for the needs of the 80 foster kids in the county.
Lynch said that it was “awesome” to be able to come back to Tullahoma to perform.
“It’s all for the kids,” he said. “It’s great to come home. This time of year we’re winding down and not touring as much and this show signifies the holiday season for me, my crew and band. It’s great to come back and raise some money and awareness for these kids.”
Of the amount raised, $9,000 was given to the Trees of Christmas.
Lynch said that the Trees of Christmas helps underprivileged teens who would have a minimal Christmas or “maybe not even have a Christmas at all.”
He said, “What I think is nice about this program is that names of these teens are gathered through guidance counselors at the schools. So that makes me feel real comfortable that it’s going to the right spot.”
“We are very grateful and are honored that Dustin would choose us as one of his two gift recipients,” said Michelle Keller with Northgate Mall, director of the Trees of Christmas program.
“His concert was awesome and his giving heart has greatly benefited this community. What a night.”
The other $9,000 was given to the foster children of Coffee County through the Coffee County Community Advisory Board.
“That charity provides for Coffee County’s foster children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and are now in state custody,” he said.
Evelyn Curlee, treasurer of the Coffee County Community Advisory Board, thanked Dustin for hosting the event.
“Thank you, Dustin, for hosting this special benefit show and remembering Coffee County’s foster children. It means so, so much.”
“This event is great, not only raising money for these kids to give them a Christmas, but to raise awareness,” Lynch said prior to the concert.
“Growing up here, I didn’t even realize those organizations were even around so I think having this platform is cool to put them on a pedestal and raise awareness for them tonight.”
Lynch said that at least 750 tickets were sold.
“Tickets were gone the first day, really within the first hour. It’s fun because we do a (ticket) release to the high school, to the kids first. Because I could, and I wanted them to have a chance to get them first,” said Lynch. “They don’t necessarily have the means to go out to a bank in the middle of the day and buy a ticket. Then like everybody has said, it takes about an hour for the rest to sell out.”
The special acoustic, in-the-round-style concert featured Lynch performing his chart-topping hits, including “Where It’s At,” “Hell Of A Night” and more.
This year, Lynch teamed with songwriters Matt Jenkins (Keith Urban’s “Cop Car,” Lynch’s “Where It’s At”), Lee Thomas Miller (Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This,” Jamey Johnson’s “In Color”), Tim Nichols (Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.)
Lynch also invited country music newcomer Tyler Rich to open the concert.
In an interview before the show, Lynch said this year’s event was a little different from the previous year.
“We wanted to give the crowd a little bit more of a show. A new artist that I’m working with, Tyler Rich, from California, he’s out on the Hell of a Night tour right now, opening for me,” said Lynch. “I came across him in California and he’s moved to Nashville. He and I have been writing and recording new stuff together for his debut so he’s got a big future ahead of him. I’m really glad to have him.”
Lynch said the inspiration for inviting the songwriters to the benefit concert was inspired by a trip in Nashville.
“I love the Bluebird Café, up in Nashville, and I love the creative songwriting community in the city and the songwriter round. They sit in a circle there, and we set up in a row to include the audience. It’ll be songwriters in a row tonight.”
He said that anyone can listen to the songs on the record, iTunes, or on the radio, but they usually don’t have background information about how the song came to be.
“You never get to hear the story on why a songwriter wrote a song or why an artist recorded it, so I think that brings a level of uniqueness to the show.”
He said he is a fan of all the songwriters who were on stage with him.
“I don’t know the stories they’ll tell either, so it’s a lot of fun for me as well,” he said.
He said that what he loves most about bringing in songwriters to the benefit concert is the special guests are never announced until he walks on the stage and announces them.
“And that keeps it fun for everyone, even for my crew. My crew doesn’t know who is here. We come down in separate buses, keep everybody like quarantined, and they know what to set up for, but they don’t have a clue as to who’s coming out on stage,” said Lynch.
He cited artists such as George Strait, Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, who inspired him to go into country music.
“I’ve got a lot of favorite country music artists. I grew up listening to country radio, you know, that’s what my parents listened to. We always had on country music in the car or the house,” said Lynch.
Lynch never thought he would be compared to the country artists he grew up listening to.
“I’m around all these people every day now. And they’re the reason I’m in country music; they’re still viable and doing it. It’s been really bizarre in a way to now consider them normal people in my life. It’s been a really interesting and neat process.”
He said that now he has “a lot to live up to.”
“I’m still getting started. I’m a brand new artist and I’m having a lot of success right now. But those guys have been around for three decades. We’re still working on our first half of a decade. I got a long ways to go.”
Lynch said that he was looking forward to touring again with artist Luke Bryan.
“We did the Kick the Dust Up tour in 2015. For him to like us enough to invite us back out again, it’s a great tip of the hat. He’s at the top, on the throne in country music. And to have that endorsement is incredible.”
He said that while touring, he and Bryan have become “great buds.”
Rolling Stone has coined Lynch as Luke Bryan’s “possible heir apparent,” and Billboard named him one of the “Young Guns” leading country music’s changing of the guard.
“(Luke Bryan) is like a big brother to me. We’ve played in front of a million and a half people already, and it’s just unbelievable to be a part of a tour that big, to play the venues we play, in front of that many new faces. As a young artist, you can’t put a price tag on that,” said Lynch. “It’s very surprising, in a great way, that he would want us back out again. We’re really excited to go out there to that many more new faces in 2016.”
Lynch said that no matter how big this event gets, the key is to keep the kids and the charities in mind.
“I don’t ever want this event to become about me or about who’s on stage or about any investor in town. I want every dollar that comes in the door to go to charities,” he said, adding that he hopes Tullahoma will invite him back next year. “This is something we want to continue to grow; this venue is perfect for us. We’ve clearly outgrown it since day one, but it’s great.”
There were 38 sponsors for the benefit concert event.
For more information about Trees of Christmas, contact Keller at (931) 455-6668.
For more information about the Coffee County Community Advisory Board, contact Curlee at (931) 247-5040.
—By Jacqui Atkielski, Tullahoma News Staff Writer. Additional information from press releases. Jacqui Atkielski can be contacted via email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.