Home / Features / Arts & Entertainment / From Shreveport to Music City
Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

From Shreveport to Music City


From near death to music success: Dan Smalley will perform Friday, Dec. 15, at Louisiana Grandstand.

Dan Smalley is making the most of a second chance

The last time I drank, I got shot.”

Well, that will get your attention. “I blacked out and have no recollection of any of it, except waking up in a hospital and having a couple of doctors say, ‘Hey, you’re the luckiest guy we’ve met, and if you don’t have a clue how you got in here, you’ve got a real problem.’” Dan Smalley agreed. “I’ve been sober ever since. Not a sip of alcohol. Not at all.”

The 38-year-old, who lived in Shreveport for 18 years – from the start of eighth grade – remembers the date he almost died.

I guess we would, too. November 9, 2014. Smalley’s birthday. The singer/songwriter was playing a show, drank too much and caught a ride home. Instead of unlocking the door to his house, he tried to open the door of someone else’s house. When Smalley couldn’t get in, he kicked down the door.

Two gunshots followed. One bullet hit Smalley in the chest and “clipped my lung.” The other bullet went “straight through” his bicep.

That’s a story any songwriter would put to music, which is what Smalley did. “Accidentally Drunk” is his latest single and the third song off his first self-produced album, “The State of Country Music,” which will be released in May.

The music video of “Accidentally Drunk,” which is also out, depicts what happened that drunken, gunshot-filled night. Another single coming in January, “Mr. Jerry’s Ghost” “tells the story verbatim in the third person of what happened the next day, how everybody reacted to it, what I did reacting to it, and what Mr. Jerry – the guy who shot me – did and what he said.”

Smalley told me all this from his Nashville, Tenn., home. After a year of getting sober in Shreveport, Smalley moved to Music City – first, by himself.

“My wife (Heather) and I talked about how music was still a huge part of my life, and how we believed that’s why I’m still here. We both agreed that if I didn’t at least try out Nashville, I would probably regret it.”

Several months after “getting plugged in with some really great songwriters and publishers,” Heather came to visit.

“She got to see the lay of the land and really got to feel the love people in town were pouring all over me. It’s funny, when you find the place you fit in, how much easier your life feels. I feel like she saw that all over me and saw that all over the people who I surrounded myself with.

She understood we probably needed to make the move.”

Soon after, Heather and the Smalleys’ two children (Ella and Dayton) packed up and headed east.

“All we’ve done since we’ve been here is grow as a family,” Smalley said.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Smalley found music – or music found Smalley – at a young age. Smalley, the son of a vocalist in the Air Force Band of Flight, was playing the saxophone in third grade. His father traveled the world entertaining soldiers.

“When you grow up doing something and being around it your whole life, it kind of becomes who you are. I’ve always felt like a singer and a songwriter from a very young age.”

Smalley’s parents eventually divorced.

His mother was from Shreveport and had family in Converse. That’s how Smalley landed here. But music-wise, Smalley knew Shreveport wouldn’t get him to where he wanted to go.

“I felt held back a little bit by Shreveport, because I’ve always wanted to be a musician, but there’s really not that economy there anymore that supports it. I feel like there’s a way maybe to build it back up.”

This brings us to Smalley’s show, “A Country Christmas to Remember,” debuting Friday night, Dec. 15, at Louisiana Grandstand in Shreveport (802 Margaret Place).

“This show has sold a lot more tickets than the previous shows, which is awesome. It’s amazing.”

But Smalley wants more. “I wish I could sell out my hometown one time.”

There will be other times, as Smalley sees the Grandstand as more than just a music venue.

“I really think it’s the start of something bigger than all of us. . . . I feel like there’s room for this B market of people who want to go sit in a theatre and listen to great music, and not have to fight through the crowds in a Mexican restaurant to try and listen to the guy playing in the corner on an acoustic guitar.”

Friday, Smalley won’t be in the corner.

He will be center stage – just more than nine years after his music – and he himself – almost died.

“I feel like I’m here to hopefully give people the message of hope. Understand that no matter how it gets, you can probably lift yourself out of any kind of hole you might be in, and move on with your life.”

Sounds like the makings for a good song.


The Forum News