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Ty Hager

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  1. And once again, sometimes the experts get it wrong... TH: As I was looking at some of the hits that you’ve had, I was reminded about when I first moved to Tennessee back in ’82. I went to Opryland, and there was a group playing there called the Tennessee River Boys. That group became Diamond Rio, and you had a really big hit with them. TB: That’s right, the “cow in the road†song. “That’s How Your Love Makes Me Feelâ€. TH: Wrote it with Max T. Barnes. TB: Sure did. That was an easy write, like a lot of writes with Max…we spent a couple of hours on it. The thing that I’ve always thought was strange about that write, and that it got cut, was that I was saying things to Max in the write, I was saying, “You know, it’s kind of like, you’re driving down the road, and you buy an ice cream, and you see a cow, and you swerve to the left…†And I’m saying these things to him as if it’s those defining moments. It’s like, “That’s how loving you makes me feel.†It’s crazy and spontaneous. And he was singing it back to me. Instead of us using those as ideas and –isms to get us to the real lines, he started singing them. And I was just blown away. I didn’t mean for that to be what the lines were. “There’s a cow in the road, and you swerve to the left…†And he sang it back to me, and we were just, “Are you kidding me? That’s the song?!†So anyway…and then several guys in the band really liked it. Mike Dungan - who’s at Capitol now - he was in marketing or promotion or something at Arista at the time, he loved the song. They played it in the meeting, and the story goes that Tim Dubois (then President of Arista Records) took the cassette out and threw it in the garbage, and said, “Guys, if that’s a hit song, I don’t know what I’m doing.†The book's free through Sunday 7/28. Just click below!
  2. This bit of our conversation was insightful on a couple of different levels….and, speaking of insightful on different levels - my book “Nashville Songsmiths - In-Depth Interviews with #1 Country Songwriters†is available at Amazon through Sunday for free!! Just click below. RR: I tell ya, I was at a party with my wife, and this girl comes up to my wife and says, “I love your husband and I’ll tell ya why - he’s a bad boy but he’s a good man.†And it was a room full of songwriters, and as soon as she said it, I thought, Gosh, that’s a hit title… TH: And you were wondering how many other people in the room thought the same thing…. RR: Exactly. I thought, there’s no sense in even writing it ‘cause there’ll be thirty of ‘em by tomorrow afternoon, ya know? But nobody really heard it…I mean, they heard her say it but they didn’t get it as a song title, and I could tell. And she kinda walked away and my wife turned to me and said, “Who is that woman and why is she saying that about you?†And I said, “Well I’ll tell you what - if you’ll promise not to grill me about it, I’ll promise to buy you something nice when it’s a big hit.†(laughs) TH: And did you? RR: (laughs) I did, I did. TH: And one of the things you have to do as a songwriter, you always have to have to be on the look-out for a snippet of conversation, something that just hits you the right way, and something clicks. RR: You know, some days for me…months’ll go by and nothing sounds like a song. And then I’ll have a week or so where everything everybody says sounds like a song. It’s really funny how that works. And then I’ll start writing a bunch of songs that I really like…and I’ll dream ‘em, and everything else. And then all of a sudden it stops, and I’m back to slaving away, tryin’ to make it happen again. You start getting scared that it’s never gonna come back again. TH: Do you really? Is there a point where you think you’ve written your last hit? RR: Absolutely. I’ve thought that so many times, I can’t even count it…I thought that when I was twenty-two. I thought I’d written my last song. But it always seems to come back around, you know? I think the older I get the more I realize, it’s in there, I’ve got plenty to say. As long as I show up and do the work, kinda roll up my sleeves and dive in, sooner or later something’ll percolate. Ty Hager author, “Nashville Songsmiths - In-Depth Interviews with #1 Country Songwiters†http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUGKMIG Audio clips from the interviews here:
  3. A story about trusting your instincts, from a very dear friend with wonderful instincts... TH: How long had you been in town before you wrote “The Dance� TA: Oddly enough, it was probably one of the very first things I wrote. Late ’86, early ’87. I’ll never forget, I had written the song and did it one night - we had actually worked our way up to doing the early show at The Bluebird - and it was me and Garth and Liz Hengber and Mark Irwin and that was about it. That was not only the people performing, that was the crowd. I sang “The Dance†and he came up to me afterwards and said to me, “Pal, if I ever get a record deal I’m going to do that song.†And of course I appreciated it, and I thanked him for the vote of confidence. But he was selling boots at Boot Country and I was loading trucks at UPS…so I knew we had the music industry right where we wanted ‘em. It was just a matter of time. (laughs) Sure enough, about two years later, I had finally worked my way into getting a job in my field, I was writing for a magazine, and I got a call, Garth called me and said, “I just got signed to Capitol Records. Is that song still available?†So, true to his word, he called for it and made a wonderful record out of it. But you know, the strange part is, anything that happened with that was purely happenstance. I mean it wasn’t anything that was some grand design or great plan that you could lay your finger on, that I knew this was exactly how it was going to work. It just happened to be with exactly the right guy and exactly the right bunch of players, and exactly the right producer, which was Allen Reynolds, who was also a songwriter. It was just…I was very lucky. TH: Was that still one of those songs that - when you wrote it - did you think, well, that’s pretty good? Or did you really have confidence that it could be a pretty successful song? TA: Well, the odd part about it is I’ve sung the song every night since I’ve written it, wherever I’ve played… TH: So you’ve almost got it memorized. TA: (laughs) I’ve almost got the words memorized. The strange part is that it had been turned down in that interim, between when he heard it at the Bluebird and when he called a couple of years later, and had been signed to Capitol. So in those years the song was continually being pitched and continually being passed on by the biggest and the best in town. But I believed in the song, I thought there was something there, and the reaction it got from the lay-folk…you know…I knew there was something there. Oddly enough, I was told on more than one occasion that nobody was going to record it because it didn’t have a bridge. It’s just verse-chorus, verse-chorus and you’re done. So I tried to write a bridge, and it seemed so foreign to the song, having sung it for so many nights, in its format…I finally just had to say that I don’t think it’s supposed to have one. TH: Did you ever try doing a bridge with a banjo in it? (laughs) TA: (laughs) I tell you what, at that time of my life I would’ve tried anything - a bassoon, whatever. TH: A little ukulele? TA: (laughs) Whatever you got. TH: Of course they’re all little. Ukuleles. TA: (laughs) But it was just one of those things, I finally had to make a decision that I thought I was done with the song and that’s what it was gonna be. Oddly enough, in the years that passed, Garth came up to me and said “You know what I always liked about that song is that there’s no bridge.†And so every once in awhile, you know, idiots like me…every once in awhile you finally come to the right decision and the right conclusion and stick by your guns and go with the song as is. ____________________ Ty Hager author, "Nashville Songsmiths - In-Depth Interviews with #1 Country Songwiters" http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUGKMIG Audio clips from the interviews here:
  4. Many of the hit songwriters I interviewed talked about always "having your antenna up" - keeping your mind and ears open for little snippets of conversation that spark an idea. One of the best examples of this is the story behind Rodney Atkins' huge #1 hit "Watching You." SD: Rodney was running a little bit late coming to the writing appointment, because his son was…the principle from the school called Rodney and said, “Your son is saying ‘hell’….he’s singing a song, but he’s saying ‘if you’re going through hell’â€â€¦ TH: (laughs) He was singing his Daddy’s song. SD: Exactly. And it was just as innocent as could be. So Rodney had to go and explain to him…and so he was a little late getting there, and when he got there…we got to talking about that, and how little people are watching everything we do. So we started working on the song, and in a couple of sessions we got it finished. And when it came out, you know, all the dads out there were goin’ “Well, that’s me and my little boy.†After it got a little more popular, the moms were getting in on it, “Well, that’s me and my little boy.†Same thing the other way…â€That’s me and my little girl…†So it crossed all kinds of boundaries. TH: And you never know when a song is going to connect on all of those levels. SD: No. And it was one of those things…I do some “Words and Music†programs with some schools around, and my sister’s school - she’s a teacher in Little Rock. So I went down there and they had six hundred kids in this Assembly. What I do is I get them in English class to write lyrics…and I get 135 pieces of paper, and there’s usually, like, six or seven of ‘em that are really close to being lyrics, you know, they’re really good. I put music to those, and I get to call the kid up, “Hey, is Billy Jones here?†and they all go crazy and he comes up and stands next to me while I sing the song. That’s all cool and everything, but they started calling out, “Play ‘Watching You’!†So I started playing it, and about halfway through, I stopped singing it. Because six hundred kids were singing it. It was amazing! After it was over - my Dad was there - and I said, “I can’t believe little kids like that song…it’s hard to believe.†And my Dad goes, “Well, Steve, it’s about a little kid. But it’s also about an adult. That’s why you nailed it. You guys hit the button.†So, it was an awesome blessing to be a part of a song like that. Ty Hager author, "Nashville Songsmiths - In-Depth Interviews with #1 Country Songwiters" http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DUGKMIG Audio clips from the interviews here:
  5. Welcome to the forums Ty Hager :)

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