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Songwriting Session with Blair Daly
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Blair-Daly

Courtesy: Spidey Smith

Blair Daly never intended to write country music when he first moved to Nashville in the early 1990s. Instead, the Louisiana native had his heart set on rock music. A chameleon when it comes to songwriting, Daly has penned hits for artists in countless genres including country, pop, rock and alt-rock. He continues to be a mainstay in the Nashville songwriting community, having signed a new publishing deal with Concord Music earlier this year.

During an in-depth three-hour interview at his studio in Nashville, Daly explains how writing for multiple genres of music keeps songwriting from feeling like a job. A lover of all types of music, Daly tries his best to keep his calendar balanced with a mix of rock, country and pop co-writes.

“To me, writing rock songs makes me better at writing country songs and writing country songs makes me better at the other,” he explains, settling into a desk chair at his studio. “[You’re] exercising all the muscles and it keeps you fresh.”

Daly has penned songs for a wide range of artists. His studio’s walls are covered in plaques from songs he’s written for Kip Moore, Kelly Clarkson, the Backstreet Boys, Carrie Underwood, Halestorm and Little Big Town. Just a glimpse at his catalog, other acts who have recorded his music include Rascal Flatts, Uncle Kracker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Veil Brides and Sixx:A.M. While he’s found success in the country genre, it was rock music that laid the groundwork for his lifelong passion of music.

Daly grew up in a small town in Louisiana playing in rock bands. His high school only had two bands so he found himself alternating between both and playing whatever instrument was needed. The songwriter admits that he never thought about writing songs until it came time to decide what he would be doing after high school. He wanted to move to Los Angeles to be in a rock band and play famous venues on the Sunset Strip like the Whiskey a Go Go. His parents vetoed the idea and suggested looking into colleges in Nashville instead.

“In 1990, Nashville was still mostly country music and I was like, ‘What? Nashville! Country music?’ I grew up on rock and hard rock in the ’80s when rock was king,” he explains. “When I started investigating Nashville and coming up here to look at schools, I started running into people who wrote songs for a living. I never knew it was a real job until right before I moved here.”

Daly attended Middle Tennessee State University for a while — until he found his first “legit out” going on the road with a family member of his, Will Rambeaux, who was pursuing an artist career. His experience qualified as an internship and he got credit for helping with radio promotion. Soon, he began co-writing with his cousin. Daly realized that he could potentially make a living as a songwriter if he worked hard at it so he and Rambeaux continued writing songs throughout the ’90s, eventually amassing several hits with John Michael Montgomery.

“He really, really encouraged me to write and sing and play live and he pushed me out of my comfort zone way more than I ever would have,” Daly says of his cousin. “At the time, he was writing for a company in town called Wrensong that Ree Guyer had and still has. He was writing there and I was hopping from one thing to another to pay the bills and writing when I had a day off, or at night, or on the weekends.”

Daly says he and Rambeaux hit a sweet spot and started writing some cool songs with another friend, Troy Verges. Rambeaux took them both under his wing, helping on co-writes. Eventually his cousin’s publisher took interest in him and Daly signed with Wrensong Publishing around 1995. By 1997, he had his first single on the radio with Montgomery’s “How Was I to Know.”

The songwriter vividly recalls penning “How Was I to Know” with his cousin at his old house in Sylvan Park that he and Verges were renting at the time. He had several ideas and melodies prepared and played one of them on his tape recorder for Rambeaux.

“I played it for him and he was like, ‘Yeah, this is something. This is definitely something,’ and he picked that title to go with that melody and we wrote it,” Daly recalls with a smile. “I don’t remember us really having to wrestle it down or anything. I think it was a pretty natural write and I do remember being in that old dingy rent house in Sylvan Park writing it. Most of that time period was kind of blurry but three dudes living in a rent house and then all of a sudden you get publishing deals and you’re getting a draw. It’s like, ‘Wait, I don’t have to go to a day job? I can go and buy beer and write songs and play guitar all day?’”

The song’s success surprised Daly, who thought he was writing a rock song that he could envision Aerosmith, Def Leppard or Bon Jovi singing but his publisher saw otherwise. She felt he was creating country songs and Guyer suggested Daly sing them because she also saw an artist career in his future. While Daly wasn’t keen on being in the spotlight, he continued to sing the songs he wrote, pitching himself as an artist as well. His career soon shifted, though, when Montgomery cut his song.

“John Michael was killing it at the time. He had, ‘I Love the Way You Love Me,’ ‘I Swear,’ ‘I Could Love You Like That’ and all those big massive ballads, and I had the next one in mind and that was when it all changed,” Daly reflects.

Daly was invited to the Atlantic Records office to hear his song recorded by Montgomery and says it was an out of body experience listening to the country singer’s take on “How Was I to Know.” While Daly’s demo wasn’t country, once Montgomery’s baritone was heard on the track alongside steel guitar, all of a sudden his rock song transformed into a country ballad.

“It was very, very surreal and that’s when it was like, ‘Okay, this is what I want to do.’ It was released as a single several months later and then a few months after, it got to number one,” he says, still in disbelief. “[My] first cut was a single and it went to number one and that’s when it was like, ‘All right, I think we’ll hold off on this artist thing and let’s see how this pans out.’ A huge weight was lifted.”

 

For more of my interview with Blair Daly, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

January 20, 2019 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Josh Thompson
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Josh Thompson

Courtesy: Big Machine Music

Josh Thompson penned his first song at the age of 21, just six months after he got his first guitar, and he hasn’t been able to stop since. The 40-year-old tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone that he’s always writing something.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of songs and some of my favorite writers, people like Merle Haggard and George Jones, were extremely vulnerable,” Thompson explains. “They could allow themselves to be almost the bad guy and that gave them a redeeming quality. When I started to write songs and was playing them and noticed in small increments that there were some people that were getting moved by some of the things I was writing, I was gearing up more and more at that point to be like, ‘Okay, I’m just going to go to Nashville and see what it looks like and try to make a living writing songs.’”

The Wisconsin native visited Nashville for the first time when he was 24. He loved everything about the city and after spending some time downtown on Broadway he admits that he thought Music City was a never ending party. Naturally, he moved there the next year. Seven months after he relocated Thompson had a publishing deal and when looking back on his early career, he realizes things happened rather quickly. He later proved the old adage of Nashville being a 10 year town true as it took him 12 long years to see his first No. 1 hit with Jason Aldean’s “Any Ol’ Bar Stool.”

“It took about seven months, which is fast, to get my first publishing deal. That’s how I started meeting [and writing with] people. Some had publishing deals, some didn’t, some had cuts, some didn’t, some had hits,” he explains. “It was writing with people and learning how to co-write, and then just plugging different people in.”

Becoming a full-time songwriter wasn’t easy though. Thompson had a day job as a concrete finisher, which allowed him to pay his bills and make enough money to get by so he could spend his free time writing songs. He soon garnered a record deal with Columbia Nashville after being recognized for a song he wrote in 2008 that Jason Michael Carroll cut called “Growing Up Is Getting Old.” The song became the title track to Carroll’s sophomore album, released in 2009.

Thompson says “Growing Up Is Getting Old” was an important song that helped to kick start his songwriting career. While it didn’t do anything on the charts, “Growing Up Is Getting Old” marked his professional start as a songwriter as it was his first major cut.

The following year he’d release his debut album, Way Out Here. He co-wrote each of the project’s 10 tracks, including Top 20 singles “Beer On the Table” and “Way Out Here.” The latter hit No. 15 on the country charts and was Thompson’s biggest hit as a solo artist.

Thompson co-wrote “Way Out Here” with David Lee Murphy and Casey Beathard. While he doesn’t recall how the song came to be as he penned it nearly a decade ago, he says he remembers the feeling he had once the song was finished.

“You know when you’ve got something really good and when you’ve got something that’s great, and that was one of those songs,” he recalls. “We were all very content that this was, and could be, something great. That’s a feeling you don’t get a whole lot but when you do, you’re very blessed to have it.”

For more of my interview with Josh Thompson and the hits he’s written including Jason Aldean’s “Drowns the Whiskey” and “Any Ol’ Bar Stool,” and Blake Shelton’s “I’ll Name the Dogs,” visit Sounds Like Nashville.

January 13, 2019 | | (0) comment comment
Sister Hazel Share the Story Behind “In Two” from Upcoming EP ‘Wind’
CATEGORIES: Features, Interviews


Sister Hazel will release their second of four EPs on Friday (Sept. 7). Titled Wind, the seven-track EP is part of the compilation series Elements.

One of the standout songs on the project is a soaring ballad called “In Two.” Written by Sister Hazel guitarist Ryan Newell and Todd Wright, Newell tells the story behind the song that he wrote for his wife on their wedding day.

“‘In Two’ is a very special song for me,” he explains. “I co-wrote it with Todd Wright, who lives up in Virginia where I live. It’s a love song. It was written for my wife. Todd actually played it in my wedding. The song is really dear to me because of that. I never really thought it was going to make a record. I thought it was just gonna be for that moment.”

Newell says as he and the band were picking out songs for their EP, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to feature “In Two” on the project. While his bandmates had forgotten about the song, when he played it for them they all agreed that it should be included on the release.

The delicate three-minute track features Andrew Copeland on vocals with backup harmonies from Wright’s daughter. An obvious choice for a wedding song, “In Two” strikes a chord. “I’ll never let you go / No matter what darkness comes in / I will shelter you / Nothin’s breaking us in two / Hold onto me, I’ll hold onto you,” he sings on the chorus.

“Drew sang it. He sang a beautiful version of it and it came out great,” Newell continues. “It doesn’t have too much production on it. We wanted to keep it as simple as possible. There’s a really cool string arrangement and there’s some baritone acoustic on it. It’s basically a vocal-driven song and it makes my wife very, very happy.”

“In Two” will be available on Sept. 7 as part of Sister Hazel’s new EP, Wind.

September 6, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
5 Best Places to Write a Song In Nashville
CATEGORIES: Features

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While thousands of country music fans descend upon Nashville this week for CMA Fest, many songwriters will also be traveling through Music City. Today, The Workshop owner Austin Evans offers his tips on the five best places to write a song in Nashville.

By Austin Evans

1. The Workshop

The Workshop is Nashville’s only 24-hour songwriting space. While many other places shut their doors at 5 p.m., this little spot on historic Music Row has songwriters penning hits around the clock. It’s hard to beat the location, which is among industry giants Big Machine, Ole and Liz Rose Music Publishing. Not to mention, it’s just a short walk to Edgehill Cafe for some coffee.

The Workshop has four different writing rooms, each with its own particular vibe. Large enough to comfortably accommodate at least three people, none of the rooms share a wall, which cuts down on distracting outside noise. Two guitars and a full-size keyboard are available if writers aren’t able to bring their own instruments.

The Workshop’s time slots are 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. but if you want to use that 5 o’clock slot or later you’ll have to sign up for a membership. The memberships don’t have a contract, so you can cancel at any time. Writers are also welcome to book a room for a one-time fee of $20. A “first write free” policy is in place so songwriters can come use the location once before they decide if it is for them.

Contact:

Austin Evans – austin@theworkshopmusic.com

Website: www.theworkshopmusic.com

Phone: (615) 933-1337

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2. InDo Nashville

InDo Nashville is one of the premier co-working spaces in the city. While the focus here is more than just songwriters, they still offer a special Songwriting Membership. InDo is located in the heart of downtown Nashville. These writing rooms are comfortable, warm and inviting. Since InDo is primarily a co-working space, it one of the quieter places in town to write.

InDo books its writing session in two 3-hour blocks from Monday-Friday with the first session starting at 10 a.m. and the second starting at 2 p.m. Some of the amenities include a friendly concierge, coffee/tea/water service, high-speed Wi-Fi and community & networking events throughout the year.

Writers coming from out of town can book one-time writes for $20.

Contact:

John Richardson – john@indonashville.com

Website: indonashville.com

Phone: (615) 656-0077

3. NSAI

NSAI, or the Nashville Songwriting Association International, is one of the biggest players in the songwriting world. They have chapters all over the world so if you need a place to write outside of Nashville, research to see if there’s a group near you. While NSAI’s main focus is on education and legislation, the headquarters in Nashville has several writing rooms available as well.

The rooms here are cozy and most come with a keyboard for piano players. Also located off Music Row, NSAI sits next to some of the largest publishing and management companies in the industry. While they don’t let non-members reserve rooms, membership here comes with several perks beyond the writing rooms. NSAI holds weekly seminars, pitch-to-publisher meetings, and the opportunity to attend the world-renowned NSAIs Song Camp.

To book a room here, members should call the front desk to reserve a day and time.

Contact:

Website: nashvillesongwriters.com

Phone: (800) 321-6008

4. The Nashville Public Library

Believe it or not, the library has writer rooms available as well. There are four separate spaces here with names like the Eskind Writer’s Room, Schweid/Mills Writer’s Room, Jack Knox Writer’s Room and the Fred Russell & Robert Churchill Sr. Writer’s Room.

Writing rooms at the library are free to use but there is an application process to access them. According to the library’s website:

“Usage of a Writer’s Room is restricted to persons who have a signed publisher’s contract, are underwritten by a third party, have been formerly published (with evidence of previous publication), who have a letter of interest from a publisher, journalists possessing valid press credentials, visiting scholars and academicians (current and retired).”

If you’re brand new in town you might not qualify, but if you fit the requirements this is one of the best options in town. It also comes with complimentary parking just a few blocks down from Lower Broadway and some of the best live music in the world.

Contact:

Jennifer Schmid – jennider.schmid@nashville.com

Website: library.nashville.org/about/policies/writers-rooms-guidelines

Phone: (615) 862-5800

5. Performance Rights Organization (PRO)

Whether you are affiliated with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, each of these has a headquarters in Nashville with writer rooms available. The rooms are stylish and comfortable with plenty of space to stretch out. Like NSAI, booking these writer rooms is completely free for members.

The only trouble you might run into is the sheer number of members these organizations have, so if you have a day that you absolutely need a room, make sure to book it well in advance. Membership to all three is free, although you have to be invited to join SESAC. To join BMI or ASCAP, simply sign up on the company’s website.

Contact:

ASCAP

Website: ascap.com

Phone: (615) 742-5000

BMI

Website: bmi.com

Email: nashville@bmi.com

Phone: (615) 401-2000

SESAC

Website: sesac.com

Phone: 615-320-0055

June 5, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Grainne Duffy
CATEGORIES: Features

Grainne Duffy

Grainne Duffy released her critically acclaimed debut album Out of the Dark in 2007 and the striking project garnered the Irish singer-songwriter sets at festivals like Glastonbury, Blue Balls, Blues du Passion, and Tremblant International Festival. A testament to her songwriting and stage show, the singer continues to impress on her latest album, 2017’s Where I Belong. The 10-track LP highlights her impact as a solo artist with memorable storytelling and bluesy vocals.

Duffy’s music has a throwback feel that at times recalls Janis Joplin and her impressive guitar skills coupled with her standout songwriting and captivating vocals make it easy to envision her playing the stage at Woodstock. With guitar playing and distinct soul that brings to mind B.B. King, Duffy is one artist to keep on your radar. One listen to her performance of “Drivin’ Me Crazy” and it’s easy to see why she’s a respected artist overseas.

 

 

Other highlights include her current single, “My Love,” where Duffy proves she is a triple threat with infectious singing, engaging storytelling and memorable guitar shredding. Meanwhile, the title track of her latest album continues her intrigue. Listen to both below.

 

 


For more on Grainne Duffy and to check out her tour dates, visit her website.

March 31, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Kalie Shorr
CATEGORIES: Features

kalie shorr

Kalie Shorr will make her Opry debut on Saturday (March 31). The singer-songwriter learned the exciting news last month and shared a tearful video reveal with her mom.

“Mom, what are you doing March 31?” she asks in a minute-long clip shared on Twitter. She can barely choke the words out before she tears up, and Mom can be heard getting emotional, too.

I’ve covered Shorr several times for Taste of Country, who named the singer a RISER artist in 2017. Shorr has been an outspoken champion for female country artists who are coming up with her. She recently teamed up with more than 20 female singers to release “Time’s Up,” a song and video track she co-wrote which addresses the mistreatment of women in society.


Additionally, Shorr is an original member of Song Suffragettes, a weekly all-female singer-songwriter round at the Listening Room in Nashville. There couldn’t be a better female artist selected to perform on the Opry stage on the final day of Women’s History Month. Listen to two of my favorite songs from Shorr in the videos below.



March 30, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Cassadee Pope
CATEGORIES: Features

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Cassadee Pope is set to release her new single “Take You Home” on Friday (March 30) and the song marks the singer’s return following a label departure. I chatted with Pope for Billboard and she says “Take You Home” was the perfect reintroduction to her solo career following the success of her 2016 duet “Think of You” with Chris Young.

“I’ve always gravitated towards catchy melodic songs. I love the melody in that song and I love how the first verse dips down and makes you pay attention,” she explains. “Something that I thought about too was, ‘What do I want people to hear first after a few years of being off the grid?’ I had ‘Think of You,’ which I’m so grateful for, but as in my own music I haven’t had anything in a while. This is what I want to reintroduce myself as. It’s confident, it’s sexy. I feel like I am in that place and I feel like that’s what people are going to get from that song.”

The song blends pop and rock elements with hand-clapped rhythms, slick production and soaring guitar parts that support Pope’s memorable vocals. It’s the descriptive lyrics, though, that Pope says feel distinctly country. “Take You Home” was written by Ben Hayslip, Emily Weisband, and Paul DiGiovanni, and Pope knew upon first hearing it that she wanted the song for herself.

“Being single for the first time in eight years, I definitely felt those feelings when you meet somebody for the first time and you’re like, ‘I want to show you where I come from and I want to take you home but not in that fleeting way. I want to take you to my hometown and show you what shaped me,'” she says.

For more of my interview with Pope, visit Billboard. Listen to a snippet of “Take You Home” below.

March 29, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: RaeLynn
CATEGORIES: Features

RaeLynn

RaeLynn recently released her new single “Queens Don’t” to country radio. Penned by the singer with Corey Crowder and J Hart, the empowering anthem was inspired by her mother’s hard work to raise five kids as a single mom with no formal education. At a single release event at Nashville’s Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, RaeLynn discussed the evolution of the song and how she hopes to build people up with her music.

“She got promotion on top of promotion because she knew who she was and never apologized for it,” RaeLynn shared of her mother’s climb up the corporate ladder. “I found through watching my mom, you can’t build up and tear down at the same time. You have to choose. I choose to build up and encourage everyone to reach their God given queen and king potential. This song is about everyone living out their God given destiny. I’m so honored to be able to release this song.”

Following RaeLynn’s song introduction, she was joined by three drag queens dressed as some of country music’s biggest stars — Shania Twain, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire — while the final queen played the role of RaeLynn’s twin as she sang her new single to the room of industry professionals.

“Queens don’t hate, queens don’t fight / Queens don’t stay unless their king treats her right / Every jewel on my crown you better believe I earned it / Won’t keep people around that don’t believe I deserve it / No, queens ain’t fake / A queen’s gonna rule just the way she was made,” RaeLynn sings on the chorus.

Watch her music video for “Queens Don’t” below and catch RaeLynn debut the song on the Opry Friday night (March 30).

 

March 28, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Ashley McBryde
CATEGORIES: Features

Ashley-McBryde

Ashley McBryde will release her major label debut, Girl Going Nowhere, on Friday and it’s an album that begs to be heard. The singer has already been getting rave reviews from Garth Brooks, Eric Church, and Miranda Lambert. Upon hearing the title track to her album, Brooks called McBryde “a songwriter’s dream” while Church invited McBryde on stage and on tour with him, raving, “she’s a whiskey drinking badass.”

I reviewed the album recently for Sounds Like Nashville and it’s a release that I find myself still listening to after turning in my article, which is always a good sign! Opening track “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” has become an anthem for both the singer and country fans, and it’s easy to see why. Inspired by an algebra teacher who told the Arkansas native she should have a backup plan when she shared her dream of moving to Nashville to write songs, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” is a powerful and heartfelt ballad that has McBryde proving her naysayers wrong.

 

 

Throughout McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere, her honest songwriting strikes a chord and puts the listener in the song on tracks like current single “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” and the unique love song “American Scandal,” where she pleads for someone to “love me like Kennedy and Monroe.”

 

 

For more of my review, visit Sounds Like Nashville. Pick up a copy of McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere, available everywhere on Friday.

March 27, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Lauren Alaina
CATEGORIES: Features

Lauren Alaina

Credit: Jake Matthews

Congratulations is in order for Lauren Alaina, who was revealed as an ACM Awards winner today. The singer received a phone call from Reba McEntire, who let Alaina know that she has been named the 2018 New Female Vocalist of the Year.

The career-defining moment had the “Doin’ Fine” singer in tears and speechless. She even got McEntire teary eyed! Watch the sweet moment below.

“This award is for so much more than just me,” Alaina says in a press release. “This award is for all the people who want to give up- Don’t. This award is proof that you can achieve what you want to achieve and get where you want to go. Today, all of my dreams have come true.”

This is Alaina’s first-ever ACM Award. She is also nominated for Vocal Event of the Year for “What Ifs,” a collaboration with Kane Brown. The 53rd Annual ACM Awards air live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15 at 8pm ET on CBS.

The singer released her sophomore album, Road Less Traveled, last year and it became the top-streamed female country release of 2017. Songs like powerful anthem “Road Less Traveled,” which also became her first No. 1 hit, showcase the singer’s memorable vocals and her skills as a songwriter.


Meanwhile, her latest single, “Doin’ Fine,” has Alaina revealing her vulnerabilities to listeners. As a result, the poignant song strikes a chord. Alaina is set to perform on the ACM Awards on April 15, allowing viewers to get to hear the New Female Vocalist of the Year live from Sin City.

March 26, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
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Willie Shaw's sultry new song mesmerizes upon first listen.
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