I Wrote A Hit Song Without Living In Nashville

Man vs Row

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.

You don’t have to live in Nashville to write a hit song. Or even to get that song recorded by a major artist. I’m Brent Baxter, and that’s my story

As a songwriter living outside of Nashville, you may think it’s impossible to get a song recorded by a major country star. You’d be wrong. Just because you may have a family, job, or other responsibilities that keep you from making a move to Nashville or one the other major music centers, New York or LA, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a song recorded. It just means you have to grow where you’re planted.

Now, don’t get me wrong, songwriters in Nashville have a decided advantage over those living elsewhere. They are close to the industry, it’s easier to make those all-important personal contacts in the business, and Nashville is a great place to learn the craft of songwriting. However, just because it’s harder doesn’t mean it’s impossible. At least not in my experience.

In 2000, after graduation from Arkansas State University, I was looking for jobs in Nashville, which, I hoped, would help in my pursuit of a songwriting career. However, the job offer came from a company in Little Rock, Arkansas, so Nashville would have to wait. But I knew I couldn’t afford to be idle in the meantime.

I dove into the local music and songwriting scene in Little Rock, which by no means qualifies as a major music center. But my main cowriter from back home in Batesville was living there, too, so that was a start. Since I’m a lyricist and not a singer, I helped get my friend, Tim Meitzen, some gigs in town.

Now, what follows is a string of steps that by themselves may seem insignificant. But in the end, each of those forward steps led to my big break.

I was downtown one day and saw a flier for an upcoming songwriter’s night. Well, that was pretty rare in Little Rock, and I immediately signed up my co-writer, Tim. (That was part of my job as the non-singing half of our cowriting team.)

Tim played the writer’s round, and we met a few guys who were starting a publishing company based out of Little Rock. Through the course of that relationship, one of ‘em gave me a cd of songs by Erin Enderlin. Erin was a songwriter from Conway, Arkansas, who was currently in college at Middle Tennessee State University outside of Nashville.

Months later, I saw that Erin was going to be performing in Little Rock. She was in over her spring break, and I went out to catch her show. She’d been writing songs in Nashville and was having some success making contacts in the music business. I gave her a cd of some songs, and she liked them.

Well, when Erin came back over summer break, we started writing together. Then she went back to school and continued making music business contacts. Then, over Christmas break of 2001, I gave her a lyric I’d had for a few years for a song called, “Monday Morning Church.” She liked it and wrote a great melody for the lyric. Then she was back off to Tennessee.

Now, I ended up finally making the move to Nashville myself in March of 2002, but it was Erin’s contacts that made the cut of that song possible. She brought the song back to Nashville, where she had begun working with a publisher. He demoed the song, played it for Keith Stegall, and it was eventually recorded by Alan Jackson in March of 2004.

Looking back on it now, it might seem like a straight line to the record store, but that’s only in retrospect. At the time, I was plugging away, just trying to take advantage of every opportunity that I could either find or create. I chased several rabbits along the way, not knowing which one would lead somewhere.

And that’s the point. You don’t know which small step will eventually lead to where you want to go. No, the writer’s night at Starr’s Guitars wasn’t the Bluebird. No, Little Rock wasn’t Nashville. But taking those small steps, growing where I was planted, led to a hit song and the ability to do this for a living. At least for a while.

I wouldn’t presume to know exactly which steps you need to take. And I certainly don’t think I was so talented that Nashville couldn’t help but notice me. No, I know ultimately, it was up to God to open those doors. He had me in Little Rock at that time for a reason.

If I’d been idle, just waiting to get to Nashville, I might never have gotten here. God has you where you are for a reason. Maybe it’s for music, maybe not. But I do know that where ever you are, it’s important to grow where you’re planted.

I hope my story encourages you to keep chasing your passions.

What about you?  Do you live in Nashville, or are you chasing the songwriting dream from out of town?  I’d love to hear from you!

God Bless,

Brent

KNOW THE ROW

MvR presents your opportunity to visit with new Curb Records artist, Ruthie Collins, as she prepares to release her first single to country radio.  Ruthie and hit songwriter, Brent Baxter, will give you an insider’s look at the reality of songwriting and record-making on Music Row. But they won’t be the only ones talking- you’re invited to join in the conversation, too! There are only EIGHT tickets available for this intimate get-together.  Click on the image below to find out more!

Know The Row w: Ruthie

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11 thoughts on “I Wrote A Hit Song Without Living In Nashville”

  1. I’m in Birmingham, AL, and my co-writer is in Nashville. I write and sing, but don’t play for myself. Talk about frustrating! However, I appreciate all the friends and contacts I’ve made through the Songwriting and Music Business community. I appreciated your session at the SMB conference this summer, and enjoy reading your blog posts. Thanks for providing such great information!

  2. Where the song is written is irrelevant. Where the demo and the pitch are done can be. If you’re not in Nashville having a high quality demo done can be tough. Nashville is loaded with both musical and vocal talent that is readily available to sing or play on a demo as well as studio engineers to produce a quality mix. Finding that elsewhere can be very hard. You can probably get it done in L.A., N.Y.C. and Austin but you’re not going to have the number of singers, musicians and sound engineers you’ll find in Nashville and the chances are they’re not involved in doing country songs on a daily basis like in Nashville. Pitching your songs to publishers and A&R executives almost has to happen in Nashville by you or a plugger unless you get lucky and bump into someone outside of Nashville. You can pitch songs to the artists themselves if you have the ability to meet them but those opportunities can be few and far between. Your songs need to be pitched regularly in Nashville by you or someone else. When appropriate and the opportunity presents itself I pitch my songs to the artist face to face no matter the location. I gave songs to Miranda Lambert face to face outside of Nashville and more recently did the same with Jake Worthington who was the runner up on the most recent edition of The Voice. However, my songs are pitched on a regular basis in Nashville because I know that’s what it takes in most cases to get a cut.

  3. A Denmark native, currently living in Sweden, there is no question my avenue to success is going to be different than most writers native to the US. I have been in Nashville a couple of times, and aim to go back. I have had the good fortune to write with a couple of amazing writers, and have a couple of great musician friends in Nashville recording stuff like mandolin, fiddle and steel – the stuff I don’t do myself. Let’s see how I get there. I’ll let you know, even if it is, probably, going to take a good while 😉

  4. Great thoughts to share Brent!

    This is a story worth re-telling again and again to aspiring songwriters or any other career. Starting from where you are planted. And with the beauty of the internet-it is even more possible today, than 20 years ago. With all the info and facts needed to launch that career and stay connected with those in the know that are willing to to take the time to share. Like you.

    Here’s to that continued success! ~d

  5. Hi, Brent!

    Thank you for giving us songwriters tips on how to progress in fulfilling our dreams. Paying attention to your advice has improved my writing.

    We live in central Florida, not a big music area. But I am very fortunate to have Marty, my boyfriend, who puts music to my lyrics, sings, and makes our demos. You already know we’ve been submitting demos to publishers through Broadjam.com. No cuts yet, but twice we’ve been notified ours songs were in the final running.

    Also, we’ve been taking those small steps you talked about. Marty has been developing online relationships with 4 very successful music producers. They can’t get us cuts, but, like you said, you never know if step 1 will lead to step2.

    One of them actually found us through Broadjam, and has put 8 of our songs on his public playlist on his own website along with other new artists he likes. He won several awards in Australia this year, and Marty made sure to congratulate him, and periodically corresponds with him, commenting on his music which includes classical and Malaysian style, very different from our own. You never know….

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