When Dustin Lynch first began working on his fourth studio album, Tullahoma, out Friday (Jan. 17), he had no idea that it would become a full-circle moment.

"The inspiration of this album came from the idea that my producer Zach [Crowell] and I had to write and record all of our songs around this fictional character called 'The Small-Town Boy,'" Lynch tells The Boot. "I know who that guy is: It's a combination of my close friends and cousins that I hang out with. I know where he lives, what kind of truck he drives, and I know what kind of girl he dates."

By creating a character born partially out of his own experiences, Lynch found himself building a collection of songs that could have been the soundtrack of his own youth. "Every song we wrote and took to the studio was filtered through that lens," he says. "I realized pretty quickly that it was all pointing back to home."

"I think everybody has a place that made them who they are. I hope this record makes people look back on that, remember that, and remember those people that are part of their lives forever."

The place Lynch still calls home is Tullahoma, Tenn., a quaint city just over an hour south of Nashville. The 34-year-old country singer is at an age at which he's able to look back on his youth with a new perspective while still holding onto the magic of those sweet but fleeting moments.

"A lot of my songwriting comes from 17-, 18-year-old me, and where I was and what I was doing at that time. I still pull from those places, those objects and those emotions," Lynch notes. "We didn't set out to write an album about my hometown, but it ended up landing in Tullahoma because of that filter."

The creative catalyst of Tullahoma was the fiery small-town breakup anthem "Momma's House," which kicks off the 11-song record. Lynch says that as soon as he recorded it, the track unexpectedly caused a chain reaction.

"We knew that song was special," he explains. "There was a little buzz in town about it, and that doesn't happen a whole lot."

Chatter about the song and what Lynch had in mind for his new record quickly made its way into Nashville's writers rooms. Lynch and Crowell began building off of that buzz, compiling songs from some of Music City's biggest songwriters, including Rhett Akins, Old Dominion's Matt Ramsey, Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley, the late busbee, Dallas Davidson and more. Although the subject matter is personal for Lynch, he wanted the process to be as collaborative as possible.

"My close co-writing friends knew what we were trying to do," Lynch says. "I had a lot of success finding songs on this album this time around because I knew exactly what I was pointing at."

The record also features the standout track "Thinking 'Bout You," a fun collaboration with friend and former tourmate Lauren Alaina. Lynch says the choice to bring her on board for a duet was a natural one.

Dustin Lynch Tullahoma
BBR Music Group

"She was coming out each night to sing "Love Me or Leave Me Alone," [originally a duet with Little Big Town member Karen Fairchild], and that song became ruined because of her," he jokes. "We can't play it anymore 'cause me and the band are used to having her vocal on it, and when it's not there, it's just not the same. It's funny, because she's ruined the song for us, but it was there that I realized we had great chemistry."

With Tullahoma, Lynch takes his trademark sound that fans have connected with and pushes it further. Along with his hit singles "Ridin' Roads" and "Good Girl," he supplies listeners with nostalgic snapshots of love, growth and small-town dreams. From the sexy "Workin' on You" to the anthemic "Dirt Road," Lynch unloads an arsenal of irresistible, radio-ready hooks that still feel plenty authentic. The Tennessee native says that, at the end of the day, he simply hopes that fans will find their own stories weaved into the lyrics of Tullahoma each time they listen.

"I think they're going to see a sense of confidence, and this underlying theme of who I am as a guy, because every song points back to what made me me," Lynch says. "I think everybody has a place that made them who they are. I hope this record makes people look back on that, remember that, and remember those people that are part of their lives forever."

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