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Songwriting Session with The Wild Now
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

TheWildNow1

Courtesy: Noisy Ghost PR

Songwriting Session is a 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, Taylor Baker of The Wild Now shares what she has learned as a songwriter.

 

Taylor Baker and Drew Walker first met while watching Local Natives play a set at SXSW in 2013. Shortly after, the two musicians began writing songs together and formed a duo called Taylor & the Wild Now. In 2016, they changed their name to the Wild Now and charged full speed ahead playing shows and recording new music.

Their latest five-song EP Afterglow, released on Friday (May 19), showcases a new sound for the band as the duo have embraced the trumpet within their recordings. In an interview over the phone from her home in Austin, Texas, Taylor discussed the band’s evolution and shared some insight on songwriting and how she battles through the difficulties of writer’s block.

On Afterglow, Taylor says she and Drew made a conscious effort to transition to a newer sound. While it’s still the indie-pop music fans know and love, she says their songs have matured as they continue to push boundaries and themselves out of their comfort zone. One song in particular, “Tongue Tied,” shows this evolution. Drew wrote the instrumentals for the track and Taylor explains that it was this song in particular that prompted the decision to add trumpet features over the guitar parts and production.

“We really wanted it to be a song that people could listen to and escape,” Taylor explains. “It’s about letting go and living in the moment.”

While Drew writes the majority of the music first, Taylor will then add lyrics and melody to the song. She admits that lately she’s been having difficulty feeling inspired and her favorite songs are the ones that flow out of her. When she’s dealing with writer’s block she tries her best to sit down with her guitar and write, but not have too many expectations.

“I feel like when I put more pressure on myself then it’s stressful and nothing good really comes out of it,” she shares. “I’ll carry around a notebook, write down lyrics when they hit me and quotes that inspire me that I could maybe add to a song. Sometimes if I really feel stuck I’ll learn a cover of another song that I love, just to get ideas.”

Taylor says she always tries to write from an honest place. It’s advice another songwriter gave to her and something she has taken to heart, noting that the most popular songs are often the most relatable. Since she and bandmate Drew are currently dating she admits that this can sometimes be hard.

“I’m always in my head and [my] thoughts are all over the place. So, when I write, I discover the meaning after the fact and then I’m like, ‘OK this makes sense that I wrote this song,’ when at the time I wouldn’t really know exactly why,” she explains. “Me and Drew, my guitar player, we’re dating so I guess in some ways that does give me pause when writing because I don’t want to be too honest.”

The two songwriters never ask each other too much about the stories behind their songs and instead focus on writing the best song they can for listeners. Taylor describes Drew’s music as peaceful and beautiful, noting that some tracks have a more beachy vibe to them.

“It’s music you could listen to all the time,” she adds.

Their new single is “Afterglow” and Taylor says it’s the most unique track on the EP. Her airy vocals are accentuated by Drew’s musical production and she says the song hints at the direction their band is moving toward. Music fans will get a taste of this transition on the band’s current tour, which runs through June. The duo are set to play Austin City Limits in October and the Austin natives hope to connect with those in attendance.

“When I see somebody live, I get a connection more with the music than if I were to just listen to it [on a recording]. As a singer and being in a band myself, I love to watch their stage presence and get ideas of my own.”

Taylor says her favorite song to perform these days is “Run For Your Life.” Watch the music video for the song and stream their new EP below. For more on The Wild Now and upcoming tour dates, visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

The band is set to play Nashville on May 25 and May 26 at Cobra and The 5 Spot respectively. They head to New York on May 29 and May 30 to perform at Pianos and Rockwood Music Hall.

May 21, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Tommy Lee James
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Tommy-Lee-James

Credit: Olivia James

Songwriting Session is a 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, Tommy Lee James shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

It took Tommy Lee James 30 years to record his first album, The Wontons, which he released in March. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter moved to Music City in 1987 thinking he’d see fame and an artist career within six months but this was far from the case. After a failed record deal he found himself writing songs for others and would soon garner cuts from acts like Reba McEntire (“And Still”), Brooks & Dunn (“A Man This Lonely,” “If You See Him, If You See Her”), Gary Allan (“Life Ain’t Always Beautiful”), Tim McGraw (“She’s My Kind of Rain”) and Blake Shelton (“My Eyes”), among others.

While his day job may be writing songs for country, pop and EDM acts, James’ current project The Wontons shares his love of Brit pop. Some of his early influences include R.E.M., The Cure and Television and he channeled these acts when sitting down to write the record solo.

“In Nashville, except for a few times in 30 years, everything’s been a collaboration co-writing,” he tells me. “So this was 100-percent just sitting at my desk at my laptop working on the songs myself. I would work on them over the course of a few days in my head while I was doing other things, which is a nice luxury to have.”

Songs on the album include “Shoot Me Down,” which details James’ realization that there is often safety in numbers when co-writing. He lost that security blanket on the record and admits that writing by himself was daunting at first.

“It felt like, ‘Wow, I’m really putting myself out here, writing these songs by myself.’ Even after all these years it’s a little bit intimidating. ‘Shoot Me Down’ is about that, it’s about going out on a limb and just going for it, without fear.”

Other songs dig deeper. “Sometimes I Cry” has James’ grappling with the death of his father and the reality of our sometimes short life cycle.

“Some of those songs are about taking emotional inventory a little bit. It’s a luxury to write songs like that, it’s good therapy,” he reflects. “I don’t necessarily get that personal when I’m trying to write for the country market, or the pop market.”

James found success early on within the country genre. He recalls Nashville being a smaller town in the ’80s where he knocked on doors his first day in town with a backpack of cassettes and publishers let him in the door and listened to his songs. After two years, he signed his first deal with McEntire’s Starstruck Entertainment company and laughs as he remembers writing “a lot of really bad songs for them.”

His first cut was a song called “I Don’t Love You” that Conway Twitty recorded in 1993. McEntire would record another song called “And Still” two years later, which became James’ first No. 1. He’d soon find himself signed to an artist deal with RCA Records but was eventually dropped before he released an album.

Thanks to a tour with McEntire, he met Brooks & Dunn who soon needed an acoustic guitarist and singer in their band so James joined them on the road and began writing with Ronnie Dunn. The two penned “A Man This Lonely” together which would give James his second chart topper. His next hit would be “If You See Him/If You See Her,” which he co-wrote with Terry McBride and Jennifer Kimball. It became a duet between Brooks & Dunn and McEntire.

“We wrote it as a duet and we wrote it specifically for Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire,” James recalls. “We had the title, ‘If You See Him,’ and then we decided to make it ‘If You See Him, If You See Her,’ to make it a duet. We actually talked about what he would say, what she would say, and how they would say it. We were really focusing on that. I was so proud of that [song]. There was so much excitement around it because you had two major artists at the time on the record so I felt pretty good about that one.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Tommy Lee James, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

May 14, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Wendy Sweetlove
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Wendy Sweetlove


Songwriting Session is a 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, Wendy Sweetlove shares what she has learned as a songwriter.

California-based singer/songwriter Wendy Sweetlove grew up in the church and vividly recalls always having music around her home as a child. An avid reader, she was enamored with stories and did a lot of journaling and wrote poetry as she grew older. It wasn’t until after college, though, that she decided to place her poems to music after being prompted by a friend.

“There is something about music and good writing that moves you on a different level,” she says.

After college she began attending poetry readings. Transitioning through the aftermath of college is often difficult and she found herself often writing about her feelings. Soon after, she met a guitarist who she began co-writing with and realized that songwriting was something that she could do for a living. Now, Sweetlove is readying the release of her debut record. Ahead of her forthcoming album preview show on May 12 at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles, we chatted with the singer about her songwriting process and music.

The lead single on the project is a sultry track called “Delilah” that tells the tale of temptation. When Sweetlove sits down to write she normally starts with lyrics and an idea of what she wants to say. This time around, however, her co-writers started the song by jamming on guitar. She took the music home and sat with it for a few weeks trying to figure out what the song was trying to say.

“I think because of my background in the church I’m fascinated by the concept of temptation, which is kind of who Delilah is — this symbol of temptation and yet, to think about the actual story from her perspective. That notion as a woman, I think temptation can be delicious. And, something that you can enjoy and savor and yet some things are better to save the temptation than to give into,” she explains.

Sweetlove said it was the guitar lick that first started the song and she began to ask herself what does temptation mean? What does it look like? And where’s the line? She said she was hoping to capture the back and forth of how life can be so joyful in one moment and painful in the next.

The intriguing rhythms and backing vocalists help to get the story across within the song and she says it is often the musicians that help her take the song to another place in the studio.

“I’m not a great instrumental player and I’ve just found that when I collaborate with people who really know their instrument, they just take the song to a better place for me,” she explains. “I’ve come to the place where I actually love the collaboration because it’s fun and I’ve had the good fortune to work with kind and talented and lovely people. But also, I feel like it makes the songs better. I feel like it just sharpens [them].”

Sweetlove wrote all the lyrics on her forthcoming project herself and says one piece of advice she has taken to heart on songwriting comes from a friend who told her not to be precious about her songs and to just write the song and let it be.

“I really think about that because what am I afraid of, really? Maybe, if I write a song that isn’t the best song in the world? I’m going to survive. I’m going to be okay. Now that I trust myself more and I trust my co-writers more it’s so much more fun for me,” she admits.

Sweetlove promises a personal release and says she makes a point to also incorporate playfulness into her writing. Her hope is that people who attend her live show will walk away feeling different experiences and emotions, but most importantly feel connected.

“Every single one of those songs has a story. A very personal story in some [situations]. I want them to come and feel like they’ve connected with something real, that I am really trying to share something of my experiences with the world [and] that it can get better. That you can find joy in places where you didn’t think you could and that we’re all so much more connected than we sometimes feel.”

For those in California, be sure to catch Wendy’s preview release show on May 12 at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles. To hear a preview of her forthcoming album, visit her website.

May 7, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Barry Dean
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Barry-Dean

Credit: Spencer Combs

Songwriting Session is a 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, Barry Dean shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Barry Dean was in his mid-30s when he started writing professionally. While he dabbled in songwriting throughout his teens and continued to make up songs while mowing the lawn as an adult in Kansas, it was never something he considered chasing after. In a candid hour-and-a-half interview in his writing room at his publisher, Creative Nation, Dean reflects on his long journey to Nashville. As he recalls, it all started one afternoon while having lunch with his wife.

“We were looking at what to do for a living, where I should go and she said, ‘Well, what’s your passion?’” Dean remembers with a smile while seated in his office surrounded by guitars, keyboards and inspiring quotes hanging from the ceiling light fixture. “I laughed about it. I said, ‘I don’t think mid-30s is the time to be chasing passions.’ I had kids.”

Dean then told his wife that he wanted to be a songwriter when he was a kid and often dreamed of being around record labels and musicians. When prompted by his wife about why he doesn’t write songs he admitted that he did, often while mowing the grass or in his journal. Surprised at her husband’s secret passion, songwriting was something she kept in mind when asking if he would take her on a cruise for their anniversary the following month. He obliged and as it turns out, Dean’s wife found a songwriting cruise hosted by Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

The cruise hosted discussions about songwriting in the morning and the remainder of the day would be a typical vacation setting. It was on this excursion that Dean wound up performing and was invited to Nashville for a song camp. Soon he’d find himself traveling back and forth from Kansas to Nashville throughout the year, booking co-writes and taking songwriting seminars.

While picking up a guitar, he describes his early songs as “weird because I was learning to play the guitar.” He then begins to play one of the first songs that garnered him attention from a publisher, “The Boots of Sunny Red.” A story song told from the perspective of a boot, the music could be featured in a Western movie. He says his future publisher knew the song wasn’t a hit, but he liked the way Dean was thinking.

One piece of advice that Dean has taken to heart came from Mike Reid, who often tells songwriters to ask, “what’s the next truest thing I can say?” Dean relates this to several of the songs he’s written including Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” Martina McBride’s “God’s Will” and Tim McGraw’s “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” which garnered Dean his first Grammy nomination.

“It’s a pretty big deal to me to be allowed in this community at all. I really admire these writers. Getting nominated for a Grammy is really exciting,” he says, becoming reflective. “For a guy who never thought he’d get to do it at all, that is amazing that it’s possible that it can be done. I’ve been watching that show since I was a little boy and I got to go and we got to get dressed up and be with our friends and somebody liked the song, that’s pretty cool.”

“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” was a co-write between Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton and almost wasn’t recorded. The three friends spent most of the day working on something else but didn’t feel like they were getting anywhere so they switched gears. Dean remembers Laird playing a guitar riff first and the song was written 40 minutes later. He admits they didn’t think many artists would be interested.

“It’s really country. There was a discussion, ‘do we even demo it because it’s so country?’” he says. “We decided we would do it because we wanted to hear Jonathan Singleton sing. They played it for George Strait and thought he would cut it and then he didn’t and we thought, ‘Well, that’s probably about it.’ Then McGraw cut it. That guy, he’s a song connoisseur. McGraw has an understanding of his audience and himself and songs. It’s just amazing, really. To think of his catalog… to be a part of that catalog of songs is a big deal.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Barry Dean, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

April 9, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Mike Vial
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Mikevial_PressPhoto2small_PhotoCredit_AnneGlista

Credit: Anne Glista

Songwriting Session is a 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, Mike Vial shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Mike Vial has had a whirlwind six months. Days after the release of his new album, A World That’s Bigger, the Michigan-based singer/songwriter was hit by a car as he was walking to play a show. Vial soon found himself hobbling on crutches and lucky to be alive. He admits that, thankfully, his guitar has more cracks than him. Now fully healed, Vial chatted with me over the phone about his new album, his journey to becoming a full-time musician and some of the stories behind the songs on the record, which details the birth of his first daughter and the loss of a family member.

Vial has been a songwriter for as long as he can remember. The 35-year-old began writing poems and playing guitar in high school. He’d continue crafting songs as an adult in between his day job as a high school English teacher where he taught for eight years. In 2011, he decided to quit that job to focus more time on his artist career. Six years later, Vial continues full speed ahead with his songwriting and looks back on how it all began.

“I do remember the first song I wrote, and it was when I was a freshman,” he recalls. “I wrote a bunch of crappy songs that were more like the terrible poetry you would read in high school. I had a whole binder and I threw it away. I wish I still had it. The first song that I ever kept was when I was leaving for college. One classic breakup song. It was the first time I was singing.”

Vial admits that he had always pictured himself as a guitar player and not the frontman. During his senior year of high school, he and his friends were showcased as part of their school’s talent show where they performed three songs. Since no one could sing harmony in the band, Vial sang and he remembers it going pretty well.

“Finding my voice as a singer has been a very long journey. I think writing the song gave me another step in that direction that I was going to be the singer, and then I was going to be the artist in the front,” he admits.

While college mostly involved him reading books and teaching classes, he made some time for playing guitar and writing songs. He says that there were many little victories along the way that kept reminding him once he graduated that music wasn’t just a far off dream.

Years into his professional career, Vial often found himself playing bar gigs throughout Michigan after a long day of teaching. It was the steady money that eventually convinced him to finally leave his teaching job after eight years.

“I’m learning that there is no clear transition. It wasn’t like I had the perfect sign that it was right to quit my job. I just had to take the leap,” he explains. “It was the little victories along the way, and just in knowing I had to give it a shot. I think one thing is, and now that I’m a dad I definitely can relate to this whole thought I had. I needed to give myself time to figure out what music was going to look like before we started a family.”

As he approached his eighth year of teaching he realized it was “now or never,” explaining that the more comfortable one is in his lifestyle, the harder it is to leave. He describes music as a calling and says that when crafting a song, the music often comes first for him before the lyrics.

“There’s a moment in songwriting for me, where I feel like there’s enough development and there’s enough to go on, where the song is going to get finished, and it’s going to be pretty good,” he shares. “I know when I have the feeling, and I can’t explain what exactly it is. There’s enough structure there, there’s enough interesting parts. For the first set of lyrics, they usually come in the process when I’ve got a set structure of music and then I start humming and finding melodies. Then I find some lines, and the lines usually lead me to an idea. Then I’m off to the races.”

Vial adds that songwriting for him is “very chaotic.” He says the chaotic and messy process is the fun part for him.

 

 

“A World That’s Bigger” is the first song that Vial wrote as a father and is the title track to his latest release. He said it started with a Neil Young-esque riff that he jammed to before stumbling upon some melodies. He recalls humming as his daughter, Ginny, was sleeping in her bouncer.

“I was playing as quietly as possible. She’s just a baby, she can sleep through anything. I was lucky to catch that idea of the first verse, which is the first thing that I wrote lyrically for it during the processes of finding the chords that I was liking,” he recalls. “I was thinking about Ginny and I walking to this historic one-room schoolhouse down the street from our house and the baseball field and the church there. Then the theme of the weight of responsibility as a parent took over. Once I had the first verse and the chorus done, I knew that that was going to be a song.”

“Burning Bright,” meanwhile, was inspired by his late relative, David Plawecki, who started a pay-it-forward movement where he would give away $100 to everybody he knew for them to then give that money away to somebody else. Vial says he tries to write songs that are universal and this song embodies a universal theme of loss and death.

 

 

“I’ve learned I have to write about what I know,” he shares. “The way in which I approach is totally up to me because I’m writing the song and I’m not writing a memoir. That is another key balancing act of what’s going to do the song justice versus what’s going to do my ego justice. I have to be writing about what I know to get to the part where I don’t get stuck in a loop and I have enough to go on and I have enough interest to explore it.”

Vial admits that he’s been wanting to write a murder ballad but if he’s writing one, he needs to know that he’s relating to the speaker in the song.

“If they’re angry, I have to feel that anger. Fortunately, I’ve never hurt anybody but I’ve got to relate to that anger to get that song done,” he explains. “When it’s a relationship song, I’ve got to relate to them on a very personal level to get the seed of the song. It might grow in a different direction, but my seeds have to be really personal to get to the end. Otherwise, I just don’t feel like I have enough to go on.”

One song that has struck a chord with listeners is Vial’s “Girl On the Mountain, Boy On the Beach.” It’s a song for refugees that was entered into the Grassy Hill Songwriting Competition. While it didn’t win the prize, it did allow Vial to travel to Connecticut and play the song for the folk community there. He says it was a victory for him as a songwriter as so many people came up to him following his performance explaining how moved they were by it.

“It was the kind of song that gave myself permission to go in the folk direction,” he concedes. “Anytime we get to go to another city and play for a small or large audience is a win for the artist. That’s a part of the challenge. It’s a dream to just keep writing, let alone trying to play to people.”

 

For more on Mike Vial, visit his website or stream his latest album below.

March 26, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Steve Moakler
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Steve-Moakler

Courtesy: Essential Broadcast Media

Songwriting Session is a 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, Steve Moakler shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Steve Moakler released his fourth album, Steel Town, on Friday (March 17), but he admits it feels like it is his first record. The singer/songwriter co-wrote 10 of the album’s 11 tracks, which he says makes for a personal release. As he explains, Steel Town has so much “chapter one information” and as a result, many of the songs vividly paint the picture of his roots. On “Steel Town,” Moakler discusses what life in his hometown south of Pittsburgh was like and how it shaped who he has become.

“In a steel town you learn how to bend and not break / How to hang in, how to cut loose, how to find a way / How to start from nothing and build it from the ground / Everything that matters most I learned about in a steel town,” he sings on the chorus.

“There are a lot of songs about looking back, and also a lot of songs about trying to be in the moment and appreciating the moment,” he tells me of Steel Town. “All those looking back moments come from my roots in a steel town. And I think it’s taken me, really, 10 years of being gone to really understand how much I’m a product of that place and how much it has given me that I bring with me everywhere.”

Another personal song is the rowdy “Siddle’s Saloon,” where Moakler pays homage to his grandfather’s home bar. Located in his grandfather’s basement, it’s a place his family still gets together to reminisce about old times. “Siddle’s Saloon” is a song that marks new territory for Moakler and one that he can’t wait to play live.

“It’s a very personal song but it also is the most up-tempo, rocking [one],” he says. “It sounds honestly like a Celtic bar blue collar anthem. It’s got a great energy to it and I think it’ll be really, really fun to play live, and should add a lot of energy to the show. That, paired with what it means to me, probably puts it in the running for the song I’m most excited to play.”

At heart, Moakler is a songwriter first and foremost and fans get a glimpse into his life throughout the entirety of Steel Town. Well known for penning songs for other artists including Dierks Bentley’s “Riser,” Moakler says songwriting is what first brought him to Nashville, adding that it is his deepest love.

“The thrill of the chase of writing a song, the feeling that comes over a room and over you when you’re writing a song you love,” he says, pausing. “When we wrote ‘Wheels’ and when I wrote ‘Steel Town’ and really all the songs on this album, that excitement of tapping into something new and special and real, that feeling keeps me going. I really don’t know what else I would do. If I ever lost my voice or for some reason couldn’t travel anymore, I could write songs and I could still be a pretty fulfilled, creative person. That really is my first love.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Steve Moakler, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

March 19, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Jamie Meyer
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Jamie Meyer

Credit: Lukasz Malyszka

Songwriting Session is a 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, Jamie Meyer shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Jamie Meyer describes himself as a Swedish fish in a sea full of cowboys as the Gothenburg, Sweden, native currently splits his time between his homeland and Nashville. While he grew up on an eclectic blend of music including Swedish country, Rod Stewart, Queen, Del Shannon, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison thanks to his mother, he recalls frequently listening to Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi.

“At the end of every month, when she got paid from work, she always promised that I could buy one CD,” Meyer recalls. “I would spend the whole month watching hours of MTV in the ’90s trying to decide which artist I wanted to buy a CD from.”

It wasn’t until his first trip to the States years later that he would be introduced to American country music. Meyer was in Chicago and he vividly remembers being in awe of the many country radio stations here as there were no country stations for him to listen to in Sweden. An early favorite for Meyer was Kenny Chesney’s “She’s Got It All.”

While Meyer raves about the music festivals each summer in Sweden, he says the live music scene in Music City is incomparable.

“In Nashville you’ll find it everywhere, 24/7, and you can’t help but rise to the occasion and push yourself to becoming better. I love that about Nashville,” he shares. “Writing songs in Nashville is different, too. You often start with a title. In Sweden, we often start with the melody. To me, that was a big challenge to navigate. Nashville has helped me in writing better lyrics, even though I will probably always be a melody writer. Marrying Swedish pop melodies with the Nashville way of telling stories has become an interesting mission for me.”

As Meyer explains, country music is not about where you’re from, it’s about “feeling it on the inside and sharing your story.” Meyer is currently sharing his story with he world in the form of his brand new EP Miss This Town, which was released earlier this month. The seven-track recording was all co-written by Meyer with frequent collaborators including Swedish producer Hakan Mjornheim, Johnny Garcia, Jimmy Mattingly, Bridgette Tatum, Steve Dean, Adam Wood and Sarah Derr.

 

The collection of songs are personal for Meyer as two of the tracks touch upon the death of his grandparents. He calls “Holy Ground To Me” the most honest song on the EP as he wrote it while struggling over the loss of his grandparents.

“Sarah Derr did a phenomenal job putting my thoughts into words. Jimmy Mattingly on the fiddle, Peter Ljung on the piano and Hakan Mjornheim’s string arrangement and production is a match made in heaven,” he adds.

The title track, meanwhile, was inspired by Meyer’s eventual move from his hometown.

“It started with a hashtag I wrote on Instagram when I was taking a photo an early morning in Gothenburg, Sweden. I lived with the title for a while and after my grandfather’s funeral the storyline of the song was obvious but it’s also a very universal song,” he explains. “I can see how it can connect with anybody leaving a place or even someone getting ready for graduation.”

 

While Meyer’s heart is showcased on every track on the EP, so is his energetic live show. “Live to Die Another Day” is a guitar-fused jam that details living on the edge. It’s the EP’s standout song that also showcases Meyer’s uncanny pop melodies and striking guitar parts.

For more on Jamie Meyer, visit his website. Stream the album below via Spotify.

March 12, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Jessie Jo Dillon
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Jessie-Jo-Dillon

Photo credit: Kate York

Songwriting Session is a 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, Jessie Jo Dillon shares what she has learned as a songwriter.

 

Songwriting runs in the family for Jessie Jo Dillon. The daughter of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Dean Dillon, she admits that her father was often a huge shadow to be in. As a result, Jessie Jo frequently discouraged herself from becoming a songwriter. It was only a matter of time, though, that she realized music was her true calling.

Dillon grew up in a musical family with her songwriter father and two musically inclined brothers. She remembers being surrounded by music with everything from country to rock ‘n’ roll from the ’60s and ’70s being played in her home. The Eagles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan were frequently on the speakers and she recalls constantly writing as a child.

“I was always fascinated with words and the way they made people feel,” she tells me over the phone during a break from a writing session. “I had an English teacher that encouraged me all the way through, ‘You’re a writer, you’re a writer,’ [she said] even when I was trying to discourage myself from doing it.”

Adamant about not following in her father’s footsteps, Dillon moved to Los Angeles for a year where she soon found her songs being critiqued by a woman in publishing who urged her to go home. Taken aback at first, she thought the review was harsh but that wasn’t what the woman meant.

“No. You really can do this but you’re a country songwriter,’” she recalls her saying. “You need to go home because you really can do this.”

That was the push Dillon needed and she moved home around 2008 where she hit the ground running, but again was determined to do things her way. She didn’t want anyone to think she was joining the trade because of her father so she put more pressure on herself to strike out on her own and her hard work eventually paid off when she acquired a publishing deal a year later at the age of 21.

In 2010, she’d receive her first Grammy nomination for her very first cut, a song she wrote with her father and Casey Beathard called “The Breath You Take” that George Strait recorded. The song was nominated as Best Country Song at the 2011 awards ceremony. Dillon had the idea for “The Breath You Take” and called her dad and told him about it. That day he was writing with Beathard and invited his daughter to join them.

“We wrote it super quickly and I think it meant the same thing to all three of us, even at different stages in our lives: slow down and take it all in,” she explains. “We get so caught up in trivial things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme and it is just a moment of, ‘You’re going to miss the point of all of it if you don’t take it all in.’ That was a really special song for all three of us.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Jessie Jo Dillon, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

March 5, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Natalie Hemby
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Natalie-Hemby

Photo credit: Kate York

Songwriting Session is a 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, Natalie Hemby shares what she has learned as a songwriter.

 

Natalie Hemby had a long journey to releasing her debut album, Puxico, in January. The Nashville native and established songwriter is well known in Music City for penning hits for Miranda Lambert (“White Liar,” “Automatic”) and Little Big Town (“Pontoon,” “Tornado”), among others, but for years she was trying to make it as an artist. Hemby found herself close to a record deal several times throughout her first decade as a songwriter but due to the shifting musical landscape and regime changes at labels, she never signed on the dotted line.

“When I hit 30 I just gave it up,” Hemby tells me over the phone two days after her debut album dropped. “I was just like, ‘I want to write music. I don’t really care what that looks like. I don’t care if anybody every hears it. I just want to write music because I love to write songs.’ I even worked a job at Comcast for a while, which I actually really loved because I learned so much and I got a lot of great song ideas out of it.”

Hemby says her day job at Comcast grounded her and made her love songwriting even more. At the time her husband, Mike Wrucke, began producing Miranda Lambert and the two women became fast friends. Hemby soon found herself singing on Lambert’s first three albums and the Texas native kept urging her to set up a co-write.
“I thought she was hilarious and I really loved her music,” Hemby recalls. “She kept telling me, ‘Hey, we should get together and write.’ She said that a few times and the third time she was like, ‘No, I’m serious. Let’s write!’”

The two songwriters finally got together and the first time they met they wrote “White Liar,” which would become both Hemby and Lambert’s first No. 1. They continued their partnership and co-wrote four songs featured on Lambert’s third album, Revolution. Meanwhile, Hemby likens Lambert to a younger sister and says she respects her songwriting.

“I’m really lucky that I get to connect with somebody like her because she is a deep well of lyrics, and talent, and she’s hilarious. We had our first No. 1 together and it all sprung from that. The great thing is, she was also very respectful of me. She knew that I loved to write and that’s why we have such a great relationship, we just love music. We love good music.”

Another song Hemby co-wrote with Lambert was their CMA Single of the Year and ACM Song of the Year, “Automatic.” Hemby remembers Nicolle Galyon bringing the idea to their writing session.

“I probably contributed the least lyrically to the song,” she admits. “Melodically, those were my melodies. Each person has their role each different day. Like for ‘Only Prettier,’ I came in with that chorus and the first verse. I wanted to map this out pretty straightaway. I had the chorus, the first verse, and then melodies. With this one I took a backseat because I’m not the only one who loves nostalgia. Miranda loves that kind of stuff. Nicolle had this idea, ‘whatever happened to waiting your turn.’ Those two really carved out a lot.”

For more of my interview with Natalie Hemby, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

February 12, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Emma White
CATEGORIES: Features, Interviews, Songwriting Session

Emma White EP COVER

 

Songwriting Session is a 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, Emma White shares what she has learned as a songwriter.

 

Emma White was born into a musical family as both her mother and grandmother were singers and songwriters. In fact, Emma was named after Emmylou Harris while her siblings are named after a James Taylor reference. So, it’s safe to say that music has been woven into her life from an early age. Over coffee at Nashville’s Portland Brew, White recalls her music filled childhood fondly.

“We would have hootenannies all the time. My family got together and played and sang,” she says with a smile. “I was into pop music at the time. My family was always singing John Prine and Patty Griffin. They exposed me to something I might not have chosen on my own but it was always a part of me.”

White loved pop and R&B music while her family preferred country. Her latest EP blends all three genres and she credits her time studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston for helping her evolve as a songwriter.

The singer/songwriter wrote her first song as a teenager and began shopping her demos around at the age of 16. She’d often perform Lauryn Hill songs at talent shows in Maryland with the dream of being a singer. However, it wasn’t until she heard a Clive Davis interview where he stressed the importance of being able to write songs that she realized she should focus more on songwriting.

After living in Boston and New York, White made her way to Nashville although she admits she never thought she’d wind up in Music City.

“I was a New York girl, but every opportunity and every door that ever opened ended up being down here,” she says.

The first song she released professionally was called “His Eyes” and she first thought it was an R&B track. People advised her to submit it to a local Maryland radio station where it won an undiscovered talent contest with their country station. Suddenly, she realized she was actually writing country music.

White’s latest EP released on Friday (Feb. 3), merges her passions for songwriting, country, pop and hip-hop. While the songs include classic country songwriting the production hints at pop and R&B. This is exemplified in the standout song “My Ex,” co-written with Jesse Lee (Kelsea Ballerini’s “Peter Pan”).

“We kept that storytelling aspect of it, and then when I worked with my producers we really wanted it to be a hybrid of R&B and country,” she says of the song “My Ex.”

White’s new single “Not That Into You” is more pop based and sounds like a song that would fit in perfectly on radio in between Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. She says it’s her favorite song she’s ever written and was inspired after a trip to LA. While attending an industry event a man there was making strong advances towards her. Taken aback, White turned the off-putting experience into a song that embodies a humorous portrayal of a girl pushing a guy away.

“I had seen the movie He’s Just Not That Into You and on my Facebook there are always ads: ‘Why are you single? This is why. Buy my guide.’ I thought in a theatrical way about [writing] it. I wanted to take on a gutsier character,” she explains. “I wanted it to be something a little bit shocking that you might not hear a female say. While I was writing it I sent it to my best friend who lives in New York. She had been on a million Tinder and Bumble dates and she was like, ‘I love this song. I totally get it.’ She wrote, ‘I’m not playing games or hard to get.’ So, I put it in the song and she’s the co-writer on this song.”

White’s new EP includes seven songs, all of which she co-produced, and spans several genres. She says this was intentional as she wanted each song to stand firmly on its own.

“For this album, I wanted to make every song stand on its own sonically. It definitely has an overall pop/country feel,” she shares. “Some songs lean more pop/rock and others have an urban thing going on. I really wanted to create a fingerprint for each song. There are certain melodies you’ll hear in certain songs and different textures in each song. It’s a blend of a lot of things.”

It has been a long musical journey for White, who now lives in Nashville full-time. She says if she could have told herself anything before taking the leap into music it would be to buckle up because there are a lot of highs and lows. She adds that having patience is important and stresses at being open to collaboration.

“I think co-writing has really expanded my sound and songwriting,” she admits. “You always learn from other people in the room. We can do so much more when we’re working together.”

She adds that she’s constantly trying to find a balance between success as a songwriter and simply doing it because she loves to write.

“You never want to have to compromise certain things. I think the biggest thing is staying true to what you think is good,” she says. “Being a songwriter is often a struggle but it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Performing, singing and music is woven into who I am. It’s always felt like it’s what I was meant to do. It chose me, I didn’t choose it.”

For more on Emma White visit her website and to purchase her music, click here. Catch Emma live in Nashville on Monday evening (Feb. 6) for Whiskey Jam at Winners Bar & Grill.

February 5, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
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