Channing Wilson introduces himself as a captivating storyteller on his debut solo album, Dead Man, available now.
Videos by American Songwriter
After two decades of writing for other artists like Luke Combs, Travis Tritt and the Oak Ridge Boys, Wilson shares his unique brand of country music with the world. With gritty vocals, intriguing story songs and memorable production, Dead Man proves Wilson an indelible songwriter and country star on the rise.
Grammy Award-winning producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell) was at the helm of the 10-track album, which was all written or co-written by Wilson. Songs like the anthemic barn burner “Dead Man Walking” instantly enrapture while the vulnerable “Blues Comin’ On” strikes a chord. On the latter, the singer/songwriter channels his inspirations like Hank Williams Jr. and Guy Clark, and no doubt does them proud.
While Wilson has already proved himself as an in-demand songwriter having penned Combs’ No. 1 single “She Got the Best of Me,” he secures his rightful place in the country genre on the standout Dead Man.
Wilson shares the stories behind the songs on Dead Man in American Songwriter’s track by track below.
1. “Drink That Strong”
(Channing Wilson, H. Phillips)
This is a song for the veterans of heartbreak. We’ve been through it all a couple of times over and we know that self-medicating and digging ourselves into a hole is not going to ever help. So, if it’s gonna hurt either way, you might as well just go fishing.
2. “Running Down A Song”
This song is for anyone who has dreams they can’t let go. A song for those who refuse to peak. The grind is life and the rewards are the hurdles. You might be a mechanic, a nurse, a teacher, a firefighter, or a woodworker. I am a songwriter.
3. “Beer For Breakfast”
(Channing Wilson, N. Medley)
This song was written in the heart of Music Row surrounded by other writing rooms full of “snap/clap track” songs being cranked out. We could hear them all through the walls. I really took it personally (for some reason) and suggested we try and write the saddest “countriest” song we could as a form of protest to all this cheesy nonsense. My co-writer, Neil, had seen a bumper sticker that said “Beer, it ain’t just for breakfast anymore.” I thought, “If you’re having beer for breakfast, you’re in a pretty bad damn place.” So, we created the place.
4. “Blues Comin’ On”
(Channing Wilson, David Smith)
Ever heard your own heartbeat in your ears? Careful, that’s the blues coming on. That was the idea around how this song came to be. I was hanging with a buddy (Davey Smith) on Nickajack Lake in Tennessee one night talking about old Hank Jr. and Guy Clark and he mentioned a line he’d had for years and could never get past.
I heard that train whistle moanin’ this mornin’. Soon as he said it I knew what we were writing. I grew up next to the tracks and used to always hear that train coming and going. Wondering where? That lonesome sound and the feeling that I would never be on it was my introduction to the blues.
5. “Sunday Morning Blues”
(Channing Wilson, Chris Canterbury)
Being a real country music fan, you have to also love the sad, depressing, heartache songs too. They are important to the whole spectrum of the story. Depression and anxiety have been the roots of great songs long before we knew they were. In the past, they just called it the blues. This song takes place in the character’s mind during the two-hour church service they are missing for reasons only known to them. Guilt is a funny thing that never makes you smile.
6. “Ol’ Dog”
(Channing Wilson, Rob Snyder)
The frustration of not getting what you want or what you feel you deserve can make you doubt yourself and even God himself. This song leans heavily into the idea of “hello, can anyone hear me out there?” Jealousy, even in a professional perspective, is alive and well, and sometimes we feel our prayers are just bouncing off the clouds.
7. “Dead Man Walking”
Once again we’re back to anxiety. While battling my own versions of anxiety I used to say, “It’s like having a mortal knife wound that I can’t point at and tell you where to sew me up.” It hurts, but I have no proof. That’s a lonely feeling. The root of those feelings lies in the inevitable. The clock is ticking. Better hurry. We’re all dead men walking. Have a good day.
8. “Crazy Over You”
Sometimes just saying I love you doesn’t do it. You have to change things up. They say, “If you can make her laugh you can make her yours.” This song is meant to just say I love you. In a sly, but very sweet way.
9. “Gettin’ Outta My Mind”
(Channing Wilson, Kendell Marvel)
This one’s a song about your woman leaving and you don’t care if she comes back. A throwback to good ol’ honkytonkin’ country music. No tricks, no frills, no BS kinda song. A song for Billy Joe Shaver and Johnny Paycheck.
10. “Trying To Write A Song”
I believe struggle is an addiction. It’s the reason we catch fish and then immediately release them. We just want to try and catch them again. Simply put, the struggle is fun. Trying to write a song is hard. Writing a song is hard. Liking the song you wrote is damn near impossible sometimes. If that’s not struggle, I don’t know what is. I’m an addict. At the same time, I feel like this song has nothing to do with songwriting.
(Photo Credit: David McClister / Courtesy of Sacks & Co.)