The truth of the matter is that Nashville has always been a songwriter’s town, attracting the cream of the crop in just about all areas of the business. However, veteran hitmaker and SOCAN Nashville rep Eddie Schwartz (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Don’t Shed A Tear”) says the recent spate of international alt-rock success has brought an added influx of visiting talent.
“You have two of the largest acts in the rock or alt-rock sphere who are now based out of Nashville – The Black Keys and the Kings of Leon,” Schwartz notes. “So there’s no question that their presence in Nashville over the last few years has given increased legitimacy to the claim that Nashville is a lot more than country music. They produce a lot of people, and certainly many Canadian acts come to work with them. That means that a lot of studios around town are busy with non-country acts. So it’s an expanded circle.”
Gordie Sampson, the Cape Breton native who has enjoyed extraordinary success with Carrie Underwood (“Jesus, Take The Wheel,” “Play On”) Keith Urban (“The Hard Way”) and Bon Jovi (“Any Other Day”), among dozens of others, says that even country music is responsible for some of the change in perception regarding Music City.
“There’s quite a lot of pop in country now – Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban – these are sort of the pop end of country. As country accepts more of a pop influence, guys like myself – I’m really a pop writer at heart – are able to have more success.”
Two strong factors also attracting plenty of non-country creators and artists to the area are economics and the seemingly bottomless talent reservoir.
“As country accepts more of a pop influence, guys like myself are able to have more success.” – Gordie Sampson
“You can get ‘affordable’ housing, and it’s much less expensive to live here,” notes SOCAN’s Schwartz. “That takes the pressure off those of us who are musically inclined, since due to the nature of the business, you don’t know what next month’s income might be. So in a place like Nashville, it’s very helpful.
“Plus there are tremendous resources – the studios, the musicians, all of the infrastructure here to support music, much of which was developed here for country. There may be no other place around with such a concentration of resources for people who want to make music of all kinds.”
It certainly was a selling point for Moi, who made his first trip to Nashville in 2010 to scout and write songs for ex-Default singer and country music convert Dallas Smith.
After developing such acts as Nickelback, Default, Theory of A Deadman, Faber Drive and Hinder, Moi says he was shocked when, at the invitation of local songwriter Rodney Clawson (Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan), he co-produced his first Nashville session for Jake Owen’s “Keepin’ It Country.”
“The idea of going into a studio and recording an entire song in a three-hour period was so foreign to me,” Moi admits. “I’m so accustomed to working with bands, but I’d never hired a band full of professional musicians. On the clock, it can be very expensive.
“But these guys heard the song once, had a chart on a piece of paper, went in there and played it like they’ve been playing it for a frigging decade. It still blows my mind every time I get to witness that.
“That really changed my outlook on Nashville,” says Moi. “If I could do what I was normally doing in Vancouver with the toolbox provided by Nashville, it could be a really neat outcome.”