Chartbreaker: Dasha Left a Lover in the Dust — and Lassoed a Country-Pop Breakout With ‘Austin’

“‘Austin’ was written out of a lot of rage,” Dasha tells Billboard in late April. At a Los Angeles session in early 2023, the singer-songwriter began working on a different song with Adam Wendler, Cheyenne Rose Arnspiger and Kenneth Heidelman, which proved unfruitful. After Dasha suggested taking a quick break, she poured out a story of a tumultuous relationship; when the break ended, the group turned her heartbreak into her breakout smash.

With its irresistible groove and defiant storytelling, the single arrived as an independent release last November, and appeared on her sophomore album, What Happens Now?, released in February. “Austin” details the country artist hightailing to L.A. and leaving her no-good lover a drunken mess in Texas. Though she’d never actually been to Austin, at the time, Dasha says that “all the emotions that drove the story were real to me.”

They’ve resonated with listeners too: the song became Dasha’s first Billboard Hot 100 entry in March, since reaching a No. 28 high. It has also peaked at No. 3 on Hot Country Songs and registered 86.7 million official on-demand U.S. streams through May 2, according to Luminate.


Dasha photographed April 25, 2024 at The Comedy Chateau in Los Angeles.
Mark Gong top and pants, Petit Moments necklace.

Born Dasha Novotny, the 24-year-old has been writing songs and performing for over a decade. The San Luis Obispo, Calif., native started performing at local coffee shops at 10, and three years later, her father gifted her a professional studio session for her birthday to record one of her songs. “That experience at such a young age was pivotal,” she says. “I feel like I got an internship to my artistry. I was ready for this spotlight.”

After finishing high school, Dasha attended Belmont University in Nashville, though she dropped out in 2020 amid the pandemic to focus on her music career. She independently released pop-R&B singles “Don’t Mean a Thing” and “None of My Business” that year before releasing a project of remixes and her first EP, $hiny Things, in 2021. Her pop-oriented debut album Dirty Blonde followed in 2023, but it wasn’t until “Austin” 10 months later that listeners flocked en masse, prompting Dasha to further explore the blend of catchy pop-country fusion as an artistic sweet spot.

Before its official release, “Austin” drew the attention of Type A Management’s Alex Lunt, who had been looking for an act just like Dasha. “I had been working in the urban space and in rock, but I wanted to work in country and everyone knew it,” he says. He has been managing her brother’s band, Beauty School Dropout, for several years already, and after her brother sent Lunt a few of Dasha’s demos — including “Austin” — he soon became her manager as well.

Dasha photographed April 25, 2024 in Los Angeles.
Versace tank top, jacket and jeans.
Alex Lunt and Dasha photographed April 25, 2024 at The Comedy Chateau in Los Angeles.
Alex Lunt and Dasha photographed April 25, 2024 at The Comedy Chateau in Los Angeles. Dasha wears a Prada top, jacket, skirt and belt.

Prior to the track’s release, Lunt connected her with the indie label Version III, as well as PR company King Publicity, in anticipation of broadening the song’s reach. Dasha created a line dance timed to the song’s chorus and worked with a handful of influencers, including Zoey Aune, to create shortform videos to showcase it. “The goal was to target very specific demographics upfront: the female country audience,” Lunt says.

Clips began to roll out in early 2023, with one such video on Aune’s TikTok account featuring the influencer dancing with Dasha that went viral (with 29.4 million views on the platform to date). “That was the video that started the massive tidal wave,” Lunt recalls. A week later, Dasha posted herself line dancing in a corral solo; that video has since garnered 68.5 million TikTok views.

“I remember feeling really nervous that it would be cringey,” Dasha recalls. “I think the reason it worked so well is because it came from such a fun place and I feel like there’s this gap in community on TikTok right now, so people are down to connect any way they can. When you go to the club and you know the dance, you can participate in the community.”

The song’s surge on social media sparked a label frenzy, with Dasha signing to Warner Records in March. (At the time of the announcement, she told Billboard, “Warner felt like they had the most heart. They were so passionate about my songwriting, which is my priority.”) The next month, she inked a deal with WME for booking. Media appearances followed, including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, a performance at the CMT Music Awards (notably held in Austin), and a set at the country music festival Stagecoach in Indio, California.

As the single continues to build, the team is now putting its efforts toward stabilizing it stateside — recently promoting it to country radio — and across the globe. “Austin” reached a No. 23 high on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. chart on April 27, with Lunt revealing they have since targeted Scandinavian, German and Australian creators.

“I think the magic of this new country sound is that I can incorporate those big pop hooks,” says Dasha. “The first time you listen to it, you can sing it back. I think that’s why it’s working so well overseas. But then also it has a super vivid lyric, so it’s like a movie in your head.”

While Dasha works on a deluxe version of What Happens Now?, she believes the biggest opportunity to grow the song is performing it live: “Now that I finally have an audience listening, we can spend the time and energy and make this into something really, really magical.”

Dasha photographed April 25, 2024 at The Comedy Chateau in Los Angeles.
Mark Gong top and pants, Petit Moments necklace.

A version of this story will appear in the May 11, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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