Q & A with David Rodgers
Amateur Lyric Contest Entrant
What makes you tick, generally, as a songwriter?
I am constantly searching for hooks/titles in books, movies or conversation. I’ll sort through the hooks/titles I have, and I’ll try to pick one that is unique and that I can relate to personally. Then I’ll map out the whole story of the song in my head before I ever pick up a pen or guitar. Occasionally, I’ll write a song around a guitar part or groove, but ninety-five percent of the time, I start with the hook/title and a story.
Are you a hobbyist, aspiring professional or professional?
I’ve been an aspiring professional ever since I moved to Nashville. I was encouraged to move here after meeting Porter Wagoner through my wife’s cousin—who was a background singer for Porter at the time. Porter liked my songs and told me I should go ahead and make the move to Tennessee. A short time after moving to town, I joined NSAI and still attend their monthly critique night to help hone my craft, so I can reach my goal of becoming a professional.
What is your genre of choice to write within? Why?
My primary genre is country music, because it’s what I know, and it’s how I grew up…being born and raised in South Alabama.
Do you record demos? If so, what have you learned from this process?
I record guitar/vocal demos on my four-track at home, and I have done full band demos in the studio. I learned that, when you’re doing full band demos, the songwriter has to wear the producer hat. Before you go into the studio, you need to know the style and feel you want for your song. You need to bring in examples of songs you want your song to sound like…and play them for the musicians. You also need to decide which instruments you want playing fills and leads in the different sections of your song.
Your Top 5 favorite songwriters, living or deceased?
1) Paul McCartney. What he and the rest of The Beatles did with chords and melodies changed popular music forever. 2) Don Henley. If Henley wasn’t a great singer and drummer, his lyric-writing alone would be enough. 3) Brian Wilson. It’s amazing that this guy could write and produce an album like Pet Sounds having hearing in only one ear. 4) Hank Williams. He is what country music is all about; if you had never heard of Hank and didn’t know about his past, and you heard “I’m so Lonesome I could Cry,” you would still know that this guy had lived every word in that song. 5) Alan Jackson. He is a lot like Hank, so far as…the simplicity of his writing…but Alan’s best songs are on the positive side unlike Hank’s.
Which songwriter has been a major inspiration on your own writing, musically and/or lyrically. How? What is it about his/her writing that you’re drawn to?
The biggest influence on my lyric-writing has been songwriter/producer Jerry Taylor. I met Jerry several years ago, and he taught me a technique he called “writing it every way under the sun.” He explained the technique by saying that when you come up with a hook/title, you should think of every angle possible from which to write it. I took what I learned that day to heart, studied and found out that the majority of what comes out of Music Row is written in that style. I would have never written “The Greatest Catch I Ever Made” if I hadn’t learned this technique, and I wouldn’t have come as far as I have in songwriting if I hadn’t met Jerry Taylor.
If you were to pitch “The Greatest Catch I Ever Made” to a recording artist, who would your top choice be?
My top choice to cut “The Greatest Catch I Ever Made” would be Kenny Chesney. This song is a story song, and Kenny does such a great job with those types of tunes. I know Kenny, is single and the last verse of my song deals with the singer getting married…but I don’t think this would deter him from cutting it because he sings other songs dealing with marriage, such as “The Good Stuff.”
Is there a particular topic/subject you haven’t yet written a song about, but would like to?
I’d like to write a song dealing with forgiveness and healing, but every time I try to get started, I think about Don Henley’s song “The Heart of the Matter.” And I think “Man, that’s going to be hard to beat.”
-compiled by Douglas Waterman