Dustin Lynch has released a new version of his song "Thinking 'Bout You" featuring MacKenzie Porter, who helps him put a fresh spin on the song.

"Thinking 'Bout You," originally released as a duet with Lauren Alaina from Lynch's January 2020 studio album, Tullahoma, has been new territory for the singer ever since he co-wrote it with Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps and Will Weatherly. It was unique in format, constructed as a call-and-response-style phone call between two exes reconnecting for the first time in a while. It was also, Lynch explains, the first time he included a true duet on one of his albums.

"I'd never had a legit collab on an album," the singer tells Taste of Country and other outlets during a virtual press event. "And we wrote 'Thinking 'Bout You' with that in mind. I just wanted to have that moment. It was kind of the time in my career to do a collab, share a song and a stage with someone."

Once he decided to select a different featured artist to record a single version of "Thinking 'Bout You" with him, Lynch found a way to pick his next duet partner that was equally uncharted territory. He opened up his inbox to up-and-coming female vocalists in the country music community, issuing an open call for auditions.

"But I didn't wanna be persuaded by the name or the camp that they were a part of, so I just had a folder full of numbers coming to my inbox," Lynch remembers. "It was literally a blind audition."

The singer and his team each voted on their favorites and quickly settled on MacKenzie Porter, a rising Canadian artist who's opened for the likes of Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney. Porter says she had studied Lynch and Alaina's original version of the song, but made a conscious choice in her audition to put her own spin on her part rather than imitate Alaina's vocals.

"I thought, you know, that I could try to do it like her, or I could just try to do it like myself," she relates. "...It feels honest, I think, my performance -- I hope. I just wanted it to be me. I had learned the melodies, of course, that she did, because that's how they wrote the song. But I tried to not think about matching what she did, but just doing my own thing on it."

"I think that's something [Porter] was brilliant with: Bringing her uniqueness to it, but keeping it familiar with what the listeners [know]," Lynch adds. "Keeping it familiar, but adding her own flair to it. Really, we got to cheat a little bit, because we had the parts that we liked that were already out there and working. And then we got to add to it. So I think we made it even a better version."

Still, Porter admits she was nervous: After all, the first time the two singers ever met was to go into the studio and cut her vocals. However, she says that Lynch had a way of quickly dispelling her nerves.

"It was so cute! He decided to show up in my merch," Porter remembers with a laugh. "He instantly broke the ice. I do feel like at that moment, my nerves were lessened."

Lynch also points out that since then, he's been floored by his duet partner's talents and professionalism, especially when it came to photo and video shoots. In addition to her work as a singer and songwriter, Porter has a lengthy acting resume, particularly in her home country of Canada. Those chops have come in handy as she and Lynch have continued to get together to promote their duet, particularly while filming the just-released video for "Thinking 'Bout You."

"I made the mistake of not demanding to go first," Lynch says of that experience. "I'm sitting back and I'm watching the monitor, and I'm like, 'Oh damn.' She's such a great actress and got into character so naturally, and I'm just trying not to look like an idiot on camera. But the video turned out great."

Ultimately, Lynch points out, he settled on Porter as a duet partner because of her accessible, conversational vocals.

"There's a difference [between] performing and projecting a character, I think. MacKenzie just effortlessly has this awesome tone," he emphasizes. "Other girls can sing like that, and I think that's very important. It's important to have a vocal on the radio that people in their cars feel like they sound like, and I think people can relate to songs easier when that's the case."

"Thinking 'Bout You" is the fourth single to come off of Tullahoma, followed by "Momma's House" as well as back-to-back chart-toppers "Good Girl" and "Ridin' Roads."

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