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Songwriting Session with Leigh Nash
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Leigh Nash

(Credit: Alysse Gafkjen)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Leigh Nash shares what she have learned as a songwriter.


After spending over a decade with Sixpence None the Richer and years honing her sound as a solo artist, Leigh Nash released her debut country album The State I’m In last month. On the 12-track release, Leigh co-wrote each song and says writing was a pretty big leap as it was often difficult for her.

“I love to write but the issue for me is having the confidence in yourself,” she admits, speaking softly as we sit at Nashville’s Headquarters Coffee on album release day.

Throughout the writing process, Leigh would often question if she was capable of writing material that people would want to hear. Having grown up listening to Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves, she wanted to keep their melodies and style of music alive within her album.

“The way they wrote songs, I really love it and that was my school as far as songwriting goes, by listening to those old classic songs,” she adds.

So how did she get over her lack of confidence with songwriting?

“Just by doing it,” she explains. “I’ll get my guitar out and come up with something I feel like is a strong story and a good solid melody and I want to finish it.”

Leigh looked to friend and songwriter Jesse Hall to help her craft some of the songs on her new album. He’s someone she says is like a brother to her. When she played him her ideas and he wasn’t bored and didn’t shy away from the project, she knew she had a partner in the project.

“He helped me make it exactly what I dreamed of in my head. Him loving it gave me confidence,” she adds. “As you go and more people hear it, it drew more out of me. It fed off of itself. Now I have immense confidence in my writing abilities. It took exercising the muscles enough.”

Some of the more vulnerable moments on the album come in the form of songs Leigh wrote with her husband, musician Steven Wilson, including “Tell Me Now Tennessee” and “High Is Better.” She stresses that vulnerability is the key to everything in life, especially in songwriting.

“If you can be vulnerable, I think a lot of good things will come to you,” she adds. “That’s when we’re the softest and our ears are the most open.”



While Leigh admits to having had some arguments with her husband during the writing process, ultimately the songs that made the album were written together from true life, relationship struggles and things she had said to her mom on the phone.

“We both have to be in the right mood,” she says of writing with her husband. “I think it’s hard to write with your spouse because they’re the ones that get your worst. I would never say to a friend, ‘I don’t like that chord.’ I get real cutting. If we’re in a good space we work off that. I love writing with him. Subject-wise, we do a good job. It helps when we’re writing something we’re both excited about.”

Leigh Nash’s album The State I’m In is out now. Read more of my interview with her on Taste of Country.

October 4, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Win Tickets to Maddie & Tae In New York


Maddie & Tae will kick off their first headlining tour next Wednesday in New York and you can be there. You Sing, I Write has a pair of tickets to give away for their concert at Highline Ballroom. To enter for your chance to win, simply follow @yousingiwrite on Twitter with the message: “Send me to Maddie & Tae live in NYC” and I’ll enter you in the raffle. The winner will be notified by EOD on Monday. Good luck!

“Giving girls a voice is so special to both of us and we just feel blessed to do that,” Maddie Marlow told me earlier this year. “There’s all different types of songs on our record, all different types of stories. ‘Girl in a Country Song’ was one where we were like, ‘We know other people feel this way, and we’re gonna hold the torch for this message.’ And it worked.”


The duo’s debut single, “Girl In a Country Song” went to No. 1 on the country charts and helped launch Maddie & Tae’s career. The song called out the men on the radio for singing about girls in the passenger seat. Watch the music video for “Girl In a Country Song” below.


October 1, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session: Country Edition
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Dierks Bentley

(Dierks Bentley/Courtesy: The Green Room)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, country artists Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Charlie Worsham share what they have learned as songwriters.


Charlie Worsham admits that songwriting is “just a switch you can’t turn off.” He is quick to explain that it’s something that never leaves him.

“I’m always jotting something down on an airplane,” he says. “It’s this thing that keeps you up at night. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, it gets you up early. You just can’t shut it off. You can’t ever put the pen down. It’s constantly gnawing at you in an excruciatingly beautiful way.”

Stuck on a chorus or song idea? Charlie suggests stating a universal truth.

“Some of the best advice I ever got on chorus writing was listen to the Beatles and Tom Petty,” he admits. “If you listen to their choruses, ‘And I’m free. Free fallin.’ ‘All you need is love.’ If it’s a really powerful truth sometimes all you need to do is say it and then repeat it two more times.”

Most of the artists I’ve spoken with in the past have said the best songs often come from something he or she has experienced firsthand, Kacey Musgraves being no exception.

“The best songs for me come from things that I have actually experienced or have some kind of insight on,” she says. “It all has to resonate somewhere within me. It can’t be completely fabricated. It always starts from me and that’s my favorite kind of music. You can tell it’s truthful.”



So you want to be a songwriter? The most important advice Dierks Bentley has for an aspiring songwriter is to write every day.

“One guy said to me, ‘You know what? You need to write about 500 songs, and just put them all in a drawer. When you get done doing that, call me up and I’ll write with you,’” he recalls. “I thought he was being a dick, but basically what he was saying was—you can’t be precious with your songs—you just got to write ’em and file ’em.”

He continues: “You want to be a songwriter? Write every day. 500 songs is a lot, but I got what he was saying. Don’t type them up on a nice sheet of paper and put ’em in a three ring binder. Just write ’em up, then go on to the next one. Keep writing.”

For more tips from country songwriters, visit my article on

September 27, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Blake Shelton Shuts Down Music Row
CATEGORIES: Concert Reviews

Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton has come a long way since 1994. In the ’90s, the then-mullet-wearing singer would drive past Music Row in hopes that one day he’d have a record deal. Wednesday, (Sept. 23) thousands of fans flocked to that very same spot to catch a free concert by the singer—a fact that was not lost on him.

“I have been coming back and forth to this town since 1994,” he told the crowd on a stage set up outside of Warner Music Nashville’s offices for the label’s final Pickin’ on the Patio performance of the season. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see this street blocked off and watch this many people sing along to my songs.”

For nearly an hour, Blake and his band performed for the crowd. While the show didn’t start until after 6 p.m., fans had been lining up for hours, some fainting in the hot Nashville sun as they waited for the singer to take the stage.

“Well, holy hell. I am shocked and honored that this many people came out to see me today,” he said two songs into his set. “Look at all these people. There are country music freaks out here!”

Before he began to perform “Mine Would Be You,” he informed the crowd that many of the songwriters behind his hits were in the audience. He added, “Welcome to Nashville. This is country music.”

For my complete review, visit Nash Country Weekly.

September 26, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session: Americana Edition
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Don Henley

(Credit: Danny Clinch)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, several artists showcased at the Americana Music Festival share what they have learned as songwriters.


This week, Americana music fans and artists flocked to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival and Conference. Six days of industry panels and artist showcases ensued, many of which the topic of songwriting was addressed. Below are some highlights from Don Henley, the founding member of the Eagles, songwriter Mary Gauthier (Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw), Patty Griffin and Whitehorse.

During his Keynote interview, Don Henley discussed co-writing with his friend and frequent collaborator Stan Lynch, who he met in the late 80s.

“When I write songs, part of it is just hanging out. When you write songs with somebody you have to develop a closeness and a musical understanding. We just have to hang out and laugh.”

Later, he said that it often helps him to imagine an artist singing a song he is writing to help with the writing process. Another thing he does before working on a new album: read.

“When I was doing Cass County I went back and read Thomas Wolfe’s book You Can’t Go Home Again and I found a lot of familiarity and wisdom in that book,” he said before he began to quote Henry David Thoreau.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

“That’s why I maintain a little farm in my hometown so I can go back to the land to the country when I need to get out of the city,” he explained. “It’s really good for songwriting and for thinking. When I get on those two lane blacktop highways and I get out of the urban environment my mind opens up and I can think and I can dream. To be successful in the music business I had to leave my hometown. But oddly enough I find myself going back there to write.”

While Don Henley goes back to his hometown to write, Mary Gauthier relies on her emotions to see if a song is done.

“If I don’t give myself the chills, if I don’t cry when I write, then I’m not there yet,” she said. “Songs are the great human connectors of our time. Songs are how people connect with each other. A song is the vehical of the heart.”

As difficult as writing songs might be, Patty Griffin said it’s most important to write from the heart.

“When you get to a more honest place with your heart, it may hurt but it feels better. When there’s a deep hurt in your soul, write it down and let it go.”

Meanwhile, Luke Doucet of Canadian duo Whitehorse said he doesn’t always write from personal experience. Instead, he tries to embellish within his songs.

“I ran out of pages from my diary I could exploit,” he joked. “You have to decide how to embellish things. The truth is overrated. There’s different ways to be honest. You’re allowed to embellish things. Anybody can be a memoir writer, it takes a creative writer to write a novel. Think outside the parameters put on yourself.”

September 20, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Lady Antebellum
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

lady antebellum

(Credit: Joseph Llanes)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Lady Antebellum share what they have learned as songwriters.


As you may have already guessed, I am fascinated by the craft of songwriting. So, when I sat down with Lady Antebellum last October to discuss their latest album 747, I asked them to share some tips for aspiring songwriters. They gave some helpful advice which you can read below and watch a clip of as well. If you’re looking for more suggestions on how to write a song, read the Top 10 tips I’ve compiled from country songwriters on

“There’s no right or wrong way to write a song,” Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley advises. “We’ve written many different ways. We usually start with the melody first and then it always evokes some kind of feeling, whether it’s a somber melody or a fun, exciting one. It always finds its way. Some people come in with lyric ideas or even a poem.”

He stresses that the key to being a great songwriter is to “write and write and write.”

“The more you write, the better you get,” he adds. “You’re going to write 100 bad songs before you write one good one and that is the truth.”

Bandmate Hillary Scott couldn’t agree more.

“The more consistently you do it, the better you get. You can always grow and improve,” she says.



Charles says as with anything, there are little tricks to songwriting the more frequently you do it. Like writing a novel or essay, there is an intro, body and conclusion to a song.

“Your bridge is something that needs to sum up and reinforce the tag of the song,” he explains. “If the tag of the song is need you now — well then you get this bridge, what are you trying to say there that when the listener hears it’s one of the last thoughts? It’s ‘I guess I’d raher hurt than feel nothing at all.’ That’s why they’re feeling all of this.”

Hillary adds that the bridge is the writer’s “bring it on home moment.”

“It’s the all-encompassing one or two lines that really describe the rest of the song, the rest of the lyric,” she says.

So what does a songwriting session with Lady Antebellum sound like?

“We love great melodies and a lot of times we start there, whether it’s an idea that’s born on a piano or guitar or some other instrument,” Dave Haywood says. “If you were to walk in on the beginning of a writing session with us, there’d be a lot of humming. Everyone’s humming these big melodies trying to find something we love and gravitate towards. And then for us, a lot of times we jump in, ‘What about this story? What are you going through? What can we write about today?'”

Meanwhile, Hillary stresses the importance of being aware of what’s around you as a writer.

“You have to keep your heart open and your ears and eyes open. The best songwriters are those that allow themselves to be vulnerable,” she confesses. “When people really feel what you’re singing about is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable going into the room. Don’t be afraid because we all feel alike. We all feel the same emotions. The listener knows when you’re being authentic.”


September 13, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Band of the Week: Elenowen
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week, Band of the Week, Interviews, Q&A

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Elenowen throw logic out the window on their sophomore album, For the Taking, released earlier this year. The husband and wife duo, made up of singer/songwriters Josh and Nicole Johnson, gained exposure on the first season of NBC’s The Voice and have continued to develop that recognition with their music being featured on TV shows like Nashville, Pretty Little Liars and Army Wives.

That’s not to say there weren’t struggles along the way. Josh and Nicole recall early hurdles as they were getting national attention on The Voice. During that time, they were still living in Nicole’s parent’s basement, something they say inspired much of the autobiographical record.

“After the exposure from The Voice, touring and getting more buzz around us than we ever had, that aspect of our career was great but at the same time we were still living in her parent’s basement and we had lived there for five-and-a-half years,” Josh recalls while sitting in the basement of his publicist’s office on Music Row beside Nicole and their son Nolan. “We were at the stage of our marriage where we were married almost six years at the time and Nicole’s biggest piece of her identity was to be a mom and she was missing it.”


Nicole and Josh Johnson with their son, Nolan, in Nashville

He adds that For the Taking captures the struggle of the couple trying to figure out how to keep their career momentum going but also the desire of starting a family. Much of the album was written in that basement apartment as they looked out the basement window dreaming of getting out.

“I would say there’s a decent amount of desperation and hope in the record. We landed on the title For the Taking near the end of that season where we did actually get pregnant and we did find ourselves a house,” he says with a smile. “It was a massive step of faith of, ‘This is where we feel we need to be going so let’s start and take it in our own hands.'”

Nicole chimes in, explaining that previously they had spent so much time waiting to make decisions on what felt logical instead of what made them happy.

“We finally tossed that [logic] to the wind and started making decisions based on what we wanted out of life,” she says. “It still makes things extremely different because logic is there for a reason. Logic makes things sometimes easier.”



But, as heard on For the Taking, logic isn’t always the best route. Josh and Nicole agree that “One By One,” a song of theirs featured on Nashville, is one of the most honest songs on the album. With Nicole singing, “Don’t walk away/Don’t walk away from me baby/Even though I’m going to treat you so badly sometimes,” Josh says they don’t sugarcoat the struggles they’re going through. Other songs, like “Desert Days,” bring about comparisons to Fleetwood Mac, a welcomed compliment for the duo.

“If we remind people of Fleetwood Mac when they listen to us, alright. I don’t know what more I want as far as people to get out of it,” Josh says, beaming. “For me, doing music, that was the only thing I was really passionate about when I first started. It was the first thing I grabbed onto. When we started doing it as a duo it had a little more momentum than anything I had done alone. It got me really excited about it. This was the best thing we’ve got going for us, let’s chase after it. It was the most viable option to keep pursuing. I was steering the ship.”

While Nicole admits some days were tougher than others, helping fulfill Josh’s dream was something she never hesitated to do until it started to threaten her own dream.

“Even in the hardest days that I wanted to quit, there was always that thing in the back of my mind where I didn’t want to wonder my whole life, ‘What if?’ That’s what kept me going,” she says. “Doing music is Josh’s biggest dream and I wanted to help him in that. Because we’re a duo it’s not like I can just be like, ‘Alright, I’m going to check out and do it on your own.’ In a way I was stuck in it, but not in a resentful way.”

She adds: “When it was a matter of me not being able to have kids because of it, that’s when I was starting to be like, ‘OK, I’m giving up all of my dreams for this thing that I don’t even know what’s happening.’ But now that we’re trying to figure out how to do both it’s more challenging but it’s also more rewarding at the same time. Just seeing it through, taking it a day at a time. That’s all you can do.”

Now they’re out of the basement and continue their musical journey by touring to support their latest release For the Taking and raising their one-year-old son.

“We’re in a little house that’s not much but it feels like the Taj Mahal compared to the basement,” Josh laughs. “We got this little guy chewing on everything, crawling on everything.”

“It changes everything,” Nicole concludes.

And for Elenowen, change is a very good thing.

Elenowen’s album For the Taking is available now.

September 10, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Erik Dylan
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Erik Dylan

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, singer-songwriter Erik Dylan shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


The path to a career in songwriting is different for every writer. In Erik Dylan‘s case, it took rejection from a songwriting program at Middle Tennessee State University to fuel his determination to make it as a songwriter. The Kansas native transferred from University of Kansas to MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tenn. with the goal to get accepted into the songwriting program. Erik recalls the professor of the program said he wasn’t cut out to be a songwriter. Harsh words for any aspiring songwriter to hear, Erik put his songwriting dreams on the back burner and gave up writing for two years.

“When somebody says that to you–that they don’t think you’re qualified to even be in their program–it makes you question whether you’re on the right path,” he says over the phone from his home in Nashville.  “It took a little while but I realized I wasn’t happy unless I was writing and that was what I was meant to do. If one guy said I wasn’t a writer it didn’t matter to me, I was still going to chase it. I’m 100% glad I did that. I proved him wrong.”

Erik graduated from MTSU with an audio engineering degree and started working on his songs. It was that early rejection that gave him the fuel to keep writing. He says it took six years working day jobs in Nashville and getting better at his craft until he felt like he was ready to start playing open mics.

“That’s where Kip [Moore] saw me and that’s how I got my publishing deal,” he adds.

In 2011, country singer Kip Moore heard Erik performing from the speakers outside of an open mic in a nearly empty room as he walked by the venue. At a time when Erik himself was wondering why he was even there, playing to three of his own friends, his luck was about to change. Clearly moved by what he heard, the country singer introduced Erik to his publisher, Brett James, and shortly after Erik got his own publishing deal with Cornman Music. Since then, he has written with a wide range of artists including Kip Moore, Eric Paslay, Randy Montana and Logan Mize.

“One thing I’ve noticed after writing in town for a publisher for almost four years is that I write my best stuff when it’s coming from the heart and it’s exactly what I want to be writing,” he explains. “If I’m trying to chase something that’s out right now, that’s on the radio…some people will ask you to write songs to sound like this type of song that’s out on the radio right now. I’ve noticed when I’ve tried to chase things that I don’t feel the songs aren’t going to be that good. Write what you know and write from the heart and you hope someone else understands that.”



Erik adds that the listener can always tell if the emotion within each song is true or fabricated.

“If it’s real and from the heart, people notice that. They believe it,” he adds. “In general, the best songs that I write are always ones that have a personal attachment, that something has happened to me or I see a friend go through something. That’s where I tend to write my best stuff. When it comes down to it, I like to write about personal experiences and things I go through. I try to channel back to where I grew up in Kansas. It’s a very blue collar farming community and I write songs that relate to the people that I grew up with.”

One of those songs is “Comeback Kid,” which can be found on Kip’s new album Wild Ones. Erik wrote the song with Kip, Ross Copperman and Jeff Hyde and recalls what was going through his head in the writing session.

“As songwriters you understand struggle and that it takes a while for things to happen. I was thinking about my wife in that position,” he recalls of the songwriting session. “Me spinning my wheels in Nashville trying to get a publishing deal while she helped out economically more than I could.”



He explains that the hardest part of writing a song is whittling down a story into three minutes while trying to describe a large idea in as few words as you can. He says the best person that does that is Ernest Hemingway. While he wasn’t exactly a songwriter, he was a storyteller.

“In five words he could tell any story. He could whittle any idea down to five words and you could understand what he’s talking about,” Erik asserts. “A lot of that is trial and error when you’re writing and realizing what needs to be in a song and what you can leave out of a song and still get your point across.”

Erik explains his writing process as trying to write whatever is on his mind that day. He has lists of different titles and song ideas he has compiled over the years and often brings those to his co-writes to brainstorm.

“It always seems like the strongest songs and the strongest ideas are the ideas that show up on your way to co-write,” he admits. “I turn off my radio for 30 minutes on the way to Music Row and try to think. You hope an idea falls out of the sky. Fifty percent of the time it does and the other 50 percent you hope the other co-writer had an idea fall out of the sky.”

While Erik writes mainly on acoustic guitar, he says many songwriters are also track writers. The writer will get a track going with drums, bass and guitar and begin writing melodic and lyrical content to that track. For Erik, his first step is guitar and then the lyric and trying to make his lyric melodic. He admits this is often the toughest for him.



“I’ve always been great at lyrics but I’ve always had a hard time making that lyric work melodically. A lot of writers who don’t play instruments, I recommend to get karaoke music to the genre that you’re trying to write to and sing along with those songs. A lot of the chord changes are similar no matter what song it is. You could start finding other melodies just by listening to that music.”

He adds: “It’s a really good way to think of new melodies. You don’t have to think about playing guitar or lyrics. I’ll play karaoke from different artists–they have instrumentals of everything–and I’ll start singing melodies along with that music. Usually I’ll find something that falls out. It’s always a good way to cure writers block. It works, I’m serious. Because you’re singing along with songs that are on the radio and you’re not hearing that melody, you can take the melody and take it to a different place and change the music to what you’re doing and you have a song. It’s a good thing to do if you’re not an instrumentalist.”

While he admits songwriting is a lot of trial and error, Erik stresses the importance of finding people you feel comfortable writing with.

“What I start seeing in certain writers that I write with a lot is I know we write this type of a song well together. I know how to pitch my ideas to certain writers. We know each other so well in the room that we don’t have to think about whether the other co-writer is going to like the idea. We already know.”


So how does he know if he wants to keep the song he wrote for himself or give it away to another artist?

“The cool part of what I do is seeing the song shine whether it’s coming from me or coming from a different artist. I’m prouder of the song than anything else. That’s a win win for everybody. To a songwriter, the song is always ours,” he stresses. “Getting a song into commercial radio is such a difficult task anyway that there’s no way I would hold songs just for myself and run the risk of maybe they’ll never get released. I would rather see that song out there and that it means something to a listener. A lot of artists bigger than me can reach more people with a song. I’m more than willing for them to take the song and make it their own.”

To hear more demos from Erik Dylan, visit SoundCloud or his Website.

September 6, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Maddie & Tae
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week

Maddie & Tae Today Show

(Credit: Allister Ann)

I’m convinced that 2015 is the year girls take back country radio. Country duo Maddie & Tae are proving just this as they released their debut album Start Here on Friday (Aug. 28) and it’s full of powerful songs all penned by them. I spoke with Maddie & Tae in April about their album and why it’s so important that the duo give a voice to other women on the radio.

“Giving girls a voice is so special to both of us and we just feel blessed to do that,” Maddie Marlow explains. “There’s all different types of songs on our record, all different types of stories. ‘Girl in a Country Song’ was one where we were like, ‘We know other people feel this way, and we’re gonna hold the torch for this message.’ And it worked.”


“Girl in a Country Song” went to No. 1 on the country charts and helped launch Maddie & Tae’s career. While the song called out the men on the radio for singing about girls in the passenger seat, Maddie & Tae’s album proves that they’re not just sitting back and looking pretty. Instead, the duo is driving full speed ahead with their vivid storytelling and smart lyrics, showing why females should be heard on country radio. Their second single, “Fly” is an inspirational song that urges us all to keep on climbing those insurmountable obstacles while other songs like “Shut Up and Fish” continues the humor of “Girl in a Country Song” by putting a guy in his place when he clearly has much more than fishing on his mind.



“I think people were noticing that you never hear a woman’s voice, or perspective, on the radio,” Tae Dye adds. “So that was important for us to hold that torch and be like, ‘OK, we’re gonna bring women back and we’re gonna come at it full force with a very strong message that we’re very passionate about.’”



“Both of us were raised as strong, independent women who have trouble putting their guard down,” Maddie continues. “Songwriting was a challenge for both of us, to go in a room, and pour our hearts out, sometimes to a stranger if we were working with a person we hadn’t written with before.”

She said being that vulnerable is something she and Tae struggled with in the writing room but it’s that vulnerability that has allowed them to write their best songs.

“Strangers have come up to me and said, ‘Your song did this for me because this thing happened in my life,’ because we allowed ourselves to be so vulnerable,” Maddie says. “I think there’s something so beautiful about that.”

Both Maddie & Tae say that Start Here is their complete truth. The album is 11 songs that tell the stories of their lives over the past five years, all of which they co-wrote themselves.

“The title explains everything,” Tae asserts. “We choose Start Here as the title because it’s just the beginning and it’s the first taste that our fans are getting and we plan to make make many more and there’s not going to be an end.”

Maddie & Tae’s Start Here is available now. This interview first appeared on

September 1, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Toby Keith
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Toby Keith

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, country singer-songwriter Toby Keith shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


In July, I spent some time with Toby Keith at a tour stop in Connecticut during his Good Times & Pick Up Lines Tour for my first cover story for Nash Country Weekly. Our chat was focused on songwriting as the country singer-songwriter recently was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the only award Toby says he has ever wanted. During our chat, I asked him how important it was to be able to play guitar or piano in order to write songs. Surprisingly, he told me being familiar with guitar shouldn’t be my main focus. Below is an excerpt of our chat.

“You don’t have to be a great musician, but it’ll help you if you can play enough of one instrument, a guitar or piano,” Toby tells me while lounging on a leather couch at the front of his bus. “You’d have a hell of a time writing on a flute I think. As long as you can play chords and understand how music’s made you can create your own melodies then.”

He then asks me if I play guitar and I admit that I only picked it up a few months ago and have been taking lessons every week. I explain that my biggest problem is hearing the melody, so my hope is that by learning guitar it will become easier for me to hear the lyrics that I’m writing and the flow of the song.

“There are people who have written big time songs and never played anything,” he says, explaining that it’s not important that I learn how to play guitar, but instead that I should understand the structure of the music.

“In your case, I’m gonna tell you to hear a song, write one down that you like and then throw the music away and read the words and see how the poem is on paper,” he advises before he starts to recite his first No. 1 hit, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” to me word for word so I understand what he means and notice the rhythm of the song.

“So it’d be like, ‘I betcha never heard ol Marshal Dillon say/ ‘Miss Kitty have you ever thought of runnin’ away?’ / Settlin’ down would you marry me / If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please / She’d of said yes in a New York minute / They never tied the knot his heart wasn’t in it / He just stole a kiss as he road away/ He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place.'”



In that moment I could hardly believe my luck, getting songwriting tips from the Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee himself, Toby Keith. His advice didn’t stop there, though.

“And then you can see the structure of that particular way to write it. Just open up a bunch of lyric sheets on the Internet and read people’s songs. If you’re just going to be a lyricist I think you can write like that and then somebody can take a great idea that you had and put music to it,” he stresses. “You could do that. You’ll probably be more productive quicker that way but they go hand in hand when you’re writing songs.”

Toby Keith’s 18th studio album, 35 mph Town will be released on October 9.

August 30, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
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