Tell Us About Your First Song

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Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more.  He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

What’s the story of the first song you ever wrote?

Did a light come on, telling you, “This is what I do!” Or did the songwriting bug slowly creep up on you? Did you ever play it for anyone? What do you feel about that song as you look back on it now?

Here’s my story:

It was Christmas of 1994. I was back home in Batesville from college at Arkansas State. It was my sophomore year. My buddy, Tim Meitzen, had gotten a guitar for his birthday, and he was starting to play and sing. He was still back in high school, but we knew each other and were friends from church.

Me, I had been writing poetry since my senior year in high school. Bad poetry, mostly venting about unrequited crushes, etc. I had also been writing short stories- mostly superhero adventure stuff. It was an outlet, and fun, but I didn’t consider myself a “writer” really. Or at least, I didn’t know what to do with it.

Anyway, Tim and I got together over Christmas, hanging out at his house. He had started songwriting a little bit. I showed him a “poem” I had written called, “Waiting On Wings.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but the structure of the poem was just like the structure of a song- it had verses and a repeating chorus.

Tim liked it, and he stole the melody off something else he had been working on and applied it to my poem… which was now a lyric. It was a ballad about a girl named Julie who had always been waiting on her wings. “Julie’s just an angel who is waiting on her wings – waiting for her chance to soar above all earthly things.” Each verse told a different story from her life, and (you guessed it) ended with her old, dying, and waiting on Heaven.

Sad, sweet, ballad… does that sound like your first song?

Tim put that melody on my words, and I was hooked. It was such a great feeling to have my words sung back to me! My short stories were in a notebook at home. My poems were in a notebook at home. But this SONG… this song was being sung out into the world! Tim could play it around the campfire with our buddies- which was way cooler than me reciting a poem to a bunch of 18 year old guys out in a field at 2 in the morning.

It wasn’t a very good song. It was okay, but miles away from anything professional level. Of course, we didn’t know that- we thought it was great!

After that night, I still wrote a poem or two, but I mainly wrote song lyrics. I was hooked on hooks… and I still am.

What about you? I’d love to hear your story!

God Bless,

Brent

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22 thoughts on “Tell Us About Your First Song”

  1. Hey brent , …. i cant really remember what the first song i ever wrote was , as before i really knew what a chorus was, i had written a few already ….. but i can still remember exactly where i was and what happened the night i got hooked on this songwritng drug, that makes people give up home and familly to come to Nashville and starve to death as a writer .lol … many many years ago i was headed to florida from indiana on vacation .. i was prob 30 and had written a few so called songs, but never put much effort into it or learing about it ….. i stopped in Nashville for the nite and got a room at the ramada in on trinity lane…. went into a bar in the hotel called the songwriters cafe, which most people call the broken spoke ….. i can still remember the table i was sitting at , second row back , second in front of the stage ….. tony lane was right in front of me , then someone i dont remember, then lisa carver …. i had never actually heard songwriters before …. that night i heard tony lane do “if id known it was the last time, and little rock /lee ann womack ….. and run / george strait “…. then lisa carver sang “bullets” ……… i sat there blown away by those songs and writers that night …. but that night i also knew id found what i wanted to do in my life ….. i decided right then i was gonna be a songwriter …. now 30 years later im living in nashville , and STILL trying to write a song half as good as what i heard that nite at the broken spoke …… i cant remember the first song …. but i sure remember when i got hooked

    1. Larry,
      Thanks for sharing your story- welcome to MvR! I remember hearing Tony and Lisa when I first moved to Nashville in 2002. It was thrilling and terrifying to hear that kind of writing- and to realize that’s the competition!
      God bless,

      Brent

  2. My story started a long time ago when my neighbors puppy who I found and gave to them crossed the road and got hit by a car. It was just a short lyric about memories of the puppy. I was maybe 11 or 12 somewhere around there. I thought it was silly so I hid he paper that I wrote it on behind a picture. Then in 1977 the king passed away I made a comment to my dad about all the great songs he wrote. My dad laughed and said he never wrote any songs somebody else did. That got me thinking and I started writing more and more. I always wanted to chase the dream of a songwriter never knew where to start and now I have man vs row. Thank you Brent

  3. My first song was written with my best friend from elementary/middle/high school, Nate Raney. He knew his scales and I knew a few chords, so we decided we would start a band. We jammed in an old church on the piano, guitar, bass, and drums. We weren’t very good at any of it, but it was fun.

    We were listening to a strange mix of Brian McKnight, Blessed Union of Souls, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kid Rock (think “Devil Without a Cause”), Limp Bizkit (don’t ask…), DC Talk, and Willie Nelson (my personal hero). Somehow that first song came out sounding like a cross between Sister Hazel and Hootie and the Blowfish… but not in a good way.

    That song was called Closer Than a Brother and it was awful. It was structured ok and it made sense, it just wasn’t good. It was a lifeless exercise in Christianese cliches. It was followed by a couple more that were basically the same song, then one called Here With Me that was subconsciously ripped off Seven Mary Three’s song, Cumbersome.

    Eventually we got a pretty good lineup and wrote some decent (in my opinion) alt rock songs. I’m thankful for the experience of that first song, but I’m glad I kept moving forward!

  4. Well my first song was before I was 10 and it was called “Man with a Van,” I thought it was awesome and we made a music video and everything…”I’m a man without a tan and I live in a van and I want to be in a band so give me my space man” haha I wish we still had that tape. Then in high school I went through a hip hop phase and I would write all the time, basically poetry with swear words. I would write by myself and with a few buddies. Then when I was 17 I “discovered” country and haven’t looked back. I wrote my first country song 11 years ago so I was 19 and it’s called “Liquor Store.” Only a few people have heard it though because I didn’t like think the melody that was put with it by a friend fit it very well. I only know the date because I found it a few months back while trying to find all the songs I’ve written, started or had ideas about….thanks to this blog for helping me get back to what I absolutely love…writing.

  5. Hi Brent!
    My first song I can remember writing was when my mom put me to bed for a nap when I was about 5. I layed there making up a tune and my mom came in and asked me “where did you hear that song honey?” I told her I made it up and she said, “Oh, I thought it was a song”. I think that’s the first song I remember making….
    I came back from a trip to the sea and wrote some new songs…I am looking forward to putting them down. Like you said what a great reward to have people listen to the music you’ve created.
    Thank you Brent! Have an awesome day!
    Rachel

  6. Yeah, I get the high school poet, short story thing. That was me until graduation in 1975. After that, I entered the work-a-day world, and wrote the occasional poem for a wedding, graduation, or funeral, until 1996, when I formed a band with three friends, which endures today, nearly twenty years later.

    We started talking about recording an album, and wanted to showcase our original material, which at the time consisted of several derivative works based upon Stairway To Heaven, Pinball Wizard, and Gloria, featuring collaborative lyrics from myself and another founder. But, we decided to try and write our first “hit” record! Which proceeded to go nowhere…

    Then, one day as I was driving to a job site near Williamsburg, VA, thinking of finishing work that Friday afternoon and heading to the ‘Rivah’ for the weekend with my family, I started singing to myself,

    I’m goin’ to the Rivah,
    Not to the beach,
    ‘Cause it’s the only body of water within reach…

    Next thing I knew, I had the chorus, and the hook, for my first legitimate song! It’s been a regional favorite of all our fans that spend their weekends at the ‘Rivah’, and last year, was named the Official Song of the RivahFest celebration in Tappahannock, VA, on the Rappahannock River and the Middle Peninsula.

  7. I remember writing little ditties while swinging in our backyard as a kid, but my first serious song came at 15 when I bought a 12-string. Wrote it on a scrap of paper in my bedroom sitting on an indian bedspread. It was a 1-minute song full of harmonies(in my head, at least!) called “The Rose of Morning.” The lyric compared a 24-hour cycle of the sun to the life-stages of a flower. Very Crosby, Stills and Nash, so I thought.

  8. Well, I hesitate to tell my story. It seems too unbelievable and impossible. But, it happened and I have a witness.

    “Just Hold My Beer”
    The song is about a fun-loving, daredevil of a guy who will do just about anything. Of course you will need to first hold his beer. Below is a sample of one of the verses.

    You say you wanna see what happens when I pull that string
    Well just wait til she gets distracted and we’ll see some skin
    The beach will get crazy when her top comes down, camera phones going off all around
    If you don’t think I will, Just hold my beer

    Strange that the first song I ever wrote came as I turned 50. My only thought as to why is I had just began taking guitar lessons, something I always wanted to do but never had the time. Maybe that triggered the event.

    It happened in the wee hours in September, 2013. I was asleep. I was singing. I have no idea if it was out loud or just in my head. What I do know is I began laughing out loud, not just in my head, because I woke myself up…and my wife. She asks, “What’s so funny”? I said “Just some song I’m singing is pretty funny”. My wife looks at me and says “It’s 3:30 in the morning. Trust me, it’s not as funny as you think.”

    The next day I was still singing the song; verse, chorus and bridge. My problem was that I couldn’t think of who sings the song. At lunch that day I actually googled the song to try and find out who sings it. The only result was a Trace Adkins song, “Hold My Beer”, which I had never heard. It wasn’t until then I wrote down the lyrics. I then put some simple chords to it (I only knew 4 chords at this time) and then played it for my music teacher. His first question was how I knew what a bridge was. I still don’t know the answer to that question.

    One of the ironies of the song is I personally don’t drink…ever…at all.

    And that’s my story and I’m…well, you know the rest.

  9. I saw the movie “The Last Waltz” and was so in awe of the wealth of talent on one stage on one night that I decided then and there I had to be a part of that world. ( I also developed a major crush on Robbie Robertson and wrote my first song called
    “Man In The Band” about him.) I remember sending Robbie my song and how excited I was when he sent me a personal note thanking me . He said something to the effect of “great song! ” and encouraged me to ” keep writing!!” (along with an autographed picture!!) I did keep writing and I think I saw The Last Waltz 14 times that year…..I now own it on dvd 🙂

  10. Back in about ’94 I was attending a two week music school taking voice lessons. The Steve Hurst School there in Nashville. On a lark I signed up for a songwriting class. Later during that school I was in a class taught by Steve Hurst and he kept taking his glasses off, putting them on, taking them off, etc.. The thought popped into my head, “I wonder what he’s seen thru those glasses over the years”. Thus my first song was “Fathers Glasses”. Had some nice thoughts in it but wasn’t crafted very well. A friend of a friend actually published for me as a favor to my friend. I was hooked…..

  11. My first song, actually lyric only, was a result of a 7th grade English assignment. We were supposed to write a poem. I chose to put mine to music. The song was “Sad Angel” by Dennis Coffey, a really cool instrumental. Also in the class with me was the sports jock valedictorian who later became a doctor. Extremely smart guy, but not necessarily a great poet. I sang my composition, which I entitled “Poor Boy” and received applause from the class. It was the first and probably only time I bested my smart friend at anything! I guess the approval and applause got me hooked. That was over 40 years ago and I’m still writing. I’ll give you the first verse, hopefully my writing has improved, but hey, it has meter and it rhymes.
    Walking up an alley, looking for a job
    Trying to find a needed friend, I’m running from the mob
    Times often get lonely, ain’t got no food today
    Running down the streets at night, ain’t got nowhere to stay

  12. After a family vacation to Nashville (my dad was always interested in country music, playing guitar, etc.) I was inspired to write a few songs. Fast forward to present days – I got the bug again and found a connection via the Internet that helps lyricists partner with Nashville professional musicians. I was a “mature” lady chasing a dream. With my notebook of lyrics prepared, I met my cowriter, got the lines set to a melody, and headed to the studio for the full recording. It was love at first sight/site!!!
    The first song produced was a genuine hillbilly, drinking, cheating tune titled JUST ASK OLE JIM BEAM. (chorus) If they say I’m out drinkin’. All tore up. So broken-hearted. Takin’ it rough. They’re sadly mistaken. Cause that’s far from the truth. Just ask ole Jim Beam here. He’s got the proof. D.O.C. 2011. Where will the songwriting journey lead? I don’t know. But I keep a bag packed, just in case…

  13. My first song was about the Easter Story through Mary’s eyes, entitled “Slipping Away”. I was sitting in a Catholic Mass although I am not Catholic. Realizing the importance of Mary to their tradition, I penned the song sitting on a church pew. I was alone there while everyone else on my pew had left for the Eucharist. It started like this:

    Verse1
    A young boy
    Not yet thirteen
    Follows his father
    Down dusty streets.
    And watching
    From a window
    His mother has hope
    As she sees him grow.

    Chorus 1
    And time slips away
    But she holds fast
    To each passing day
    Because they won’t last.
    Prophesies now are being fulfilled.
    Not coincidence
    It is God’s Holy will.

    Oh he’s slipping away
    Yes, he’s slipping away.

  14. I wrote my first song at about 13 about a flea. I must have been bitten by something and got inspired. My second was at 15 about a girl I met one night and she left the next day – I Love Joann. the third was around 16 and we played it in the band I was in and recorded it in Memphis – My Little Girl.

  15. I wrote my first song at 15. I had written lyrics for several years. Mostly religious songs while I was sitting in church. My very first song (music and lyrics) was called “That Stuff” and consisted of some very stupid lyrics that were kind of a running joke among my friends. I couldn’t really play guitar at that time. I think I knew maybe 2 chords. So the song was just be banging those 2 chords. The hook was “That Stuff, That Stuff, What is That Stuff and why is he eating it”. Don’t even ask.

    My 2nd song was much better and was also written at age 15. I was very into heavy metal music. I wrote a song called “Middle Man”. My mom and older sister would always argue and I would always get stuck in the middle as the mediator. So my frustrations led to this song. I still couldn’t play guitar very well, so I sung the guitar licks and then found a local guitarist who figured out the licks for me. When I got older, I demoed that song and actually signed a single song publishing contract for it.

  16. The first time I wrote a song start to finish I was 15 or 16. I had been playing lead guitar and had a good lick and built the song around it. It was called “Hey Little Girl”. The song wasn’t great but the structure was actually pretty good and my band played the song many times at our gigs. I still have the original lyric sheet, and my kids love to make fun of it because I spelled Hey with an a – “Hay, hay, little girl”. I was playing rock ‘n roll then, but I guess i could call it my first country song with all the “hay” in it!

  17. Hi Brent and all-
    I have found at this early point in my songwriting life; I have to just have fun. If it isn’t flowing, then, I ain’t gonna worry about it too much. When it flows I write it down. The melody usually comes along right with it. I find the chords and there is the song. I work on the structure some. Hey, there is a good chance these are not hit songs, but it is like therapy for me. It comes off the cuff and from the heart. My first song that I every wrote was “Happy What?”. The secret for me so far, is not to take songwriting to seriously and to stay away from over-analyzation. Just have fun and let it flow. Now, I haven’t written 5 hit songs either, not even one, so I don’t know if I have much room to talk! If you want to see and hear “Happy What?” it is on my Linkedin.com profile page. God Bless-JB

  18. My first tune was called “She Loves Me”. I was very proud of it and couldn’t wait to play it for the person that inspired me to write it. I played it for her. She broke up with me that night. By phone. The next day I wrote me second song. It is called “I don’t Want to Fall in Love Again” . They’re both on my latest release.

  19. “It’s Time to Go Home Again” is the first song I wrote that had music put to it and a demo made. It’s amazing hearing some words you wrote on a piece of paper being sung accompanied by beautiful music! It’s magical!

    My boyfriend, a local level musician, had to convince me that the few set of lyrics I wrote were worthy of a nationally known artist to record. Hasn’t happened yet, but I believe it can, because, unbelievably, a successful music producer in Europe reviewed it and gave it five stars!

    Even if it doesn’t get licensed, I’m going to continue writing. Like you, I’ve been hooked since I first heard my words put to music.

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