Jeremy Spillman is one of those success stories we all like to read about. He decided as a teenager that he wanted to be a professional songwriter, period, and after going to college for a while and working day jobs he knew that his first instinct was correct. So he left Glasgow, Kentucky and moved to Nashville in the late 1990s to write songs and do nothing else.
It didn’t happen overnight, but within a few years he had landed a writing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group, where he spent a decade learning to write better and better songs and getting cuts with some Music Row mainstays. With a discography that includes Trace Adkins’ “Arlington,” Lee Ann Womack’s “He Oughta Know That By Now,” several cuts by Eric Church, and “A Cowboy Was Born” by the late rodeo rocker legend Chris LeDoux, Spillman achieved the success he had left home for.
As anyone in Nashville knows, though, there really is no security in the music business. So a few months ago Spillman decided to take the next step and go out on his own, starting his own publishing and production enterprise, Brave Music Company, that has already signed two writer/artists, Carly Pearce and Jared Crump. American Songwriter caught up with Spillman at his home office and studio west of Nashville, where he is running his new business in a rural environment that might lend itself to a little more creativity than the hustle and bustle of Music Row.
What made you decide to give up what so many dream of in Nashville – a writing deal with a major publisher – and start your own business?
A loose screw? Just kidding. I was presented an opportunity to do things on my own, and I took it. I do believe the business is changing, and I’m trying to put myself in the position to change with it. That being said, I have nothing but love for my former publisher, Universal Music Publishing Group. I was there for 10 great years. They did a lot for me, and I left on good terms.
Is Brave Music accepting much outside material, or are you pretty much relying on your long history in Nashville to help you find songs, writers and artists?
Like most publishing companies in town Brave does not accept unsolicited material. I do believe that great music makes its way to the right places, and the two writer/artists we’ve signed are building a great catalog. I don’t foresee us adding any other writers or artists to the company any time in the near future. However, I do rely heavily on my relationships in the publishing and recording community when considering new acts to work with.
You had a short song called “I Will Never Let You Go,” performed by California roots rock musician Jackie Greene, on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack a few years ago. Is that an area you’d like to explore more of at Brave Music, and have you spent much time dealing with the Hollywood studio system, which operates way differently than Nashville in many respects?
It’s absolutely something we’re pursuing at Brave. I have been educating myself on the ins and outs of the sync community and how songs placements are made. We’re actually in the process of recording a project specifically aimed at film and television that I feel very optimistic about. We are talking to a company that already has major success in that world about partnering with us.
You had a cut on Chris LeDoux’s final studio album, Horsepower. How did that come about?
Good old-fashioned songplugging. (UMPG songplugger) Joe Fisher played the song for Chris’ management, and they passed it along and he cut the song. I’ve always been proud of that cut because a real cowboy cut a song I wrote about cowboys. I’m not a cowboy, I wasn’t raised that way, but like any American boy I always admired them.
Your wife, Melissa, also works in the music industry. Is that a good thing?
It has its positives and negatives! We’re both very passionate about music, and we share a deep dedication to being a part of great music in this town. Melissa works in A&R at Capitol Records Nashville, and it’s been very interesting for me to see first-hand how that side of the business works. I have a unique appreciation for what she does that I never would’ve had without her, and I believe she has a greater understanding of the creators because of me. Even though we don’t always agree, I think we make each other better.
What advice would you give a new writer in town when it comes to what he or she should do during their first 90 days in Nashville?
Soak up every great writer’s night you can. Find the places where songwriters hang out, and meet others who just moved to town. Those initial relationships are usually the most valuable. My two best friends to this day, Clint Ingersoll and Trent Willmon, are guys I met within a few months of moving here. My first cut ever was with Clint, and my first radio single was with Trent. Altogether, we’ve had a number of cuts with each other.
You’ve had some nice cuts so far, but what single artist do you really want to get a cut on the most before it’s all over?
George Strait. Hands down.