When Dan + Shay hop on a Zoom call, the first thing you notice about country music's hottest duo is their hair: Dan Smyers' cascade of over-the-shoulder ringlets (it takes him at least an hour to prep his hair for concerts, he says) and Shay Mooney's carefully cropped fade (it takes him about 70 seconds to groom).
The next thing you notice is their matching forearm tattoos — "from the ground up," the title of their 2016 hit, written in script.
"We had this grand plan to get tattoos for every single we put on the radio," said Smyers, whose duo will headline Saturday at Target Center. "We both have Roman numerals for 19, which was our first single — '19 You + Me.' We have some catching up to do."
"From the Ground Up" has become a favorite first-dance selection at weddings. So have the Dan + Shay hits "Speechless," "All to Myself" and "10,000 Hours," as well as deep tracks "My Side of the Fence" and the new "You."
That's because Dan + Shay know how to pull at women's heartstrings, with emotional country lyrics, Beach Boys-inspired layered harmonies and touches of R&B, pop and Christian music. And don't forget those handsome faces and striking hairdos.
But it isn't all about women. On their first arena-headlining tour, Dan + Shay are finding a more diverse audience than in the past, when mostly teens and 20-something women showed up.
"The women who come to the shows are super-passionate," said Smyers. "Love is our bread and butter — whether it's 'Tequila,' a breakup song, or 'Speechless' to our wives, or 'From the Ground Up' to our grandparents. Now that we've stepped up to the arena level, there's more couples coming to the shows. We've got little kids up on shoulders, we've got older folks, we've got all shapes and sizes."
Maybe it's because Dan + Shay have upped their social media game during the pandemic, which interrupted their tour after just three shows in 2020.
"It was the only outlet we had," Mooney said. "It probably drives everybody crazy because we use social media too much. We have a social media guru — Dan, he's very on top of it. People want to feel connected to us in the same way we want to feel connected to them."
A boy-band flirtation might also account for Dan + Shay's more diverse audience. They've incorporated sounds that evoke the Backstreet Boys. And is "One Direction" — a song from their new album "Good Things," released last month — a cute nod to the boy band that launched Harry Styles and Niall Horan?
"That song came when I was looking at my dog's face," Smyers recalled. "Her face was starting to turn white. I got heady for a second and [was struck by] the idea that time only moves in one direction, and I got a concept for a song. I thought: Should the title be 'One Direction'? People would think it's a boy-band thing. But I thought it was a good title because it's click-baity."
Yes, the social media guru.
Or maybe the increased audience diversity is because of Dan + Shay's collaboration with Justin Bieber on the Grammy-winning smash "10,000 Hours."
"Justin's always been a big fan of country," Mooney said. "That song was mutually beneficial. In part because of Justin, we watched our music go into places where no one's ever heard of us. Like China and all over Asia. We had like 100 million streams in China."
What have Dan + Shay spent 10,000 hours doing?
"In the last four years, I've spent a good 10,000 hours changing diapers," said Mooney, the father of two youngsters, with gleeful hyperbole. "Man, I'd say golf. I'm obsessed with golf but I'm not that good at it. I'm in it for the long haul. To a fault."
Said Smyers: "Mowing my lawn. I'm frugal to a fault. I won't hire anyone. I'm out there with my little red push mower that I bought 10 years ago. It takes me eight hours at a time to mow this lawn. It's therapeutic for me."
Mooney describes Smyers — the 34-year-old former emo rocker from suburban Pittsburgh who spends countless hours producing Dan + Shay recordings — as a driven, hardworking, complex perfectionist.
Smyers describes Mooney — the 29-year-old luxe tenor from small-town Arkansas where he harmonized with his two sisters — as a positive, caring optimist.
"Did you say 'sexy'?" Mooney interjected with a smile.
Mooney and Smyers met and jammed at a Nashville house party in December 2012. Dan subsequently labeled a cellphone voice recording of Shaythat night with "best singer ever." They wrote a song together the next day and released their debut single 10 months later.
Over the course of four albums, Dan + Shay have scored eight No. 1 country songs, collected three Grammys and collaborated with Kelly Clarkson, LindseyStirling, Rascal Flatts and Bieber, among others.
They both seem thoughtful whether offering advice to Morgan Wallen, the country star ostracized for saying the N-word ("Be intentional with your time," Mooney says. "Put down your cellphone and learn something about another person") or discussing their tour COVID protocols ("We encourage fans to wear masks to the show" says Smyers. "We're strict about wearing masks backstage").
"We wanted to get out of our comfort zone and have fun," Smyers said.
They did, working with two dozen dancers supervised by choreographers who've worked with Ariana Grande, Halsey and Bieber.
"I've got a newfound appreciation for anyone who dances while singing onstage," declared Smyers.
After hours rehearsing in front of mirrors in their hotel rooms, Dan + Shay shot the line-dance scene for "Lying" at 3:45 a.m. "I'm just getting warmed up," Smyers said after the second take, "and the director's like, 'No, it's good.'" The sun was about to come up.
"Steal My Love" was filmed in the heat and humidity of Tennessee in July.
"A brutal 48 hours of work," Smyers said. "We were sweating in our red jumpsuits. And it's very, very visible."
But their hair was perfect.
Dan + Shay
Opening: The Band Camino, Ingrid Andress.
When: 7 p.m. Sat.
Where: Target Center, Mpls.
Tickets: $39.50-$79.50, axs.com.
Twitter: @JonBream * 612-673-1719