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Songwriting Session with Kent Blazy

JIM MCGUIRE SR.

Editor’s note: After interviewing Kent Blazy, the songwriter was named a 2020 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee.

Kent Blazy grew up writing poetry in Lexington, Kentucky, and by the time he was in high school his work was featured in the school newspaper. It wasn’t until later on when he got a guitar that he realized he could put those poems to music, and he began writing songs.

“It started from there and I never looked back,” Blazy, who recently released the 13-track album Authentic, told me over the phone.  

Some of the bands Blazy was in would play his songs and at the urging of several songwriters he respected, he decided to move to Nashville in 1980. While Blazy admits he thought it would take several years to become an established songwriter, he got lucky and had his first Top 5 song within a year and a half of relocating to Music City.

“I had written [‘Headed for a Heartache’] with a guy that I had been writing for his publishing company for a little while, and he played softball with Gary Morris [who] was on Warner Bros. Records,” Blazy says. “While they were playing softball, he pitched the song to Gary and Gary ended up cutting it. It’s still one of my favorite songs and the guy I wrote it with [James Allen Dowell], I’m still friends with. That opened some doors and let me do some other things that might not have happened if I hadn’t had that song.”

Morris released “Headed for a Heartache” in 1981 and while Blazy had many other songs cut by country acts in town, he didn’t see chart success until he began working with Garth Brooks in the late 1980s. In 1989, both Blazy and Brooks garnered their first No. 1 with “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”

“I think I was the only person who had had a Top 10 record that would write with Garth at the very beginning. We’ve had a string of [hits] because he’s a very loyal person and we have a good chemistry writing together,” Blazy says.

The pair met while Brooks was singing demos in Nashville. Blazy started using him as a demo singer and Brooks eventually told him that he also wrote songs, so they got together to write one day at Blazy’s home. Blazy vividly describes the day Brooks came in for their first writing session, saying he was “wearing these big, long dusters and a big cowboy hat and he looked like he was 8-feet tall.”

“He walked into my living room and I was sitting on the couch and he looked down at me. He said, ‘I’ve got this song idea I’ve run by 25 writers and nobody likes it.’ I looked up at him and I said, ‘Well, gee, thanks.’ He said, ‘Don’t you want to hear it?’ And I said, ‘OK, play it for me,’” Blazy recalls. “He played me what he had, and I said, ‘Well, the problem with the song is you’re killing somebody off in the first two lines of the song. It’s like killing the star of the movie off in the first three minutes, there’s really nowhere to go.’”

Brooks then asked Blazy what he would do with the song and they began reworking the original. At the end of the day they had a song they were both proud of and went into Blazy’s studio to record a stripped-down demo with an acoustic guitar and Brooks’ vocals.

“I still remember that day. I thought, ‘This guy’s 25-years-old going on 60.’ He’s such an old soul and has such knowledge on how songs should be written,” Blazy praises. “He’s such an amazing writer. He’s very underrated. He deserves every award that he gets because he’s fantastic.”

While both Blazy and Brooks thought they had a hit on their hands, none of the labels in Nashville were interested. One evening Brooks was performing at the Bluebird Café and he sang “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” In that moment, his entire career shifted.

“Someone from Capitol Records who’d passed on the song for the third time approached Brooks and said, ‘Hey, we missed something. Why don’t you come back in?’” Blazy explains. “And he went back in and got a record deal and our song was the second single and his first No. 1. That’s just the magic of Nashville.”

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

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Concert Reviews Features

Top Musical Moments at CRS 2015

garth brooks

(Ben Krebs © GCOM)

Each year, thousands of radio professionals travel to Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar (CRS). The annual three-day gathering is packed with live music, industry-related panels, parties and surprises, and this year I was lucky enough to attend and to take it all in.

Between artist interviews, label showcases and even a few ‘secret’ events, I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. There were tons of highlights, but below I’ve singled out my top 10 CRS moments. For the rest of the list, visit Radio.com.

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1. Garth Brooks’ Secret Club Show

Garth Brooks came out of retirement last year and has been selling out arenas ever since. So, to witness the country singer live at a small club with a few hundred people was an experience that will likely never happen again. Though he has been off the grid for nearly 20 years, it was impossible to tell. He put on the show with the same energy as if it was a sold-out gig at Madison Square Garden. In addition to playing some new material off his latest release Man Against Machine, Brooks’ set spanned his catalog of hits including “The Dance,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and fan favorite “Friends In Low Places.”

2. Keith Urban’s Intimate Midnight Show

Keith Urban is no stranger to the spotlight. He is in homes across the nation every week as a judge on American Idol, but in the early hours of Friday morning it was as if he took CRS attendees into his own home. Shortly after midnight, Urban took to the historic Ryman stage where a carpet engulfed his music gear. Urban performed his first few tracks alone and it was as if we were in his living room having a conversation. Throughout his hour set, he played most of his previous hits stripped down on acoustic guitar, banjo and piano and even filled the audience in on his writing process. Before he began “Somebody Like You,” he said the track was written with the help of a drum machine and his old six-string banjo. Other highlights included a brief cover of “Jessie’s Girl” into “Long Hot Summer” at the start of his set, a piano version of “Somewhere In My Car” and “Kiss a Girl,” where he invited audience members to join him onstage and take over the mic to have their own moment in the spotlight.

3. Dinner Cruise with Cheap Trick

A dinner cruise isn’t complete without some music, and Sony’s 29th annual CRS boat show did not disappoint. The night included a sit-down meal with live performances from Sony’s roster while sailing down the Cumberland River. While highlights included Trisha Yearwood‘s moving cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” Jake Owen‘s powerful new single “What We Ain’t Got” and Brad Paisley‘s impressive cover of Van Halen‘s “Hot for Teacher,” it was the surprise performance by Cheap Trick that had everyone on their feet. The band walked out on the stage as Paisley was covering their song “I Want You To Want Me” and stayed to perform “Surrender,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Dream Police.”


4. Dierks Bentley’s ’90s Country Cover Band

When he’s not on tour (and working on how to prank his tourmates), Dierks Bentley likes to play in another band called Hot Country Nights. This band however, is not like anything you’ve ever seen before. Hot Country Knights is Bentley’s ’90s country cover band and he and his friends really get into the roll complete with costumes and ridiculously awesome wigs. On Wednesday (Feb. 25) night Bentley called on friends Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley, Randy Houser, Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne to join him at The Stage on Broadway to make some very special music. Highlights included covers of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahootchee,” Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria,” Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and a very disturbing Russian rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.

5. Lee Brice’s Sold-Out Show at Ryman Auditorium

A year ago, Lee Brice released the video for “I Don’t Dance,” which was shot at an empty Ryman Auditorium. This past week he returned to the famous venue, and there wasn’t a single empty seat—a situation that was not lost on him. “I cannot believe this,” he said between songs. “The last time I stood on this stage I was filming a music video and there was not a soul here. I was dreaming of the day when it would be filled completely, and so here we are.” Throughout his set, Brice demonstrated his prowess and versatility for songwriting and entertaining. The show had peaks and valleys, and while his more tender songs like “I Don’t Dance,” “Love Like Crazy” and “More Than a Memory” silenced the room, tracks like “Drinking Class,” “Parking Lot Party” and “Beer” transformed the Mother Church of Country Music into a tailgate party, showcasing the best of both worlds.

Categories
Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Caitlyn Smith

caitlyn-smith-pr-photo-5

(Credit: Spencer Combs)

Caitlyn Smith has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a kid, she’d sit in her bedroom for hours coming up with stories and songs.

“I started writing when I was 8 years old,” she told me over coffee during a recent visit to New York. “And instead of doing the normal kid thing of sports, I would come home from school and go into my closet and push the dresser all the way to the side and sit in my closet and write. I would write poetry. I would write songs. I would just make stuff up for hours.”

All that practice came to fruition last year when the country singer-songwriter heard a song she had written on the radio for the first time. It was a song she’d written with her husband, Rollie Gaalswyk, over a bottle of red wine called “Wasting All These Tears,” which was recorded by Cassadee Pope.

“He [Gaalswyk] was in the garage and had the radio on, and the song came on and he runs in the house and he’s like, ‘Get out here!’ And so I run out into the garage and we turn it up all the way and dance around our garage. It was just a super magical moment. Really, really fun,” she recalls with a big smile.

 

 

To some, it might sound strange to write a breakup song like “Wasting All These Tears” with your husband, but for Smith it’s just another day at work.

“We’re both writers and we both have crazy ideas and crazy lines coming,” she admits. “I don’t always write from, ‘I have lived every word of this song.’ Sometimes when you write you put on an actor hat and you can play a different character, which makes writing breakup songs with your husband a little easier.”

She says that the two of them “keep doing it because we like writing with each other. Sometimes it ends in a fight,” she laughs, “and sometimes it’s awesome.”

“Wasting All These Tears” became a platinum-selling single for Pope. But it’s not the only song that has helped raise Smith’s profile as a writer. Her catalog also includes songs that have been cut by such high-profile artists as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (the GRAMMY-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends”), Lady Antebellum (“747″), Rascal Flatts (“Let It Hurt”) and even Garth Brooks (“Tacoma”). More recently, Smith has her writing credit on Meghan Trainor’s new album Title where Trainor duets with John Legend on a song called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”

In addition to songwriting, Smith has been a performer as well for years. She’s recorded and released several albums on her own—her first at 15 years old—and just this past fall released a seven-song EP titled Everything To You. While “Tacoma” isn’t on the track list, the EP does include Smith’s own version of “Wasting All These Tears,” along with six more tracks that showcase her powerful storytelling.

 

 

For more of my interview with Caitlyn Smith, visit Radio.com.