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How Country Dance Went Viral on TikTok

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How Country Dance Went Viral on TikTok

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Dasha knew she had something special with “Austin” long before she created the viral line dance that’s been captivating audiences across social media. In fact, she says she knew it when the song was still a demo.

“People just started perking up and texting me,” Dasha tells Rolling Stone. “Just like, ‘Hey I heard this song and it’s insane!’ Everybody’s ears perked up, and I felt like everyone gave a shit about my music for the first time.”

At 24, Dasha — full name Dasha Novotny — is basking in the success of “Austin,” fueled in part by the dance that caught fire on TikTok in February with the help of influencer Zoey Aune. After previously releasing pop music, Dasha dipped into country with “Austin,” her debut single from her first country album, What Happens Now?, released in November. By mid-April, the song had been viewed 6 billion times on TikTok, was positioned in the Billboard Hot 100 (it’s currently at Number 32), and landed Dasha prime spots performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the CMT Music Awards.

“Austin” quickly introduced Dasha to country audiences and drew attention to her music in ways that her 2023 pop album, Dirty Blonde, had not. She says writing What Happens Now? sparked an epiphany for her about her place in music.

“I was in the pop world, but the songs were always so story-based,” Dasha says. “Upon releasing [Dirty Blonde] last year, I felt like, ‘Why does this just not feel genuine to me?’ And I went through a crisis for a few months thinking what the hell am I doing? Finally, it occurred to me that I needed to be country this whole time. I started writing this album early last year with that in mind, and it was so effortless to write.”

The songs that make up What Happens Now?, including “Austin,” came from the same place of personal heartache that characterizes the music of Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, and similar artists that influenced Dasha while growing up in San Luis Obispo, California. “I wanted to write my scorned woman song,” she says. “I was really upset at this guy — who I really wrote the whole album about. I felt so used.”

The setting may have been imagined, since Dasha’s first-ever visit to Austin was for her CMT Awards performance, but the storyline was very real. The TikTok video, and the help of Aune, was also by design. The viral success, however, was unexpected.

“I remember wanting people dancing at my shows,” Dasha says. “I want people to be line dancing, because I go out line dancing and two-stepping all the time in Nashville. I wanted to bring that culture back to my generation.”

Dasha says she came up with a line dance and reached out to Aune to make a video for TikTok.

“I said, ‘Let’s get Zoey to get in the video and get cute little country girls doing it and see what happens.’ And overnight, I woke up with almost a million [views]. The next day, it kept doubling, tripling,” she says. “Then I posted another one, and it did even better. So, I just put my head down for the next month and posted five times a day. I had the content, I was locked in on it, and it paid off.”

While Dasha is having an undeniable moment with her country pivot, sustaining it is her next challenge. She says she wants to “go to the moon” with her music and dreams of performing on Saturday Night Live or The Kelly Clarkson Show, but she also envisions helping turn the tide of country music’s fraught relationship with female pop-country crossover artists. She sees the backlash against Beyoncé and Cowboy Carter by some audiences and is aware that artists like Musgraves and Maren Morris have found more comfort in pop circles than country ones.

Still, Dasha wants to take a shot at turning it around.

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“I want to change the culture within country music,” she says. “I want to bring in new fans, and I want to give the girls a turn. I just feel with my stories, and how I phrase things, and how I try to do it in the most vulnerable and unapologetic way possible, I can be someone that fans can look up to — or make them want to be the most vulnerable and unapologetic version of themselves.”

Josh Crutchmer is a journalist and author whose third book, Red Dirt Unplugged, is set for release on December 13 via Back Lounge Publishing.

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