Tullahoma’s home-grown country music star Dustin Lynch received the honor of a lifetime and a “dream come true” when he was formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 18.
And soon, hometown fans will be able to offer their congratulations in person when Lynch returns to Tullahoma for another holiday charity concert.
Lynch, who made is Opry debut in 2012, said being invited to become an Opry member was a longtime dream of his.
“It was a dream come true,” he told The News on Tuesday. “That’s an honor and an accolade; a goal of mine, a dream of mine that really sits up there on top of the mountain.”
For Lynch, becoming the newest member of the Opry family is an honor he’ll never forget nor take for granted.
“Whenever I stack everything up that I want to achieve in my career,” he said, receiving the honor so early in his career is astounding.
“I feel like we still are the young kids on the block,” he said, “and for it to happen so quick is really cool.”
Lynch joins a family of fewer than 200 country music artists and is the 67th living member of the Opry.
“It’s a very prestigious, small group of entertainers that continue to honor country music, its legacy and where it came from and also push it forward to the world,” Lynch said of his newest family.
Being an Opry member only solidifies Lynch’s mission to reach more people through his music, and also gives him a boost to continue his career.
“It’s a big world out there, and our job is to carry on the traditions of country music and continue to introduce people to what it is,” he said.
Being a full member of the Opry isn’t so different from what Lynch has been doing for the past six years.
“As far as my duties, it’s kind of what it always has been for me: to show my support and love and be there and perform for the Opry and just be a role model,” he said.
The biggest difference, he said, comes in the form of carrying the weight of the Opry legacy.
“There is definitely a lot of weight that comes with [being inducted], as far as making sure I’m there to support it every night,” Lynch said.
It’s not all pressure and weight, however; it does come with some perks.
“I’ll be allowed to host a couple shows each year,” he said.
As if being a full member of the Opry wasn’t an honor of its own, Lynch was completely surprised when the person inducting him was none other than country superstar Reba McEntire.
McEntire is a legend in her own right, and one performer Lynch was star-struck to meet.
“I still can’t believe she took the time out of her life to come be there for me on that night and share a great memory with my family and friends,” he said. “It was a surprise. I had no idea she was going to come.”
Even though Lynch has reached the “top of the mountain” for most country music stars, there are still several things left to check off his to-do list.
Having the Opry designation only means he and his band will continue to light up stages around the country and reach more people.
“This just means we get to enjoy it a little bit longer,” Lynch said.
While Lynch has been nominated for several American Country and Academy of Country Music awards, he has his sights set on winning the crowning glory for both awards shows: Entertainer of the Year.
“That requires checking off a lot of goals along the way to get to that point,” he said. “We currently are putting on the best shows we absolutely can every night and are touring like crazy, and it’s growing.”
Lynch said his team’s efforts are steadily paying off, too, with “more and more fans” coming to shows.
“Our goal is to continue to do that,” Lynch said. “We’re having a nice, slow climb. It’s a sweet ride already, and hopefully they’ll have us around for a little bit longer.”
While Lynch is still riding the high from his Opry induction, one thing that won’t ever change is Lynch’s love for his hometown.
Lynch told The News he will be putting on his annual benefit concert inside the Tullahoma High School auditorium this year.
This year’s event will raise funds for two charities of Lynch’s choosing that benefit children in need in Tullahoma and Coffee County.
In the past, Lynch has called the benefit concert his favorite event of the year. The last four concerts have brought in around $70,000 and benefitted several children’s charities in the county, including The News’ Karing for Kids, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Works Inc., Horseplay Inc. and Toys for Tots, among others.
Lynch said this year’s show should still be in the same format as previous years, with Lynch joined by special guests that will be revealed during the night.
“We keep that a surprise every year for a few reasons,” Lynch said of keeping quiet about this year’s special guests. “It’s more fun that way, and it’s a such a commitment for folks to come down and do that; it makes it easier if we keep everybody surprised.”
The concerts traditionally take the form of a “writer’s round,” which is how Lynch began working in Nashville at the Bluebird Café, a country music songwriter’s favorite spot.
“It’s stripped down with me and a guitar and other artists and writers with their guitars just telling stories and cracking jokes in between songs,” Lynch said of the concert.
Keeping the show in the more intimate format allows audiences to hear different versions of their favorite songs.
“A lot of times you get to hear a different interpretation of that song that you’re used to hearing on the radio,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun for me.”
Also being kept secret are the two charities to receive the proceeds from the concert, which Lynch said he will reveal toward the end of the night.
A concert date and ticket sale information was not available by press time, but Lynch said an announcement would be coming from his camp “soon.”
Lynch also said he was excited to come back to town again and perform on his first stage again.
“I get really jazzed up [about it] because it’s my high school stage,” he said. “That’s the stage I set foot on for the very first time and performed … so jumping back on that stage means a lot.”
Even better is knowing he’s helping children in need in his hometown.
“It’s great to be a part of … the community that comes together and raises money and awareness for these charities,” he said. “We just get to be on stage and be a vehicle for that.”
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.