If you were to write an intro for “Buzzes Like Neon” (featuring Ella Langley) before it played on the radio, what would you want listeners to know about the song?
Here’s one I wrote while on the road early in my career. I could see the lights of the Western Auto Building from my motel room and the song came to mind. Ella Langley is a featured voice on this one. Hope you like it.
6 Things You Don’t Know About Me:
Raised in Opelika, AL. Playing ‘Southern songs’ acoustically for tips in your hometown as a teenager to having your own independent label, Southern Songs. What advice do you have for other artists considering starting their own labels?
I’d say to educate yourself as thoroughly as possible. Read up on any material you can find. Google it. Find out where your favorite artists operate and see what sticks out in their methods. Educating myself is the one thing I’d change if I could go back.
Writing songs that were recorded by other artists, including Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Josh Abbott Band, Whiskey Myers, Cody Jinks and Travis Tritt. How does your songwriting differ when writing for others versus yourself?
Honestly, the method doesn’t change that much. I’m still trying to do my best work with every song I participate in. With other artists though, I try my best to do a little “homework” first. It’s something I picked up from Brent Cobb. A songwriter’s version of showing up prepared. I listen through the artist’s catalog a little and try to find tempos, keys, etc that are reoccurring. Then I do my best to at least put a few lines to music that I think would be suitable. I just try to have something prepared even if we don’t use it.
New renditions of four songs from your 2007 album, “giving each one a ‘fresh coat of paint’.” “Varnado” sounds much different than its original version. The song, co-written with Justin Johnson, is about your early days together on the road, specifically performing at the now-defunct bar called Birdie’s Roadhouse in Varnado, LA. What still stands out for you, years later, about performing at that bar?
Man, that place was way out in the sticks!!
“I catch myself a lot saying that a traveling musician’s life is a young man’s game. … But time is the ONLY thing that has enabled me to learn to truly enjoy this!!” Can you share a favorite memory from the road?
I can’t narrow it down to one specific time. There are so many scenarios that seemed bad at the time, but I came away learning so much from them that they were really good ones. It’s hard to put a finger on one specific venue that’s a favorite, because it’s really the audience that makes the venue great in most cases. And, aren’t some of the most memorable times the ones that you can’t remember? Hahaha.
“Can’t Stand Leaving,” – “Stoked to announce that after 21 weeks on the chart & 20 years in Texas, we finally got ourselves a #1.” What do you think resonated the most with fans, taking this song to the top of the charts?
In my opinion, the resonance was more musical than lyrical with that song. The attitude is there. The song rocks! Rob (Snyder) and I wrote it with attitude. It’s the most ‘Blackberry Smoke’ song on the album, so Charlie, Britt, and Richard did what they do best on it. Lastly, Courtney Patton’s vocal performance really sent it into the cosmos. She’s an unreal singer!
Debut album, 2002, to your new album, Different Groove. “I’ve officially released more songs in the last 2 years than I did in the first 10 years of my career. Thank you for listening, sharing, encouraging and supporting my music through all my “phases and stages.” How has your music evolved over the years?
I feel like I’ve changed in every way possible! But I’ve learned to try and keep it positive. A silver lining. A light at the end of the tunnel. Even sad songs can have happy endings. I’ve also learned to keep it simple. Try to say more with less. My favorite songs do just that. Fine detail with few words. Lastly, I try to acknowledge the Good Lord however I can. He said if I’ll do that, He’ll keep my paths straight, and I’ve had quite a few twists, turns, ups, and downs leading me to this point!!
Can you share 12 songs that have influenced your life and career?
“Thing Called Love” -John Hiatt.
First popular song I noticed was written by another person.
“Old Standby” -Delbert and Glen.
I loved the sound.
“Biloxi” -Jack Ingram.
It was a good story and a simple melody.
“Dirt Floor” -Chris Whitley.
It was a very complex melody, but this whole album was solo acoustic. It showed this can be done well with one person.
“Monday Afternoon” -Ian Moore.
“The Way I Am” Merle Haggard.
Hag. Self explanatory.
“The Jealous Kind” Delbert McClinton.
I loved the feel.
“California Stars” Billy Bragg and Wilco.
3 chords in the same progression. I loved the simplicity.
“Old Clothes” Randy Stonehill.
A beautiful song also recorded solo. And a song about Jesus.
“Promises” Randy Travis.
I learned to play picking patterns with this one.
“I’m Gonna Be Somebody” Travis Tritt.
The perfect mixture of Southern Rock and country… and it was on the radio!!