Marty Dodson has a songwriter’s brain. You know the kind. They think in song. They breath in song. They see a bumper sticker and it becomes a song. The waitress says something…the uber driver—you know the drill. I love guys like that. Girls too.
Young Brandon Day, with whom Marty and I are working today, says things like, “concept is everything…some writers write themselves into a circle and wait for the main idea. Sometimes they get lucky. But if you have the concept right from the start the songs write themselves.”
And I say, “Why Young Brandon, where have you learned so quickly?” And he says, “From writing with guys like Marty.”
Here in Nashville, a town in which I haven’t worked for over 10 years, I’m surrounded by this kind of a mindset. It’s the story stupid.
Ironically, years ago, when I was in pursuit of country cuts, I started noticing that the songs of mine which got recorded in Nashville were not actually a result of having gone to Nashville to write them. I just got lucky—some quirky event put a random pop song in the hands of a country star. Because of this realization and the fact that my sensibilities were obviously more pop in nature, I sorta stopped venturing to Tennessee and stayed put instead, in the comfort of my own genre.
But the writing process in the pop scene has veered off in an interesting direction (the track first, the crowded rooms, the sound bites, camp culture), and lately I haven’t felt as at home in it as I used to. Although I love to listen to a lot of the songs that come out of a committee I’m just not so good at writing them.
Recently I got turned on to some country records that blew my mind. They moved me. Made me laugh. Broke my heart. Got me all stirred up. So I thought I’d give Nashville another try. That’s…if they’d have me back after the quizzical musings I put forth about the town in my memoire. But it appears they will (have me back.) In fact, they've opened their arms. Very Wide. Phew.
So here I am. Music Row. Green Hills. Franklin. I feel like a fish back in water—writing from concept with craftspeople who are seasoned and skillful. It’s been no less than two songs per session so far and I haven’t been exhausted or distracted by hunger. No songwriting viagra necessary either. In fact, I could have been convinced to have at a third.
I’ve managed to avoid truck and whiskey and drunk (words that seem to appear in the majority of country songs on the radio), although I have used beer. Twice.
I usually suck in the sessions where we write in those circles looking for the golden nugget. But when you write with seasoned pros, or Young Brandons—who’ve learned from seasoned pros like Marty—they make you better. I forgot this.
When I first came to Nashville there were rules. I was instructed not to use words like “baby.” What? (Unless it was a real live infant I was referring to.) I was told to include as much "furniture" as possible. Smoke, guitar strings, BEER! But Nashville has changed. They’ve loosened up. And I’ve changed too. And I’m re-inspired by the music in this town. And change is good. When we stop changing life gets boring. I’m anything but bored. In fact the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is book my next flight to come back.
But for now, I think I need to take a nap.