My first musical memory is hearing my grandma play and sing bluegrass and gospel songs. She had no training whatsoever, but was able to play guitar and piano well enough to pull off several of her favorites. What I remember most is the depth of authentic soul that lived somewhere behind her singing voice.
My dad had a Yamaha acoustic guitar laying behind the couch, and to my knowledge, “House of the Rising Sun” was the only song he knew how to play. I would pick it up occasionally and just pick soft finger pattern.
When I was 8, I wanted to play football. My mom made a deal with my dad and I that I had to begin piano lessons if I wanted to play football. I ended up taking lessons for 3 years. During that time, I wrote my first melody on the piano. It was a simple, crude changing of chords back and forth, but I still remember it because it felt like it came from inside me.
My mom had a huge vinyl collection of the Beatles when I was growing up. From the ages of 6 to 10, when I wasn’t outside playing sports, I was usually sitting in front of an old black and red Spanish-looking stereo/table listening to Beatles albums. I learned all the words, and I tried to make my voice sound like John Lennon. It was during this time that I first imagined it might be fun to entertain people with music one day. I first heard country music at my next door neighbor’s house, whose mom had Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Kenny Rogers albums.
I wrote my first song with lyrics when I was almost 13. It was a song I wrote on a keyboard for my mom, that I gave her for Mother’s Day. Shortly thereafter, I became very drawn to rap music. I was especially drawn to the phrasing, rhyming, assonance, and alliteration of rappers like Rakim of Eric B. and Rakim, and The D.O.C. This would lead me to set up a makeshift amateur studio in my bedroom for recording rap music. I began writing down rhymes and lyrics during class in high school. Eventually, I would produce my own rap music and sell it at school. I also began performing my music while dee-jaying dances and parties. My second favorite genre as a teenager was hair metal ballads. You know- Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Slaughter, Mr. Big, Def Leppard, etc.
Musically, I experienced a bit of a turnaround late in high school thanks to a man named Garth Brooks. I didn’t know what a Garth was, but my friends began playing his music in addition to their favorite rap music while cruising the mall on weekends. There was also a country station playing at one of my high school jobs at Baskin Robbins. I heard “Friends in Low Places”, then songs like “What She’s Doing Now” and “The Dance”, and my ear was turned back to country music. Around this time, my cousin introduced me to the honest music of Hal Ketchum as well. I began taking music business classes at the University of Memphis, and then at Middle Tennessee State University. I ended up with a degree from MTSU in Recording Industry with minors in Communications and Music. I took a wide range of classes including Recording Technology, Music Theory, Jazz Theory, and Artist Management. The most influential classes on my eventual career however, were Music Publishing and Songwriting. After those two, I was hooked and I knew that I wanted to work on Music Row and hopefully become a songwriter. I took various internships including publishing companies, small record labels, and eventually Sony Music.
After college I worked for NTS pro media and then landed a job as a songplugger/ creative director for a small publishing company. After a couple of years, I was introduced to Hal Oven who owns Noble Vision Music Group. I signed a publishing deal with Noble Vision in 2001. Hal has been a great friend and publisher for all of these years. He’s the kind of guy that you hope to work with- honest, loyal, and fair. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I began studying the writing styles of my favorite country writers. Writers like Radney Foster, Mark Alan Springer, Skip Ewing, Marcus Hummon, Tom Douglas, and Gretchen Peters intrigued me the most. My first cut was by Clay Walker on RCA Records. The song was called “A Few Questions” and it peaked at #8 on the country charts. I co-wrote it with Ray Scott and Phillip Moore. For several reasons, it’s still my favorite song I’ve written to date.