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Keeping Your Antenna Up - Songwriter Steve Dean And "watching You"


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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:

 

 

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