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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
Songwriting Session with Corey Crowder
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Corey-Crowder

 

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, Corey Crowder shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Corey Crowder never dreamed of being in a band or on the stage. Music was simply a hobby until he started playing guitar and singing in church as a teenager. Soon after, all he cared about was music and in college he frequently played open mic nights where listeners loved his original songs. This prompted him into forming several bands, thinking he wanted to be Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie until he discovered Bob Dylan.

“Bob Dylan sent me down a spiral and I got really into Southern rock and I started playing,” he recalls nostalgically from his writers studio at Liz Rose Music in Nashville.

He eventually acquired a record deal with Christian label Tooth & Nail Records where he released one album, Gold and the Sand, but it was far from a success. Soon he found himself dropped from his label as he and his wife moved from Tennessee back home to Georgia.

“I felt like there was my shot, I bombed, and I might as well just play bars,” he admits. “I went home and worked for a t-shirt company. I sold t-shirts to bands that I had toured with.”

This was far from Crowder’s last foray in the music industry. Back in Georgia, his wife decided to submit one of his songs to country station 94.9 The Bull for their locals only Saturday night radio program. Liking what they heard, the station played Crowder’s song “Love” and EMI executive Bruce Burch was flipping through stations when he heard the track.

The two knew each other from his t-shirt selling days so Burch called Crowder and convinced him to meet in Athens, Ga. the next day where he was running a music business program. Another music executive, Duane Hobson, joined them and suggested Crowder give Nashville one more shot and to play for the head of Sony. Still uncertain about Music City, he decided to give it a try and got a developmental deal with Sony during his first meeting in 2009. So, he and his wife packed back up and moved to Nashville and he began writing another album.

“I signed a publishing deal with Universal and just started writing like crazy. Every day. Once, twice a day. Sometimes three times,” he recalls. “They had paired me with a producer and we were writing for my record. I didn’t get to pick my songs. It was the first time I had ever been in that process. What I loved most was writing and not necessarily the performing aspect.”

Soon after, there was a regime change at Sony and his deal got dropped. He says it was the best thing that’s ever happened to him, though, as he quickly realized he didn’t want an artist career. Instead, he wanted to be a songwriter, something he didn’t think was an option until he began getting holds and cuts with his songs.

“You start going, ‘Maybe I can make a living doing this.’ I started over. Once I left my deal at Universal, I made that decision the moment that I said, ‘Forever, here on out, no more artist. Writer/producer only,’” he says. “That’s been the last four years. There’s a million ways to get here, but that was my way that I ended up here.”

Over the past four years as a full-time songwriter, Crowder has accomplished more than most achieve in a lifetime. He was recently nominated for a GRAMMY for Chris Young and Cassadee Pope’s “Think of You” in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance category where he is both a songwriter and producer on the track. It’s recognition he never thought he’d see and a bucket list moment.

Crowder wrote “Think of You” with Young and Josh Hoge and says the song was inspired in part by a friend who had recently gotten divorced. While Crowder has known his wife since he was 16, he said he began thinking about how terrible it would be for their friends if they split up.

“Our identity is in each other because we’ve been with each other over half our lives,” he explains. “I knew that one was something special when we wrote it. That rarely happens. Usually when I think a song’s a hit, it’s not. That one I was like, ‘That song’s a smash.’ I just knew it. It felt different. Maybe it was because it came from a real place that I felt that way.”

 

For more on my interview with Corey Crowder, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

January 15, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Dan Couch
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

dan-couch

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, Dan Couch shares what he has learned as a songwriter.

 

Dan Couch moved to Nashville in 1995 with the dream of being the next Garth Brooks. When things didn’t happen exactly how he envisioned, he found a new passion: songwriting.

The Indiana native spent years attending writers rounds and open mic nights in the late ’90s, meeting hopeful artists like himself including Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich, Ira Dean of Trick Pony and James Otto. Meanwhile, he continued to hone his craft as a songwriter. After being in Music City for three years, he soon realized that what he loved most was not being on the stage but writing songs.

“I was in love with the idea of being a star, but I’m thankful that I was because it got me here and I found songwriting,” Couch says over the phone. “I started doing more songwriting and really became passionate and fell in love with songwriting. Then I was determined to get a writing deal and become a songwriter and let that dream go about being the next Garth Brooks.”

In 1999, nearly four years to the day of moving to town, Couch signed his first publishing deal with BMG and continued attending writers rounds and setting up co-writes. Chart success would not come to Couch for a while. In fact, it was 13 years later in 2012 when he would see his first No. 1 with Kip Moore’s “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck.” The two-week No. 1 is what he calls “a dream being realized.”

It was a long journey to his first No. 1 hit and Couch pauses when asked what kept him going all those years. He says it was blind faith and support from his parents, friends and especially his wife, who is a labor and delivery nurse.

“We all had the mindset that if you wanted it bad enough, if you worked your butt off, that you can get there. I never doubted that I was going to be able to do it,” he shares. “Obviously, it took a lot longer than I thought it was going to, but that ended up being our journey. We’re on this journey and I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Couch adds that being hard-headed and holding the belief that success can happen is what often kept him going. Following his first No. 1 with “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” he’s had several hit songs including Moore’s second No. 1 “Hey Pretty Girl” as well as “Young Love” which went to No. 22 on the country charts and Canaan Smith’s “Hole In a Bottle” which went to No. 23 this past summer.

He credits his wife, who he calls the breadwinner, for allowing him to have a normal life and the livelihood to pursue songwriting full-time. “I couldn’t have done it without her,” he says. Couch’s wife is also his muse and was the inspiration behind his second chart topper, “Hey Pretty Girl,” off Moore’s debut album Up All Night.

“I remember wanting to write a song in honor of my wife, in appreciation. To tell a real story,” Couch recalls of the day he wrote the song with Moore. “I remember mostly throwing out a line that said, ‘Hey pretty girl, you did so good. Our baby’s got your eyes, and she got your nose like I hoped she would. Hey pretty girl, you did so good.’ Kip said, ‘No, man, and a fighter’s heart like I knew she would.’ That just absolutely floored me when that line came out of Kip’s mouth. I do very much remember that moment.”

 

 

For more of my interview with Dan Couch, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

December 25, 2016 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Paul Compton
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session
Paul Compton / Facebook

Paul Compton / Facebook

 

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, Paul Compton shares what he has learned from working with Nashville songwriters as a song plugger.

 

Paul Compton was drawn to music from an early age. He played in his first band shortly after high school and eventually received a performance scholarship at Calhoun Community College in Alabama. In 1990, he moved to Nashville and completed his degree in Recording Industry Management at Middle Tennessee State University.

A fan of music and songwriting, Compton found himself interning at a publishing company called Murrah Music Corporation for two semesters. It just so happened that once his second semester ended, his boss exited which left a position open at the company. So, prompted by another employee, he applied and got the job. Compton would find himself at the same company for the next 17 years where he helped the early careers of many up-and-coming singer/songwriters including superstar in the making, Luke Bryan.

Compton recalls meeting Bryan around 2002 and while he says he never predicted the remarkable success that the “Move” singer would eventually have, he knew Bryan had the drive and determination to make it in the industry having come from a family of hard workers.

“When he walked in a room, before anybody even know who Luke Bryan was going to be, he could captivate a room,” Compton recalls. “This big southern voice, good looking guy, looks like a young Elvis, walks in a room and just lights up the party. You knew that if he could capture that in some artistic way on the stage with his songs, that people were going to respond because they did that before they even knew he could sing.”

Compton says Bryan was like a sponge when it came to learning about songwriting. He often borrowed what he could from people who had years of experience on him and soon went from someone they signed as an artist who wrote a little bit to becoming a “really respectable writer.”

Bryan’s early cuts included the title track off Travis Tritt’s 2004 album, Honky Tonk History and Billy Currington’s No. 1 song “Good Directions.”

“Luke started getting attention as a writer before his artistry was brought to fruition. He came at ideas from a different angle, wrote with writers who taught him how to craft a song. He was a good student and he worked hard. That was the deal with Luke,” Compton adds.

Compton says his job started out as a professional manager, what a lot of people in the industry call a song plugger. In addition to pitching songs to artists, he acted as a manager by setting up co-writes as well as demo production. He learned a lot from the publisher’s owner Roger Murrah, who is a Hall of Fame songwriter, and recalls Murrah having the perfect career attributes of being both creative and business savvy, which he says is often rare to find.

“I worked with him for 17 years, mentoring off of him, and slowly was promoted inside the company all the way up to Senior Vice President, which is the position I held for the last ten years that I worked there. We helped mentor young, aspiring professional writers to get to their first level and second level of success. Some of those writers, a great majority of them, went on to have No. 1 songs. I was a part of helping a lot of those writers get established, and get their songs cut. ”

For 17 years the company grew and was recognized by Billboard as Independent Publisher of the Year. Some of Compton’s personal successes included pitching what would become career songs for Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. While he says there isn’t a direct science to getting a song in the hands of a popular artist, Compton would always pitch songs he believed in.

“I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of great firsts. Great songs that were a big part of not only the writer’s career but may have been a big part of the artist’s career,” he says with a smile. “I remember a young Kenny Chesney coming in, who had just gotten signed to RCA and they had cut most of his record, and they were looking for a few more songs. He was really desperate to find an uptempo song. I was back and forth playing him song after song of these uptempo songs, and towards the end of the meeting I kept asking, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to hear a ballad?’ He kept shooting me down, ‘No, I need uptempo.'”

Eventually Barry Beckett, Chesney’s producer at the time, urged him to try a ballad. So, Compton played him “When I Close My Eyes” written by Nettie Musick and Mark Alan Springer.

“He literally jumped off the couch, ran around the room, and it was almost like he had just scored a touchdown, he was so excited,” Compton recalls.

 

The song would be featured on Chesney’s 1996 album Me And You and make it all the way to No. 1 on the R&R chart (Radio and Records). It would also be his first No. 1 hit as an artist. Compton would have similar success with a brand new trio in 1999 — Rascal Flatts. Once again he was told by the band’s producer, Mark Bright, that ballads just weren’t probable at country radio. He recalls him saying, “A ballad right now is impossible. A midtempo is next to impossible. We just need uptempo songs to finish the record.”

Compton had only brought a midtempo and a ballad with him to the meeting, where 10 other song pluggers went around in a circle and pitched their songs. So, he started with the midtempo. He was the last one at the table and was getting increasingly more nervous as his turn came to play the ballad.

“I’m sitting there the whole time sweating bullets and thinking, ‘I’m holding a ballad and that’s all I’ve got.’ It’s like playing poker when you know you have nothing, and you’ve got all the chips on the table,” he reasons. “I believe in this song, I know it’s a hit song, I know it’s great. It kills me. It’s brand new, maybe I’m just too in love with it. I start trying to talk myself out of it. It gets all the way back around to me and I had no choice. I’m like, ‘Here’s the moment of truth. Either they’re going to laugh me out of the room, kick me out of the room, or think I’m a complete idiot, but I’m totally committed to this song, I believed in the song.'”

So, he plays the song and the room remains silent as the track comes to a close.

“It’s like that awkward thing where you tell a joke and nobody laughs right away. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Then it’s almost like everybody exhaled, and Mark Bright said, ‘They can like it now or they can like it later, but we’re cutting this song.'”

That song — “I’m Movin’ On” written by Phillip White and D. Vincent Williams — would become the last single released off the band’s self-titled debut album in 2000 and garner them an ACM Song of the Year win.

 

“It was a good moment for them and a great moment for us,” Compton adds. “I love songs that go past the entertainment value, that actually change people’s lives. I remember seeing emails and reading stories about how there were people contemplating suicide, going through a drug addiction, who were in prison. There were people going through the lowest point in their life and they heard that song, and it gave them hope that they could move on. When you’re a small part of something like that and you put it out into this world that went way past just entertainment, that’s a pretty special feeling. I hope Nashville can continue to celebrate those kind of talents and that kind of creativity that can foster those kind of songs.”

Murrah Music was bought out in 2009 and the company has since dissolved. Compton, however, has far from stopped helping up-and-coming songwriters. He has started a management company called Music Highway Writers Services that is strictly focused on writers. While he works on a daily basis with artists and singer/songwriters, he prides himself in helping the unsigned writer who hasn’t gotten their break yet. His goal is to help each writer get to the next level. Additionally, he helps the older, more established writers stay connected and plugged into the Nashville songwriting scene and acts as a consultant for those hoping to build their own publishing companies. Compton aims to help Nashville newcomers to navigate the waters easily and with nearly 30 years in the business, he is offering his talents to many Music City transplants.

“There’s a saying I used to have in my office, ‘You become successful by helping others become successful.’ That has been the motto of my career. I’m only successful if my writers and my artists that I work with can find success, and I’m happy with them getting all of the spotlight, because that’s not what I came to town to do. When they have their moment, there’s no better feeling in the world than to watch them revel in their moment.”

December 11, 2016 | | (0) comment comment
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