Deric Ruttan rarely listens to his own advice. His recent, fifth solo album is entitled Take The Week Off, but the Nashville-based hit songwriter and recording artist has done little of that since moving to Music City 20 years ago.
Ruttan is eloquent proof that plugging away and honing your craft can pay rich dividends. He has now graduated to the A-list of country songwriters, with the No. 1 hits and major awards to prove it. This January, the Bracebridge, Ontario, native earned his first Grammy nomination, as co-writer of “Mine Would Be You,” a huge No. 1 charted hit by U.S. superstar Blake Shelton (which Ruttan also recorded himself on Take The Week Off).
Ruttan has certainly paid those proverbial dues, as he explains. “I was here in Nashville for 18 months before I got my first publishing deal,” he says. “I’d dig through the couch for coins so I could gas up the truck to get into town to write. No fabrication! I later signed with Sony/Tree Publishing, but it took nine years before I heard my first song on the radio.”
That song, “What Was I Thinking,” became a U.S. No. 1 in 2003 for Dierks Bentley, who scored a Top Five hit as well in 2005 with another Ruttan co-write, “Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do.” His career as both a songwriter and solo artist then took off.
Ruttan insists his primary motivation has remained constant. “From the beginning, my desire was not to be rich or famous,” he says. “If I can make a living doing what I love to do, writing and/or singing songs, that is my barometer of success. So far I have been able to do that.”
“I’d dig through the couch for coins so I could gas up the truck to get into town to write. No fabrication!”
No resting on hard-won laurels for Ruttan. “I’ve been accused by friends and colleagues of not taking the time to celebrate my successes,” he admits. “I tend to keep focused on the work and keep my head down. I have a little office on Music Row and I treat it like a job, working there for six hours or more, four or five days a week. That keeps the songwriting machinery oiled. I feel that is what I need to do to keep on top of my game and be productive.”
In between writing hits for others, Ruttan releases solo albums that have found Canadian radio and fan support. “I’ve never been happier with the balance in my career,” he says. “I tour about as much as I’d ever want to. Jason Blaine, Chad Brownlee and I recently did 25 shows across Canada in the Your Town Throwdown tour, and I played festivals in the summer. That lets me get my performance ya -yas out, and I’m in Nashville writing the rest of the time. Considering I haven’t lived there in 20 years, I feel really embraced by Canada.”
Rusty Gaston, head of Ruttan’s publishing company, THiS Music Publishing, sees this parallel career as a real plus. “I think part of being a successful songwriter is the ability to put yourself in the mindset of an artist,” says Gaston.”
Ruttan regularly co-writes with and for Canadian artists. “People are always coming over to write,” he says. “Chad and I wrote on Monday, then went shooting tin cans off tree stumps on my property!” Ruttan and Blaine co-wrote the 2012 Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Single of the Year “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore” and another big hit, “Cool” (both recorded by Blaine).
Other collaborations have been with Jimmy Rankin (their co-writes “First Time In A Long Time” and “Up All Night” won SOCAN Country Music Awards in 2009 and 2011, respectively), Aaron Pritchett (“Hold My Beer,” a Ruttan/Pritchett/Mitch Merrett song, won the SOCAN Songwriter of the Year award at the 2007 CCMA awards), Michelle Wright, Terri Clark, Jason McCoy, Doc Walker, and Paul Brandt.
American country stars who’ve recorded Ruttan co-writes include Shelton, Bentley, Eric Church (“Hell on the Heart,” a Top 10 hit in 2010), and Gary Allan, but there still won’t be many weeks Deric Ruttan takes off.
“If I have a new cut or a No. 1 song,” says Ruttan, “I go back to my office the next day and try to get another one.”
Publisher: THiS Music Publishing, Doc’s Cabin Songs
Discography: Deric Ruttan (2003), First Time in a Long Time (2008), Sunshine (2010), Up All Night – Deric Ruttan Live (2011), Take the Week Off (2013)
SOCAN Member since 1989