Kip Moore and Dan Couch on Songwriting and Authenticity: “Trust Your Compass”

What began as a phone call and suggestion to write together has turned into a fruitful friendship and creative partnership for Kip Moore and Dan Couch. The songwriters were introduced more than 10 years ago by Nate Lowery, GM/VP of Creative at Cornman Music, and have since amassed two No. 1 hits together (“Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck,” “Hey Pretty Girl”) and countless career-defining songs.

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The pair’s early sessions yielded Moore’s debut single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind,” as well as fan favorites like the unreleased song “Reason to Believe” and top 20 single “She’s Mine.” They also penned “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up),” “That Was Us,” “Heart’s Desire,” “Last Shot” and “Guitar Man” together.

“For me, more than anything, Dan was like an older brother,” Moore tells American Songwriter. “I immediately liked him as a human regardless of if he was worth a damn writing. I liked hanging out with this guy and then I quickly learned how sharp he was in a room.  … We have a blast laughing and talking life. I immediately knew that he would be a friend. I didn’t know what was to transpire.”

[RELATED: Kip Moore Searches for Balance on ‘Damn Love’]

Couch recalls that first meeting as “a real easy hang.” He says Moore gave him encouragement. Couch explains that he moved to Nashville in 1995 to “be the next Garth Brooks” as Moore, sitting beside him, laughs. He soon realized he loved writing more than performing and refocused his career on songwriting.

“I’d been in town quite a bit longer than he had and really hadn’t had anything to show for it,” Couch admits. “I had a couple of publishing deals and had a couple of cuts, but no hits. But this guy, he believed. We continued to write, and he continued to wave my flag and say, ‘This guy’s good,’ and he would encourage. Then he gets a record deal and starts recording all the songs and changing both of our lives.”

In 2012, Moore and Couch would celebrate their first No. 1 with “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck.” Couch describes the two-week No. 1 as “the gift that has continued to give.” He says people still call him from a bar when a cover band is playing it or they hear it on the radio.

“I still remember the day we wrote it,” Couch says. “Loved it then and still do. For me, it never gets old hearing in it.”

[RELATED: Kip Moore Shares New Song ‘Kinda Bar’]

Moore admits that he and Couch felt like the song was a hit the day they wrote it. It was an unconventional radio song though, as “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck” took over a minute to get to the chorus.

“I remember saying, ‘If this ever gets a chance this is a big song,’ but the key word was chance,” Moore explains. “We knew that we took way too long by industry standards of getting to the chorus. … Tom Petty is the king of getting to the chorus within 30 seconds. He does it with all of his songs.”

Moore knew there was a good chance “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck” would never make it to radio, but it defied the odds. The track that almost didn’t make the cut on his debut album, Up All Night, remains a staple on country radio more than 10 years after its release.

“When you listen to Up All Night, it doesn’t really fit musically with that record,” Moore adds. “’Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck’ was the last song to go on there. We were like, ‘This is an undeniable, big, fun song’ and it needed that lightness on that record.”

Couch co-wrote five songs on Moore’s 2012 debut. Since then, he’s penned several tracks on each of Moore’s five projects. Couch and Moore wrote seven songs on the singer’s latest release, Damn Love.

At a time when chasing radio trends and writing for TikTok has become the norm, Moore is faithful to his early collaborators and dedicated to the craft of songwriting. Many of the writers from his debut album remain in the songwriting credits throughout his projects.

“It is almost unheard of,” Couch says of Moore’s loyalty to his earliest collaborators. “But Kip, after that first record, he said in an interview, ‘As long as I’m making records Dan Couch will have songs on my records.’ He’s lived up to that. I don’t know any other writer that has had that kind of continued commitment. I like to think it’s just because I write the best songs with him and hopefully is not compromised.”

Moore was quick to praise his friend and co-writer. He says he’s always believed in Couch and his abilities as a songwriter.

“To this day, I’m sending him a million ideas a minute and constantly writing and shooting him ideas and songs,” Moore says, “especially in the making of this record it was an onslaught. Dan knows that if he doesn’t respond quickly, I’ll just go and finish it.”

Couch offers several tips for aspiring songwriters, including “tell the truth and make it rhyme” and “write what you know.” He also says songwriters must be able to accept criticism.

“You, at some point, have to get good at taking criticism,” he advises. “You can’t get your feelings hurt. You also don’t necessarily have to agree. If somebody says a line is wrong, take a look at it. …There are a lot of people in high positions in town who heard some of the songs that I wrote, or songs that we wrote, who were like, ‘Eh.’ And then the songs ended up being on records and hugely successful either with the crowds or on the radio or both.”

As with any relationship, there is a push and pull. Moore adds that it’s important for writers to have some stubbornness in them.

“You have to trust your own compass,” Moore explains. “There’s times when Dan has told me, ‘That line is not right,’ and I’ll fight him tooth and nail. There’s times when I listen and vice versa. You have to have a little bit of stubbornness in you, but it’s got to be coming from a good place.

“If you really stay authentic to who you are, I think your chances of longevity – that’s the key word longevity – in this business is a lot better and more sustainable,” Moore concludes. “I used to write two songs a day, every single day when I got a writing deal. … To me, it’s got to be all or nothing. It can’t be these backup plans. Being authentic to who you are has to be an all-encompassing thing.”

(Photo Credit: American Songwriter)

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