(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that's happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
When an artist says he wants to be Garth Brooks when he grows up, my attention is piqued. So after I read that Dustin Lynch said that once he outgrew aspirations of being one of Santa's elves, he decided he wanted to be Brooks when he grew up, I wanted to know how that was going for him. "He was just an icon. He was my superhero," Lynch told Cowboys & Indians magazine about Brooks. Lynch has one hit under his belt ("Cowboys and Angels") and two other tunes that I'm loving ("Hurricane" and "Your Plan"). He started seriously playing guitar when he was a teenager and made the hour-long drive from his hometown to Nashville to perform at the Bluebird Cafe. "Me and my buddy went to Bluebird's open mic when I was 16, and we actually did a song and got a courtesy clap, which was awesome," he said. Then he recalls singing Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" when his high school band allowed him to put one country song in the set list. Once he left home for college in Nashville, he knew what he needed to do. "The first night I got to Nashville, after my parents finally left, I drove down to the Bluebird as quick as I could. I got there late and had to watch through the windows," he said. "That was the place I wanted to be." Ultimately, that courtesy clap Lynch got at 16 fueled his dedication to his music. And now he has a song climbing the country charts and probably a lot more applause than he heard 11 years ago.