Prolific songwriter and hitmaker Barry Dean joins the podcast SongTown, hosted by Clay Mills and Marty Dodson, to share how he got into songwriting and managed to make it to the top of charts despite his unconventional story.
Instead of making his way to Nashville in his 20s, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take the songwriting community by storm, Dean moved to Nashville at the age of 38 after a series of songwriting events, getting connected with the right people and a whole lot of encouragement from his wife, Jen.
“It’s counter to the normal story, honestly. We had a lot of friends back home that supported it and really cheerleaded it, but we had a lot of people that had known me for a long time and were saying to Jen (Dean’s wife) secretly, ‘You know, you need to talk to him. Maybe he’s having a midlife crisis. Maybe this or that or the other.’ And they’d give me the, ‘Hey, what’s up? How’s the little songwriting thing going?’ It was like I showed up and said, ‘I’m going to be an underwear model.’ So yeah, I understand it was really difficult, but she really was the one that kind of stayed on it,” he explains.
Despite now penning multiple No. 1 hit songs and becoming a Grammy-nominated songwriter, Dean shares that those highlights didn’t come without many seasons of discouraging dry spells. Even so, he advises to always keep “play” at the forefront when it comes to creative pursuits and fear at the door.
“You look at the great TV writers and the great movie writers, great comedians, they make a consistent habit, the great novelist as well,” Dean says. “And I think if it wasn’t creative, and if it wasn’t truthful, and organic and real, all of those people wouldn’t be using the same process. Which is, I show up to the page, I respect the process and I do my best.”
And how is Dean able to show up to the page so consistently everyday? Through an equally important task when it comes to creating: consuming.
“Finding inspiration is really the professional part of the job. At a certain point you know how to write songs, you know how things like that work, but what you’re really looking for is something moving to write about,” Dean reveals. “Something that matters that you want to talk about.”
Throughout the episode, Dean shares more of his story from Kansas to Nashville and his advice to creative types across all disciplines. At the end of the episode, Mills answers a question sent in by a listener, asking how many songs per year do publishers expect from their writers.