It may have been the sweetest migraine Aaron Goodvin ever endured.
True, migraine headaches generally aren’t positive experiences, but Goodvin was laying in agony on the couch of his Nashville home in 2012, when his co-writers Cole Swindell and Adam Sanders burst through the door with some exciting news: country superstar Luke Bryan had cut their song “Out Like That.”
“That started changing everything,” says Goodvin. “I’d moved [from Alberta] to Nashville about nine years ago, and I was ready to move home about the time everything started happening.”
On Music Row, however, just because a song is cut, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll make the album. Luckily for Goodvin, when Bryan eventually released his No. 1 Crash My Party in 2013 – an album that’s sold four million copies and is still in the Top 30 of the Billboard U.S. Country Album charts six years later in 2019 – “Out Like That” had made the grade.
“That was the longest eight months of my life,” jokes Goodvin, whose U.S. album song placements include “A Dozen Roses and a Six-Pack” for Cole Swindell’s gold-selling, self-titled debut album in 2014, and “Trash A Hotel Room” for Jon Pardi’s 2014 debut Write You a Song.
“After Luke cut that song, it was a lot easier to get in the door,” says Goodvin. “You meet with someone and they say, ‘Oh, you have a Luke Bryan cut.’ I ended up signing with Warner-Chappell for four years, which was a huge, transforming time for me. I was able to write songs, and learn how to get better at it. It was a very important part of my career.”
As promising as Goodvin’s vocation is in terms of development South of the border – where he’s signed to Retriever Records, and was recently named by Billboard as one of seven country acts to watch – it’s going gangbusters here at home. The Warner Music Canada smash hit “Lonely Drum” was the only Canadian country single certified platinum in 2017, and earned him 2018 CCMA Songwriter of the Year honours (along with co-writers Skip Black [BMI] and Catt Gravitt [SESAC]).
“Basically, we were writing this song called ‘Trying to Forget You,’ that nobody has ever heard,” Goodvin recalls. “We demoed the song, a rip-your-heart-out ‘80s hair ballad, and after we’d written it, Catt said, ‘I just love that song because it beats on that lonely drum.’ And I said, ‘What did you say? Whoa – I wanna write that!’ I kicked into the first groove that you hear on that song, and after no more than an hour – probably 45 minutes – it fell out.
“It took three years before we put ‘Lonely Drum’ out, and in that time we pitched that song everywhere. Radio had warmed up to my name so when we put out ‘Lonely Drum,’ the only word I could think of is that it begged for a reaction. I remember playing the Fort McMurray Casino in Alberta, a three-night gig – and we had to play it every set. It just changed everything.”
Now with a brand new album called V (the letter, not the Roman numeral, named after Aaron’s wife Victoria), a No. 1 Canadian chart-topper with “You Are,” and positive response to his single “Bars & Churches,” Goodvin holds hopes to graduate to headliner status by 2020, following touring apprenticeships with Johnny Reid and Gord Bamford.
“I don’t know if the fact that I’ve had a number-one song has actually sunk in,” Goodvin admits. “I feel like I’m still the struggling musician guy, but I sent it in to Warner, and they thought it was a standout song. Warner and I have a great relationship, where I make the record, and they pick what’s going to work…”
It’s a journey that’s been working for almost a decade, although Goodvin admits he’s been dreaming about success since early family gatherings back home in Spirit River, an hour north of Grand Prairie, Alberta.
“My family all plays country music recreationally,” he says. “We camped a lot, growing up in Northern Alberta. My family is always looking for an excuse to get together, pull the guitars out, and have a good time. Some of my fondest memories are being up at 2:00 a.m. and listening to my family play old country songs.”
Yet Aaron Goodvin’s first musical expressions were courtesy of an unlikely source. “When I was 11 or 12, my sister and I got a karaoke machine for Christmas,” Goodvin recalls. “The first stuff I started singing on karaoke was music from The Lion King. At 12, I started playing my grandpa’s guitar, and writing songs almost immediately after that. I think at the beginning it was to try and get girls, but after that it turned into a thing.”
He eventually won the Global Country Star Search. “There was a song that I wrote called ‘The Booster Juice Song,’ and it’s about being stood up at a Booster Juice,” says Goodvin. “That was a song where people thought, ‘Yeah, the kid can actually write songs.’ That was probably the one that made me a songwriter, I think.”
Goodvin set his sights on Nashville from the beginning. “I love and I’m very proud of where I’m from,” he says, “but I had these gi-normously huge dreams – that’s where I was going to go and that’s what I was going to do.
“I was really lucky, because I started making trips to Nashville when I was 18. I had a pretty good idea on how the industry worked by the time I moved there. I met one guy – Miles Wilkinson (Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark producer/engineer, born in Toronto) – really early on. I was playing a little pub in Edmonton, and he’d seen me there, and said I needed to be writing songs in Nashville. I had co-writes with published writers from the time I showed up there. So, I feel really, really lucky to experience that part of Nashville before I really had to work for it.”
As a writer, Goodvin says he’s a melody guy, first and foremost. “That’s my knack,” he explains. “When I got the Luke cut, it was me playing guitar and contributing the melody most on that song. Throughout the years, I’ve learned to be a much better lyric writer than I used to be.”
Goodvin, who suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder as a youth, also prefers the collaborative process than writing solo. “It’s very hard for me to sit in a room by myself, and put up with myself for three hours,” he chuckles. “I’ve written songs by myself in the past, but I think co-writing is where I’m able to sit still long enough, and I love having reassurance from somebody else that really helps me finish a song.
“With a collaboration, you also get more energy in a song. So for me, I’m pro co-writer, man. What makes a great co-writer is somebody who gets you, and understands what you like. Literally, the best times I have is when I go into a room, I laugh all day, have fun with my friends, and walk out with a song.”
And that’s the way Aaron Goodvin likes his songwriting: no headaches.