Kent Blazy Talks About His Friend Garth Brooks and Today’s Nashville

Kent Blazy may be best known as the co-writer of numerous Garth Brooks songs, including some of Brooks’ biggest hits such as, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (’Til The Sun Comes Up),” “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” and more, but he’s also responsible for hits by artists like Diamond Rio and Chris Young, as well as dozens of other cuts by various artists.

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Before taking the advice of Exile’s Mark Gray and moving to Nashville in 1980, Blazy had spent two years on the road playing guitar with Canadian country legend Ian Tyson (“Four Strong Winds”). Recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Blazy is waiting for the formal ceremony to take place later this year. He has released albums of his own, including last year’s Authentic, and is working on material for a release later in 2021. The Kentucky native called American Songwriter to talk about his Hall of Fame induction, and to offer some advice to aspiring writers.

“It becomes official that you’re in the Hall of Fame when they tell you you’re inducted,” he said. “But due to Covid there’s no chance of really doing anything until November 1st of this year, so that’ll be a double ceremony. I knew I had been nominated, and I was really hoping it would happen, because it means a lot to me.”

Blazy explained how he found out about the nomination from his longtime friend Brooks. “I got notified by [Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame director] Mark Ford that Garth wanted to talk about a Grammy show that he wanted to put together. We had a Zoom meeting about it, and right in the middle of it Garth stopped and said, ‘That’s not really what’s going on. You’re being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.’ I was shocked and elated at the same time. I think he cried more than me. But that’s Garth, y’know? It was such a surprise, I wasn’t expecting it but I sure was glad to get it.”

At the beginning of his career Blazy had been in Nashville for a relatively short time when he got a top 5 record with Gary Morris’ “Headed For a Heartache,” and he suddenly starting scoring cuts, for a minute at least. “In my first year and a half in Nashville, in about a two-week period I got six songs cut. I thought, ’Wow, this is easy.’ Not true!”

In the late ‘80s he started to work with Brooks, an association that helped change country music. “I got spoiled by Garth right off the bat, even when he was a young artist,” Blazy said. “His integrity, his caring for the people around him, his sincerity. And that hasn’t changed at all. I’ve never met another individual like him, he’s a one of-a-kind.”

Blazy may be regarded as an old-timer these days, but he believes that his music is as relevant and marketable as ever. “I’ve had three or four songs cut or put on hold recently,” he said, “and it’s interesting, because some people seem to be swinging back to what there was years ago more than what’s on the radio now. The ‘90s had so many phenomenal songs, what I call ‘pull over to the side of road’ songs. ‘The Dance,’ ‘The Song Remembers When,’ ‘Walkaway Joe,’ ‘Ships That Don’t Come In’—so many amazing songs back then. I don’t really hear that these days, but I think it has a lot to do with how they structure record deals now.

“The artists today have to write whether they really write or not,” he continued. “The labels don’t want much outside material, because of that the songs have suffered. The song that really got me this year was [Ingrid Andress’] ‘More Hearts Than Mine,’ it was so real and so honest, and I don’t hear a lot of that these days. The thing I loved about Garth that people don’t study is that, on every album he did, he could have written every song by himself, he’s an incredible songwriter. But every album, about half the album was outside songs. Because of that, he had ‘The Dance’ and ‘Friends in Low Places’ and ‘Shameless,’ songs that took him to different levels. It seems to me that people these days forget that an outside song can bring you way more money and success than you writing everything on the album, writing songs that can be kind of mediocre.”

When asked if he has any pointers for aspiring songwriters when it comes to making the move to Nashville, Blazy didn’t pull any punches. “My advice today would be, don’t come,” he said, only half-jokingly. “It’s a totally different world now, and if you are gonna come here, be prepared. If you’re going to try to find people to write with, set up appointments and always come in with ideas, whether they’re lyrical, titles, musical ideas, something. Let people know that you’re serious about what you do. I see too many people show up to write who don’t have a computer or they don’t have a guitar or they don’t have an idea. If you’re gonna come to town you really have to be ready, because you’re competing with everybody who’s in the Hall of Fame, everybody who’s already on the radio —you’d better be ready.”

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