‘Songwriting picked me,’ says Walt Aldridge

Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2017 inductee talks to Country Aircheck

Walt Aldridge shared his thoughts about how he evolved from a recording engineer to a major hit writer in this interview from the Sept 25 issue of Country Aircheck, where you can find the original story. More about Aircheck at the foot of this article. Walt is a great songwriter and has always been generous with his time, sharing his experience and knowledge of the music industry and the process of songwriting.

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Walt Aldridge

Alabama native Aldridge engineered more than 200 records during his time at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals and later, in Nashville. His cuts include Ronnie Milsap’s “There’s No Gettin’ Over Me,” Earl Thomas Conley’s “Holding Her And Loving You” and Tim McGraw’s “Some Things Never Change.”

I always had a fascination with making records. Writing songs allowed me to produce, play, sing on and engineer my demos. When I got started, the studio was a hallowed ground that you had to be invited to, or have a lot of money so you could rent one. So, by becoming a songwriter, it gave me the opportunity to do what I’d always been intrigued by – making music.

Rick Hall (right) signs Duane Allman as session guitarist at Fame, 1968. Photo: Getty Images

I remember walking into Fame and seeing the records hanging on the wall, thinking, “This looks like the set list for the band you were in, in sixth grade,” with “Mustang Sally,” “Land Of A Thousand Dances” – all these great soul records. Knowing you’re sitting where Duane Allman sat to play a guitar part on a Wilson Pickett record challenges you to dig deep and do your very best.

Rick Hall was my first my boss and mentor. Rick has always preached the preeminence of the song. Some of my favorite recordings are not technically or vocally the best, but they always connect and hit a nerve. Very often, you’ll have a fantastic singer with a great band and engineer, but if the song doesn’t hit that nerve with people, it doesn’t matter.

Songwriting picked me as opposed to me picking it. Tommy Brasfield was a writer in Nashville who was more experienced. He heard some of my songs and said, “You have a lot of ability, but I think I could help you frame your music more towards the radio.” If I ever did anything right, it was being open to that, rather than saying, “I like my music the way it is and I don’t need your help.”

No Getting Over Me

So Tommy and I started writing and eventually we wrote “No Gettin’ Over Me,” which was my first hit. That was back in the golden age of crossover, so it was a No. 1 Country record, a Top 5 Pop and No. 1 Adult Contemporary. After that hit I said, “Okay, it looks like I’m a songwriter – and a country songwriter, for that matter.”

My writing equipment is a guitar, a laptop and some kind of caffeine. I like to start in the morning when I’m fresh. But I’ve written all different ways.

“Power through writer’s block”

When I have writer’s block, I power through. So much of what we do is crafting, is a learned instinct. The old saying that sometimes inspiration comes after perspiration is very true. And you don’t know when the muse is going to visit.

Marty Stuart playing Hank’s guitar

One time I was writing with Marty Stuart and we were stuck. He said, “Why don’t we just swap guitars and see if that jogs anything loose?” I said, “Boy, this is a really cool old Martin guitar. What’s the story?” He said, “Well it was Hank’s guitar.” I said, “Hank Jr.?” He said, “No, that was Hank Sr.’s guitar.” I was holding the Holy Grail of guitars. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” could have been written on this guitar. So, I don’t know whether it’s imagined or whether there’s real energy coming from the wood and the wire. But different guitars inspire different moods and words.

I wish I’d written “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Every line in it is absolutely perfect. Couldn’t have been better.

A song’s demo is a critical part of it. You’re not only writing the lyric and melody, you’re often writing the guitar intro lick that’s going to be a hook. You’re writing the production, somewhat. On “Holding Her And Loving You,” we just didn’t get it on the demo. But somehow, Earl Thomas Conley and his producer Nelson Larkin were able to hear through the demo and imagine it. When they played us the record, it sounded like a hit. When you heard Earl sing it, you believed it.

“Write to express yourself”

You don’t write songs for the money or the gold records. You write because you want to express yourself in some way that you’re unable to express yourself otherwise. Getting this induction means my colleagues who have written some of my favorite songs – people whose opinions I value the most – are willing to say, “Hey man, you did good.” It’s quite a club to be voted into. I’m deeply honored.

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Again, my thanks to Lon Helton and all at Country Aircheck for allowing me to reprint this article. I recommend that you visit this link to the Sept 25 edition of Country Aircheck to read the original article and see why Country Aircheck is a ‘must read’ for anyone involved in Country radio and the music industry. – Preshias.

New “Garth Brooks Channel” on Sirius XM

Historic ‘first’ concert at the Ryman Auditorium

Garth at SiriusXM's studio at the Bridgestone Arena
Garth at SiriusXM’s studio at the Bridgestone Arena

Garth Brooks took a short break from his three year “Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood” to launch his new channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.  He kicked it off with a press conference September 8, at Sirius XM’s studios at Bridgestone Arena on Broadway in Nashville, in front of an ‘invitation only’ group of print and broadcast media, before performing a concert at the Ryman Auditorium.

Garth started out by saying, “I got to step inside the [Ryman] yesterday. That’s a cool place, man. Feels good. Don’t know if I deserve to be there but it treated me like welcome. It welcomed the band and everybody. I hope it knows its heart and soul, because you might have said it in front of as big a country fan [as me], but you’ll never say it in front of a bigger one.”

He went on to describe how it would feel, walking on to that historic stage with his guitar for his first ever concert at the Ryman. It’s amazing to think this was to be a ‘first’ for Garth.

“The only time I got to stand on the Ryman stage was at Loretta Lynn’s Lifetime Achievement Presentation and I had to stand in for Conway on “Cold As Ashes,” said Garth.

Representing ‘those who’ve been before’

I asked Garth to compare the difference between two milestones in his career, playing Central Park and playing at the Ryman. Garth said, “Probably feeling the same good anxiety, good fear, all those good things. Central Park was cool for its size and stuff. I wanted to represent Country music, I wanted to represent the flag of Country music, your family and God the best you can. Everybody is in their seats. Tonight you think about, this ain’t a million people, there has been about a hundred names that played that house that – you – want  – to – represent…” (He slows he speech down with emotion as he finished the sentence.)

He continued, “To represent those people who have been there before. The biggest thing between this and Central Park is just that the Central Park show was representing Country music as it was. Here [Ryman], I think we’re trying to represent Country as it is, as it was and of course – as always like a family moving together – hopefully for the future of it.”

Like a homecoming

All throughout the press conference he would turn every few minutes and look out the window at the Ryman Auditorium with evident emotion in his voice and his eyes welling up, referring to the Ryman as “The House”. This seemed almost like a homecoming, just to listen to his sincerity and honestly as he spoke his thoughts and heartfelt emotions.

He was asked what song he was going to start the concert with and he said that he couldn’t even tell us what song he was going to start off with or end with, and assured those present that he was being totally upfront with the media.

Garth fields questions at the SiriusXM press briefing
Garth fields questions at the SiriusXM press briefing

Immediately following the press briefing, Garth crossed the street to Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium for a soundcheck preceding his performance at the special concert in front of invited guests.  The concert aired live on the Garth Channel, SiriusXM channel 55 and via SiriusXM apps on smartphones and other connected devices.

His appearance marked the first time in Garth’s career that he has put on a full concert at the Ryman Auditorium, known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”

Additionally, Garth recently launched Inside Studio G, a weekly Facebook Live series that will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of his next album. It airs every Monday on Garth’s Facebook page at 7:00 PM EDT.

The final leg of his and Trisha’s North American Tour resumes on Monday, September 12.

More information at Garth’s Facebook page and www.siriusxm.com

NOTE: Due to limited space, some quotes were shortened to fit accordingly.

 

Rising stars play for 95.1 The Goober in KY

Goober 95A great day in Bowling Green, KY – despite the wet weather! I was there Thursday May 26 with five of ‘my’ artists to help WGGC-FM The Goober with their New Faces of Country showcase at the Bowling Green Hot Rods baseball game. Blane Howard, Cameron Lanz, Elvie Shane, Jessie Goergen (Jessie G) and Justin T. Dukes all performed. There was a rain delay during the game and the show moved inside, but everyone had a great time. Thank you everyone at 95.1 The Goober. Follow The Goober on Facebook here.