He wrote his way to a record deal
A learning moment for aspiring artists
When Aaron Tippin sings about the life of a working man, he speaks from experience. This is a guy who has got his hands dirty working up a sweat to earn his paycheck while writing his way to a record deal.
Born in Pensacola, Florida, but growing up in South Carolina, he was earning his living singing in local bars and working on getting his pilot’s license. By the age of 20, he had already found employment as a commercial pilot. Flying may be one of Aaron’s passions, but an even stronger one is music, leading him in 1986 to Nashville with his eyes on the prize of a record deal.
Once in Music City, he began to develop his craft as a songwriter, landing a song publishing contract with Acuff-Rose in 1987. Before long he was co-writing songs for Charley Pride, Mark Collie and David Ball among others. But a publishing deal and cuts by well-known artists didn’t exactly mean Aaron was on Easy Street. As the sun went down each day, he was driving north to Logan County, Kentucky, working a night shift at Logan Aluminum.
Aaron did not give up on his goal of being a recording artist and he developed his stage skills in Nashville clubs and honky tonks while continuing to write and sing demos of the songs he’d written or co-written. One day, RCA’s legendary A&R exec, Mary Martin, heard his voice on a demo and asked who he was. She was told, “It’s that Tippin guy down there who writes for Acuff-Rose – the muscle guy.” Martin said she wanted to hear what else he’d got.
His first record deal
A few days later, Aaron met with RCA’s label head Joe Galante who signed him to a record deal, adding him to a star roster that, at that time, included Clint Black, Keith Whitley and the Judds. Aaron’s first RCA single release, “You’ve Got to Stand for Something,” (co-written with Buddy Brock) was an immediate hit, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1991. The patriotic theme of that song led to Bob Hope inviting Aaron to join him on a USO Tour, the first of many.
Other hits followed both at RCA and later at Lyric Street, including “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way,” “There Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With the Radio,” “When the Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly” and “Working Man’s PhD.”
In 2016, Aaron is celebrating his twenty-fifth year as a recording artist. To mark the occasion, he has teamed with Stonehouse Winery (also celebrating their twenty five years in business) who launched the ‘Aaron Tippin Country Jam’ blackberry wine.
Aaron’s unflagging determination is an inspiration to aspiring artists who can begin to feel disheartened when their careers seem to be heading nowhere. It would have been easy for Aaron to throw in the towel, quit songwriting and maybe take that full-time position at Logan Aluminum. But he didn’t. He kept at it; stayed ‘in the loop,’ continued co-writing, performed at bars and clubs, recorded demos for himself and other writers.
Success takes time
Many aspiring artists – and sometimes their families – come to Nashville and assume that if they haven’t ‘made it’ in six months or a year, then they don’t have what it takes. What it actually takes is perseverance, and Aaron Tippin is the poster child for stick-to-itiveness.
He was in Nashville for four years – four long years, it must have seemed – before he sat in Joe Galante’s office and signed his first record deal. If he had quit after six months or a year, nobody today would know the name Aaron Tippin. But after a quarter of a century he’s still going strong, recording new albums and touring year-round. At his shows, after he’s performed for ninety minutes or so, he always stays around until everyone who wants an autograph or a hug and a photo has had a chance to meet him – another lesson on how build an unshakably loyal fan base.
Aaron says, “I’m the luckiest hillbilly that ever lived.” But he is one of those people who makes his own luck. Remember the saying: Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity.” Aaron spent years preparing: writing, performing, recording demos. When the opportunity to meet the head of RCA came up, he was fully prepared and was launched on a twenty five year recording and performing career.
The psychologist Richard Wiseman carried out a ten-year study into the nature of luck that suggests that, to a large extent, people make their own good and bad fortune, and that it is possible to enhance the amount of luck that people encounter in their lives. Wiseman states:
“Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”
If you are an aspiring artist, Dr. Wiseman’s findings are words to live by. And Aaron Tippin’s career path, his strong determination and his preparation to seize the opportunity when at last it was presented to him prove that luck is what you make it.
Visit Aaron Tippin’s website to read more about his life, his music and his tour schedule. And check out his new CD titled ‘25,’ a 2-disc album of his hits and brand new songs.