In Tune’s March 2014 cover artist discussed some of his favorite up-and-coming songwriters in Nashville.
Luke Bryan’s Top Up-and Coming Songwriters
By Deborah Evans Price
Luke Bryan got his first taste of success in the music business as a songwriter before his career as an artist took flight, and that seems to be a common route in Nashville. Here’s a look at few up and coming songwriters who are making the transition to successful artist and finding a place in the spotlight all their own.
Eric Paslay: A native Texan, Eric Paslay penned three No. 1 hits as a songwriter before finally scoring a hit all his own with his third single “Friday Night” from his EMI Records Nashville debut album. The tall lanky redhead co-wrote Jake Owen’s No. 1 smash “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which was named ASCAP’s 2012 Country Song of the Year as well as the Eli Young Band’s Grammy nominated “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and Love and Theft’s chart-topping hit “Angel Eyes.” “It’s awesome to have a song go up the chart as a writer, but the reason why I ever wrote songs is because I love singing them,” says Paslay, who worked with producer Marshall Altman (Natasha Bedingfield, Matt Nathanson). “Getting to sing ‘Friday Night’ live and to hear it on the radio is pretty cool. It’s like someone flipped a switch on and people know what I do now, but the coolest thing is there’s always that moment that you dream of when you have a hit song and you can stop singing and the audience keeps singing it. With ‘Friday Night,’ that’s started to happen.”
Cole Swindell: Cole Swindell grew up in Bronwood, Georgia and graduated from Luke Bryan’s alma mater Georgia Southern University. From 2007-2010 Swindell was on the road with Bryan selling merchandise at his concerts. He signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV in 2010 and began getting cuts as a songwriter. His credits include Craig Campbell’s “Outta My Head,” Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That,” Scotty McCreery’s “Water Tower Town” and Florida Georgia Line’s “This is How We Roll.” He’s also penned several tunes for his former boss including “Beer in the Headlights,” “Roller Coaster,” and “Out Like That” on Bryan’s Crash My Party album. Swindell independently released the song “Chillin’ It” and when it began to climb the charts, he signed a record deal with Warner Music Nashville. His self-titled debut album released in February 2014 and Swindell is back on the road again with Bryan, but this time not doing merch sales but as one of his opening acts. “Cole has morphed into an amazing writer,” says Bryan. “Everyone knows who Cole is now.”
Brantley Gilbert:Brantley Gilbert hails from Jefferson, GA and moved to Nashville to pursue a career as a songwriter. He got his first break when he signed a deal with Warner Chappell Publishing, but audiences who heard Gilbert perform his own material encouraged him to seek his own record deal, and he did. Gilbert released his debut album, Modern Day Prodigal Son, in 2009 on the independent label Average Joes Entertainment and followed with the sophomore project, Halfway to Heaven, in 2010. Gilbert’s career as a songwriter kicked into gear when Jason Aldean recorded “The Best of Me” on his album Wide Open. Aldean recorded “My Kinda Party” as the title track of his 2010 Broken Bow Records album. The tune became a huge hit as did Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” which Gilbert penned with Colt Ford. Now signed to the Valory Music Co., Gilbert won the Academy of Country Music’s New Male Artist honor in 2013.
Who else on the Nashville scene is poised to become one of Music Row’s top new songwriters? “Brent Cobb is a writer/artist that is just really, really amazing,” says Byran. “Jody is a great writer and a great musician, track builder. (Stevens produced Swindell’s “Chillin’ It.”) Chancie Neal is from Louisiana and Chancie is a great singer/songwriter too. She’s a part of my publishing umbrella and she wrote ‘Hairy Christmas’ on the Duck Dynasty Christmas album. She’s doing great. New songwriters are moving into Nashville every day, moving the needle and pushing the envelope.”