Sometimes, bad things are good for you—or it at least appears that way. Texas rock band The Dirty Shirts repurpose this sentiment for their second single “Gin & Tonic,” a smoldering slow-rider which singer and guitarist Nick Santa Maria describes as “a bitchy, dancey love song.”
“I started working on the initial idea for the verses on a piano and liked that there was a smoke-filled bar kind of vibe to it,” Santa Maria tells American Songwriter. Bandmate Cameron Moreland cooked up “the chorus when we were working at four or five in the morning, and the rest fell into place pretty quick. I thought it’d end up having more of an R&B feel to it, but when we started working on it together, it became this twisted love song with a dance groove to it. It kinda set the sound for the whole batch of songs we wrote for the record.
“I think there’s a casual indifference to it, knowing that someone or something is bad for you,” he adds, “like, ‘Fuck it, I know this isn’t what I need, but it was bound to happen to both of us, so why not you?’”
The band dropped their debut single “Ol’ Chains Romance” only last year and have already left quite an impression. Having met as kids, while doing volunteer work in Mississippi, Moreland and Maria have certainly learned plenty together as musicians, their work indelibly tied to their growth as human beings. In their early days, they each played in various blues and rock outfits, experiences that serve then quite well with their hot-as-iron band of blues/rock.
Once life brought them both back to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the stars seemed to align for The Dirty Shirts to take shape. When songwriting, the music often arrives first, and then, they’ll “fit the lyrics to however the song hits us. I think starting with a blank canvas and building something out of nothing is the best part of it,” says Santa Maria. “One of us will come up with a verse or a riff on guitar or piano, and go from there. We demo as we write, so we’re able to write to the feel of the song as we’re building it. Cam’s bass lines are a big part of our sound, that’s usually where things start coming together. And then when we get in a room with the whole band, that’s when it finally feels like a song.”
With a debut record in the works, Maria then offers what he surmises as some of the best songwriting advice he’s ever heard. “It wasn’t really advice to me, but Jeff Tweedy and Jerry Seinfeld both talk about needing to actively work at writing every day. You’re much more likely to come up with something if you’ve already got the guitar in your hands.” And the worst advice? Moreland offers this entirely unhelpful tidbit: “Don’t worry if it sucks. Most of them will, but stay after it and some won’t, eventually.”
Listen to “Gin & Tonic” below.
Photo Credit: Cal & Aly