How I got in to country music – A song writers perspective
By Dan Scholes Songwriter / Producer
I’d always been aware of country music from an early age whether it was vague memories of ͞Islands in the stream͟ playing on mum’s old turntable or hearing strains of Johnny Cash ͞Ring of Fire͟ playing in the background of a key scene in some late night film on TV. It was always there leaving an emotional imprint on me even before I consciously realised it. I have fond memories of being strangely addicted to CMT on UK cable television in the mid 90s. There was something about the strongly American accented vocals, the videos where the guy was always trying to get the girl and most of all the stories contained within the lyrics. It made me want to go to America and live the dream, Stetson and everything!
I started writing songs on the piano when I was 13 years old, ballads (not very good and incredibly cheesy) mainly with big over the top choruses soaking in influences from anything like Michael Jackson to Michael Bolton to even the Pet Shop Boys! But then when I was 19 I discovered through a friend of mine…The Eagles! The seeds of my love affair with Country had been sown! I hastily and passionately devoured all of their albums mesmerised by their incredible harmonies, stunning chord changes and captivating lyrics. This was swiftly followed by a discovery of James Taylor and Mark Knopfler’s solo material. I found myself more and more emulating the chord progressions and melodic leanings of the country sound. (Note: For all you country writers out there, what is it about going to the relative minor chord as the third one in a four chord sequence? I never get tired of it!).
The more I delved, the more I discovered. I couldn’t believe on closer inspection how many of my favourite songs making appearances in the charts were originally written and performed by Country artists/songwriters. Over the last few years this musical love affair has gone from strength to strength in part down to hearing Taylor Swift’s Love Story for the first time on BBC Radio 2 back in the day and then my affair quickly became an addiction with Nashville the TV series in 2012. Aside from the slightly exaggerated but exciting insight in to the Country music industry, the songs were just incredible (I unashamedly own all the soundtrack albums!). Since then I find myself almost exclusively writing (or at least trying to!) in the Country genre. My favourite bands of the moment range from Lady Antebellum to the UK’s own The Shires and up and coming Dexeter.
As for the song writing these days, I seem to have a non-stop flow of ideas largely helped by an incredible online Country song writing community called Songtown ran by pro songwriters Clay Mills and Marty Dodson. Through this community I have found myself co-writing with people all over the world but particularly in the US and Canada via the magic of Skype as well as writing with my incredibly talented co-writer in my home town of Liverpool.
Country music has enabled me to dream big with a clear direction. I dream of going to Nashville to write, of having a song cut by an artist and played in the Grand Ole Opry, of playing the Bluebird, hell of having a career in this crazy business. Whether that dream is realised or not, I’m loving the journey I’m on even if I don’t know the end destination. It’s my calling…..maybe I should go write a song about it!