SALT LAKE CITY — Up and down Nashville’s Music Row, a question has been reverberating for the past few weeks: Who is Dean Summerwind?
No one is confused about where he is, though. He’s made that point abundantly clear.
“I’m still parked out by the lake, 80 miles from Santa Fe,” he sings on country music’s most viral new song. “I’m sitting here just parked out by the lake.”
“If you’re wondering where I park, I’m out parked out by the lake,” he continues. “It’s the lake that’s 80 miles from Santa Fe.”
The song is titled, you guessed it, “Parked Out by the Lake.” And it continues like that — just repeating Summerwind’s location over and over — for another hilarious three minutes. Its YouTube video, posted in early February, has more than 75,000 plays as of press time. It’s doing even better on Spotify, where it’s eclipsed 90,000 plays and is growing exponentially.
Well, Dean Summerwind isn’t actually Dean Summerwind. His real name is Dustin Christensen. He was raised in Orem, now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and recorded “Parked Out by the Lake” at June Audio Recording Studios in Provo.
And he emphasized that none of this was planned.
“We just thought it was funny in the studio,” Christensen told the Deseret News. “But I didn’t think anybody would even get it, to be honest.”
The song’s unlikely success started as an ongoing joke between Christensen and Scott Wiley, June Audio’s owner and head producer. For years, the two have recorded joke versions of Christensen’s songs. Their format is simple: Take the song’s opening line, and say it as many different ways as possible. “Parked Out by the Lake” lampoons Christensen’s song “Vacant Motel Heart.” (That one has only 5,000 plays on Spotify — “The original song is ruined forever,” Christensen said with a laugh.)
“There’s no great design,” Wiley added. “We just think it’s funny, and he can do it so easily. He just walks in there and makes it up. I mean, if we spent 40 minutes on that, I’d be surprised.”
Christensen posted “Parked Out by the Lake” on a private SoundCloud account nine months ago, and he rarely shared it with anyone. It remained secret until last month. Christensen was about to go onstage at a recent Sundance Film Festival event when his phone began flooding with texts and notifications.
“Is this you?” people asked him.
Funny or Die posted the song, which then got picked up earlier this month by “The Bobby Bones Show,” a popular syndicated country radio show in Nashville. Sheryl Crow tweeted about it. People have told Christensen the song has been shared with Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dave Matthews and even Matthew McConaughey. He still doesn’t know who patient zero was.
“It’s been interesting that aside from all the people that love laughing at it, there are people that genuinely appreciated it,” Christensen said. “So I’ve just kind of embraced it.”
A segment of the industry, Christensen said, thinks he made the song as commentary on modern country’s lowbrow lyrics. Once again, this wasn’t part of Christensen’s plan.
“It’s probably the weirdest way anyone could have made a statement, with a private SoundCloud link, rather than just releasing the song,” he said.
Yes, “Parked Out of the Lake” is a joke. The song’s production quality and musicianship, however, are undeniable. Christensen and Wiley recorded the instrumentals live, with Fictionist drummer Aaron Anderson and Fictionist/Killers guitarist Robbie Connolly.
“Dustin is a legit songwriter, and that song is a really good song. So even when it’s deconstructed like that, the melody is still pretty good,” Wiley said. “Hopefully it leads people to his real music.”3 comments on this story
This isn’t Christensen’s first brush with national recognition. He was featured on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2015 and has been writing for a Nashville music publishing company for three years. Whether his alter ego has a future, it’s too early to tell. While he isn’t opposed to releasing more Dean Summerwind songs, Christensen said that if he does, it’ll be sparingly. He doesn’t want to release so much under Dean Summerwind that he actually becomes Dean Summerwind.
“Maybe like all the other viral things, it’ll just have a huge spike and then kind of disappear,” Christensen said. “I mean, it’s only been a week.”