Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits
Author: Jake Brown
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books
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“A good title and a good melody and some honesty — there’s your formula for a hit right there.” (Dallas Davidson, 2013 & 2012 ACM Songwriter of the Year)
One sign of a great country song is that when you hear it, you’d swear it was about you or your life. Another sign is that you can’t get the words or the tune out of your head. The moment you hear a great song, it becomes “your” song and begins to accumulate its own meaning. But before it made it to the soundtrack of your life, what made the song come into being? You’d be surprised just how some of your favorite country songs were written.
In Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits, Jake Brown interviews some of the top writers in Nashville and gets the back-story on many of that town’s biggest hits, including “Always On My Mind,” “Live Like You Were Dying,” “Take Me There,” “Crash My Party,” “Jesus Take the Wheel,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Big Green Tractor” and “Fly Over States.” Just some of the songwriters interviewed are Bill Anderson, Bob DiPiero, Tom Shapiro, Dean Dillon, Wane Carson, Jeff Silbar, Chris DuBois, Brett James, Kelley Lovelace, Lee Thomas Miller and Neil Thrasher.
There are many audiences for Jake Brown’s enlightening book. This first is the country music fan wanting to know more about where their favorite songs came from. Next, is anyone who likes a good story, full of humor and ingenuity. Then, there is the cultural archeologist: anyone who wants a deeper understanding of why country music continues to soar in popularity. Mr. Brown has logged, through oral interview and commentary, just what the connection is between popular culture and the expressive arts in modern times. By giving voice to the writers themselves, Mr. Brown has proven the power of the American blend of preparedness, inventiveness and pure luck.
The book is also a master class in songwriting, giving the book appeal for anyone interested in the music industry. Example after example is given, showing the almost infinite number of ways that a song can be written and brought to life. Whether it is the rigorous development of an idea from start to finish, or a songwriter’s ability to go with the flow and respond to what just feels right, when it comes to writing a country song, there is no “right” or “wrong” way. That idea may be commonly accepted, but to read the various situations that resulted in some of the top country songs around is inspiring, especially to anyone hoping to write songs themselves. It is overflowing with music industry wisdom. For that reason alone, Jake Brown’s Nashville Songwriter is a “must-buy” for any songwriter starting out in what can be a seemingly impenetrable business.
For those who don’t write songs and are amazed that what seems like a daunting task can result in powerful artistic expression, Mr. Brown’s book is an invaluable peek into the process. If there’s one thing that is obvious to the reader, by the time they finish this entertaining and informative book, it’s… well… I think country songwriters Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller put it best, in a song:
“Unsinkable ships sink.
Unbreakable walls break.
Sometimes the things you think would never happen,
Happen just like that.
Unbendable steel bends.
If the fury of the wind is unstoppable,
I’ve learned to never underestimate,
(Lyric from “The Impossible,” released by Joe Nichols in 2002)