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The Rebirth of ‘American Muscle’ Music

Why Brian Logan Dales, the frontman of The Summer Set, is taking a solo dive to explore a new-old sound.

It’s every aspiring musician’s dream: Get discovered, sign a deal, and embark on a world tour. For Brian Logan Dales, it happened in high school. His band, The Summer Set, has toured the globe for years, writing tunes and playing crowds from the United States to Asia to Australia.

But these days, you’re more likely to find Dales on stage at a bar in Los Angeles—solo—working on new songs inspired by his childhood listening to Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen.

“I’ve been playing once a month at an LA bar,” Dales says. “The inspiration behind the songs is what I like to call ‘American Muscle’ music, like that of Don and Bruce. I’m just playing for friends with no expectations, just to see how the songs feel.”

While The Summer Set is still part of Dales’s life, he is excited about the rest and the creative freedom to try out a new sound. We caught up with him off stage, to learn more about life behind the mic, where his music is headed, and why he’ll always have a soft spot for MySpace.

For those not familiar with The Summer Set, tell us a little about how you guys got started.

I grew up in Northville, Michigan, outside of Detroit, but went to high school in Arizona, where I met musicians Stephen and John Gomez. I was an athlete at the time, but was always interested in music. We formed a band, put our songs on MySpace. [Laughs] I like to say we were the last generation of MySpace—and signed a record deal in 2007, when I was still in high school.

We released four albums between 2009 and 2016 and toured many times around the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Wow, you were so young. Did you guys ever think about giving the band a pause?

We did. I’m turning 28 now, but back when we were around 26, we decided to take a long break from being on the road and realized that our lives were catching up to us. It had been eight years since we started the band and it felt like one long weekend. There was a lot of pressure on us to decide what to do next, so in 2015, we sat down as a band and decided to call it a day. We decided to take some of the songs we’d been working on and do a goodbye for our fans.

What was going through your mind at this point?

I remember sitting down with my manager in August 2015 and telling him I was discouraged by music, had writer’s block, and wanted to give it up entirely. I told him I needed to turn off my phone and detach. He’d just gotten back from Alaska and encouraged me to go, so I booked my ticket for a few days later. The night before I left, I ran into a songwriter friend of mine and we started writing a song. There were no strings attached.

I went to Alaska, turned off my phone, didn’t write, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. You never want to admit to the cliché of the life-changing trip until it happens and you realize that it does exist. That’s what happened to me in Alaska.

What happened when you got home?

I started working with my friend on writing even more songs, all of them inspired by my childhood.

But what about The Summer Set?

Well, interestingly, when I got back from Alaska and we started putting together some songs for our goodbye album, we realized that they were some of the best songs we’d ever made. We decided to go on tour, and did from April through November 2016. It was one of the most rewarding things we’d ever done.

Are you now playing the songs you were working on before the tour?

Yep. The Summer Set is taking a little break, so I’m taking this opportunity to do my own thing. I love Bruce Springsteen, Third Eye Blind, Tom Petty, and I want to see that music exist again. There are no tricks; it’s just a band in a room with guitars. I’m singing about growing up in Detroit and the trials of being lonely. I’ve been living with these songs for two years—it’s exciting for them to see the light of day.

Let’s talk about clothes—important for any musician. How would you describe your personal style?

[Laughs] Well, right now I’m wearing jeans with a lot of holes in them, a white shirt, red flannel and a Detroit Tigers hat. This is coming from a guy who for years would wear goofy colors and bowties on stage. I’ve learned that my real style is classic American cool.

What’s your take on American Made Supply Co.?

I love it. It’s right up my alley, with the perfectly made T-shirt. I appreciate that the products are well thought out. I got to go to the warehouse and meet J. [American Made co-founder and CEO J. Winklepleck] and was really inspired by how much he cared about detail. He cares the way I care about how a record is made.

What does it mean to you to be “American Made”?

It means to be hopeful and simple and good to each other. In the age of the Internet and our political system, people have forgotten how to just be good to each other.

And this relates to my new music. I remember how I felt about certain songs when I heard them as a child. Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to disconnecting from my phone and remembering what it was like to be a kid in the suburbs of Detroit, one of the most American-made cities in the country. It means being in touch with community—and I hope to create that with my new songs.

By Katie Morell

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