Your Take: Songwriter Spotlight

Karlie Justus Marlowe | May 1st, 2010

In yesterday’s News Roundup, Brody linked to an American Songwriter article on Liz Rose, a Nashville songwriter perhaps most famously associated with Taylor Swift.

The interview, titled Liz Rose: Co-writer to the Stars, talked with Rose about some of her peers that have helped her along the way:

“[Publisher] Jody [Williams] talked me into being a writer. I just started writing. I wrote every day, twice a day, three times a day, anybody that wanted to write I would write [with them]. I wrote a lot. And I learned a lot. When I didn’t know what I was doing, people were very patient with me: Stephanie Smith and Pam Rose, Pat McLaughlin—fantastic writers. Because I don’t sing and play, I don’t have a sound per se, where you walk in and I have to write it my way. So I can write with anybody. One of my friends says I have the best career ‘cause I get to write with Taylor Swift and Mary Gauthier.”

We often talk about our favorites songs, artists, albums and bands – but what about the songwriters? Who are your favorites, and what would consider to be their best work?

The article also mentions that non-performing songwriters are somewhat of a rarer breed, citing Rose and Swift, Clint Black and Hayden Nicholas, Garth Brooks and Kim Williams, and Alan Jackson and Jim McBride as examples.

What non-performing songwriters have stuck out to you?

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  1. Paul W Dennis
    May 1, 2010 at 8:39 am

    What non-performing songwriters have stuck out to you?

    Both Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran issued a few albums but rarely toured or performed live except at songwriter showcases

    note to quibblers – yes I know Hank performed with the late Eddie Cochran (no relation) as the “Cochran Brothers” but after that mostly not

    Doodle Owens
    Dallas Frazier
    Whitey Safer
    Sonny Throckmorton

    were mostly non-performers

  2. Bob
    May 1, 2010 at 9:04 am

    songwriters? Who are your favorites, and what would you consider to be their best work?

    Gary Burr – In front of the Alamo
    Skip Ewing – It Wasn’t His Child
    Matraca Berg – Hey Cinderella
    Hugh Prestwood – The Song Remembers When
    Pat Alger – Unanswered Prayers
    Tony Arata – The Dance
    Gretchen Peters – On a Bus to St. Cloud
    Don Schlitz – Forever and Ever Amen
    Gary Nicholson – Trouble With the Truth

    I believe that all of these writers have made cds and do perform occasionally but generally at small venues.

  3. Matt Bjorke
    May 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Pam Bunch and Vicky McGeehee are two others that I know of who aren’t performing songwriters. They just write with anyone. Of course the most famous of all of these writers is Bernie Taupin who often ‘just’ mailed words to Elton, who turned them into the songs they became.

    As for songwrtiers I love,

    Many of Bob’s are some of the best and I’d add
    Chuck Cannon – “We Were In Love,” may Toby Keith’s best hits (But check out Cannon’s “God Shaped Hole” record).
    Marcus Hummon – “Bless The Broken Road”
    Billy Yates – “Choices”
    Jamie O’Hara – “50,000 Names” “Man To Man”

  4. Nicolas
    May 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Aimee Mayo is my favorite country music songwriter; she’s wrote several of my favorite Sara Evans & Kellie Pickler songs

  5. Bob
    May 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Matt mentioned Chuck Cannon. One of my favorite songs of his, “That’s How You Know When You’re in Love” was written with his wife Lari White and a hit for her in 1994. She’s still a great singer and does benefit shows for the YMCA almost every month at the Bluebird.

  6. Noeller
    May 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Lotta great older songwriters, like Paul Overstreet, Don Schlitz, Skip Ewing, Bob DiPiero, Mac Macnally were all great. Right now, I love what I call the “Houseboat Clique” of Brett and Jimmy Beavers, Deric Ruttan, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley (along with Chris Thorsteinson and Dave Wasilyw from Canada). Also, the tandem of Houser and Jamey Johnson has always had a cool vibe with their material. Bobby Pinson, Anthony Smith, Jeffrey Steele.

    Man, there’s some great writers in Nashville.

  7. scooter
    May 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Matraca Berg is my favorite. Here are a few she wrote

    XXX’s and OOO’s – Trisha Yearwood
    Wrong Side of Memphis- Trisha Yearwood
    Strawberry WIne- Deana Carter
    Wild Angels- Martina
    If I Fall You’re Going Down with Me- Dixie Chicks
    That Train Don’t Run- Pinmonkey

    Matraca’s solo career never took off- never understood why. Her albums are good especially
    “Sunday Morning to Saturday Night”

  8. RIchard
    May 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Jeffrey Steele takes country writing to another level — songs like “These Days,” “What Hurts the Most,” “My Town,” “Gone,” and “My Wish” combine lyrical expression and musicality in a unique way that resonates long after the listening is done. I realize that he does a great performance live, but his genius is in the writing. Check out newer ones like “The Shoebox” (Chris Young) — it’s artistry combined with realism, but always written to stir up an emotion.

  9. luckyoldsun
    May 1, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Great non-performing songwriter was Bob McDill.
    He wrote a lot of Don Williams hits, including the epic “Good Old Boys Like Me”

    “Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me…

  10. Steve Harvey
    May 1, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    There are very few non-performing songwriters I can think of, unless we grey the edges of what ‘non-performing means’. Within that, Odie Blackman stands out to me. Particularly his work with Jim Lauderdale.

  11. Annie
    May 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Easily the top three for me are:
    Bobby Pinson
    Matt Warren
    Scotty Emerick

    Although all three are performing songwriters…so really don’t answer your question! ;-D

  12. RIchard
    May 2, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    How about a more recent one – Ashley Gorley? Lots of good songs that have been hits of late, including “You’re Gonna Miss This”. Oh, and also Hillary Lindsey, who has written many great songs this decade …

  13. Joe
    May 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I like Radney Foster (I’m In, Raining on Sunday), Tony Martin (Just to See You Smile, Like It’s a Bad Thing), and, while he is not country nor a non-performer, Bruce Springsteen.

  14. J.R. Journey
    May 2, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    I’m going to show my ignorance and admit that I just assumed that all songwriters were performers on some level, if only to put melodies to the lyric. It’s really interesting to hear how the song creating process actually works for the people writing the hits. I would also think that being a non-performing songwriter would mean only writing as part of a team and that would stifle creativity tremendously.

    I have too many favorite songwriters to narrow down right now, but most of my favorites seem to be singer/songwriters like Dolly Parton, Rodney Crowell, Dwight Yoakam, etc.

  15. Steve Harvey
    May 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I like Radney Foster
    He’s definitely not a non-performing songwriter. I’ve got three of his albums.

  16. Candice
    May 2, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Odie Blackmon
    Matt Warren
    Craig Wiseman
    Chris Wallin
    Scotty Emerick
    Bobby Pinson
    and yeah…Radney Foster…but all of these guys perform on some level!

  17. Steve Harvey
    May 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

    If we rephrase this as singer/songwriters who have had more success and notoriety through covers of their songs than their own versions, then my answer is Jim Lauderdale, the King of Americana.

  18. PaulaW
    May 3, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Bobby Braddock.

  19. Michelle
    May 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Bobby Braddock, definately!

  20. TobySooner
    May 3, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Neil Thrasher
    Wendell Mobley
    Joe Leathers
    Karyn Rochelle
    Brett James
    Radney Foster

  21. t.scott
    May 3, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Felice and Beaudileaux (sp)Bryant, Harlan Howard,Mack Vickery off the top of my head.

  22. Clancy
    May 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Kids, you obviously don’t have a clue how greatness in a country songwriter’s work is measured.

    Harlan Howard
    Jerry Chestnut
    Mickey Newbury
    Hank Cochran
    Bob McDill

    That’s five to get you started. Ask somebody over 50 (if there’s any left in Nashville) about each of those.

    You probably haven’t heard the great Newbury line, “I do my best writing with a bottle in one hand and a pistol in the other!” Newbury didn’t like performing, stopped early in his career.

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