the ex-country-singer turned family man turned hit songwriter is best known for “somethin’ bout a truck”, the #1 single from new artist, kip moore.
what first excited you about music?
I have early memories of hearing songs come on the radio when I first realized you could tune into radio. Old-time songs like Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”. I remember getting excited to hear that, the melody was so cool. I can remember my big brother’s Elton John record “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. I can remember that melody just gripping me and thinking it was just so cool. I used to listen to it over and over. Barry Manilow’s live record. That song “I Write the Songs”, are you familiar? (sings the chorus)… great melody. Billy Joel. A lot of good early memories.
so you mentioned that you originally came to nashville to be the singer up on stage.
That’s what got me to Nashville. Thank God I was delusional enough to think I could be the next Garth Brooks. I found myself in this place where maybe it could happen. I had my cowboy hat and my wranglers. It took 4 years of doing open mike nights with Big Kenny who’d get you up on stage and you’d sing whatever you wanted to. It took a little while for me to get that out of my head and realize what I really love and what I think I’m good at is writing songs.
I started doing some cowriting and some stuff was getting pitched and put on hold before I had a publishing deal. Then I had an opportunity to play for Chris Oglesby and after a year, he signed me. He’d said, “If you have something new come play it”, and I just stayed with it like that. I had been blessed – and maybe cursed – but I think more blessed with the idea that “I can do it.”
what do you listen to these days?
I listen to a lot of country radio. I listen to some classic rock radio, too. Whatever my kids are listening to which may be, you know, hip hop.
do you notice any consistent challenges when you write?
I think the hardest thing to do is try to write a female song without a female cowriter. For the most part, what I’m writing about I can relate to. (Publisher) Scott Gunner told me, “Write about what you know about”. That’s pretty much what I do and I don’t really stray from that. If I’m saying it, I know something about it or I’ve seen my brother go through it or one of my sisters. I can tap into other people’s situations that I’m close to and maybe draw from that. I’ve lived most everything that I write about.
I heard “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” was a last minute idea after you and Kip Moore had been writing all day. Did you know at the time that it was going to be “the one” for Kip?
Absolutely, I felt like it was. Kip will tell you… We try and write great stuff all the time but that day I remember the excitement. I remember running down and getting Nate (Lowry) and I remember him saying “Dude, this has got to be on the record.” BUT at the same time, four verses to get to the chorus. BUT, Kip and I said, “You know what? That’s how it’s gotta be. This is how the song has to build. It doesn’t matter. They’re probably gonna say ‘you have to figure out how to say this in two verses’.”
ah, the ever-lurking voice of the publisher.
Just recently I wanted to demo something and a publisher friend of mine at one of the big companies in town was like “Man, I don’t know about that second verse.” I’m thinking, “Seriously? I’m so glad that I don’t have to deal with this now.” I’ve been my own publisher for the last 4 years. I do my own thing.
how did feedback from your publisher used to effect your writing and did you notice a change when you became unaffiliated?
It used to crush me. I would write something that I thought was just brilliant. Chris Oglesby, who’s been awesome to me, a great friend to this day, signed me to my first deal and I got to write for three and a half years with Bill Luther, Aimee Mayo, Ed Hill; the A-team of writers who were getting all the Faith, Tim and Kenny cuts and everything else. It used to crush me when somebody would not… But you get thick skin. I’m at a place now where I kinda feel like I know what I’m doing. You learn that everybody is gonna have an opinion. It doesn’t have to be that you’re wrong. You pick and choose whether or not to agree with a publisher when they’re critiquing a song. How many people thought that “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” wasn’t gonna work because it takes too long to get to the chorus?
how would you describe your cowriting style?
I’m typically the push-through-it kind of guy. Not necessarily on my terms. Sometimes I think if you’re gonna make a cowrite work, especially if it’s with an artist and you haven’t written with them before, you’re trying to develop a relationship with somebody you believe in, you love their voice, you love what they do, just try and be patient with the process. Some artists are more heavy-handed. Some artists are okay with you telling them what to say. Kip is certainly not that guy. Kip is gonna say what he wants to say. I don’t care how cool the line is, if he wouldn’t say that, he’s not gonna say it. It’s a fine-tuned craft to be able to cowrite with people that you wouldn’t necessarily think you would write well with. That’s what I’m trying to do. I try to get better at that all the time. I believe that everybody has something to say. I want to try and figure out what that is. I don’t feel the need to dominate the writing situation or try and be brilliant and clever with every line. I want us all to come out of that room feeling like we wrote something special today and it’s not just another song.
i love the song “mary was the marrying kind” kip released on the deluxe version of his debut album.
I was disappointed it didn’t have more success as his first single.
It was a heartbreaking situation. I felt sick for Scott. Felt sick for me. Everybody at the label was so hyped. 24 adds the first week, 15 the next, 10 the next and then… It just fell apart. I think there are things that probably happened that didn’t help us there but I was really lucky that I had other shots. Still, there’s a good chance I’ll have another single on this record but Scott doesn’t have another chance and that was hard for me. I hated it for him.
speaking of scott, he stays so true to his integrity. how do you personally think you stay competitive and consistent yet true to the quality you want your songs to have?
There are some people that are just stubborn and say “I do what I do and if they don’t get that then…” But most writers that make a living at this who have success, who get on a roll, they have evolved into the commercially successful writer they are. For Scott, somebody who’s such a deep thinker, one of the best writers I’ve ever written with, if you listen to what he was doing when he signed his first deal at EMI and if you listen to what he’s doing now at Ten Ten, it’s still Scott. He’s stayed true to that, but in my opinion it’s so much more commercially viable, consistently, every song. Because you’re learning what works. This is a commercial industry. People have to make money or they can’t continue to pay you to write great songs that they can’t do anything with.
you’re quite the family man. do they play a big part in your inspiration?
I’ve been really lucky to, number one, have a patient and supportive wife, who let’s me do my thing. I’ve been really fortunate because she is a professional. She’s a labor & delivery nurse. She’s carried benefits for us all this time. Three beautiful kids. My wife is my partner, she’s my best friend. She’s solid. We’re just now starting to see some of the financial rewards of hanging in there long enough to have a hit song. Even up until Kip released “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” as a single, her attitude has been, “If this is the one that takes us over the top, great, if it’s not, we got everything we need.” For her, it’s always been about me being able to chase my dream and believing that we could get here. My family means everything. I can’t imagine… None of this would mean anything without them. That’s just the truth. As far as material goes, holy cow, I absolutely draw from my everyday experiences and a lot of them are with my family. When I get home, I need to be home. I need to be a dad, not a songwriter.
That’s something I would say to songwriters who have a family. Give them your time when you’re there. You gotta figure out how to turn it off. Some people have a really difficult time doing that and it damages, sometimes irreparably, relationships with your significant other. You gotta be able to turn it off. Honestly, you think my kids care if I ever write another song? They think it’s cool that I wrote “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” but when I come home, it’s about them and what they’re doing or what we’re doing together. Going fishin’, going campin’ or whatever it is. So yeah, gotta be able to turn it off.
acoustic version of somethin bout a truck, dan’s first #1 single.