Stars’ Songwriting Epiphanies, Part Two

The Songs From Their Teenage Notebooks

On the red carpets at last week’s BMI Country Awards and ASCAP Awards, I asked songwriters this one question: What was the first song you wrote that made you think, “I could make a living at this”?

First there was Lee Brice’s “God Gives Every Man One Great Hound” and Cole Swindell’s “Country Boy Can.”

And now I have some of those first song moments from more of country’s best and brightest singers and songwriters.

Dustin Lynch

Dustin Lynch attends the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“My third song I wrote back in high school was called ‘Solitude,’ and it had a really catchy melody. I remember recording it on a cassette deck, and then popping it into my truck and getting to listen to it that way. It was the coolest feeling ever. I was addicted from then on out. But you fast forward seven years, and while I thought I had good songs back then, they were all terrible. I’m better at identifying crap now.”

Maddie & Tae’s Tae Dye

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 02:  Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye of Maddie & Tae attend the 53rd annual ASCAP Country Music awards at the Omni Hotel on November 2, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage) John Shearer/WireImage

“’After the Storm Blows Through’ was the first time for me. When you write that stripped down, then people really pay attention to the lyrics. That one is all about that, and that’s rare. It helped us grow as songwriters, too.”

Hunter Hayes

Hunter Hayes attends the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“The first week after I graduated from high school, I made a rule: I’d write a song a week. One of those – “Every Time It Rains” – stayed in the running to be on the first record, even a hundred songs later. It didn’t make the record, but it didn’t matter. Because that was all a learning experience.”

Ryan Hurd

Ryan Hurd attends the 53rd annual ASCAP Country Music awards at the Omni Hotel on November 2, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“I wrote a song for the Swon Brothers called ‘Chasing You Around.’ I finished it with a friend I grew up with, and every line was a question. It was the first time that I’d really realized, ‘I crafted a song.’ And it was the first time that I thought, ‘OK, I can do this. I can make music that people react to.’”

Old Dominion

Old Dominion attends the 53rd annual ASCAP Country Music awards at the Omni Hotel on November 2, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. John Shearer/WireImage

“Every song you write, even when you’re 17, you think you’re so good. We’ve learned that we’re not always that great.”

RaeLynn

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 04:  Singer/songwriter RaeLynn attends the 49th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 4, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“When I wrote ‘God Made Girls,’ I would never want to jinx it, but I did kind of think, ‘In Jesus’ name, this is a hit!’”

Tyler Farr

Tyler Farr attends the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“It was one I wrote about seven years ago with Thomas Rhett called ‘She’s Just Like That’ for Joe Nichols. That was the first time I thought I had a shot. But all the ones I wrote before? They were terrible.”

Chase Bryant

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 03: Singer-songwriter Chase Bryant attends the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“When I was 13, I wrote one called ‘Let Your Love Castaway.’ It was a disaster. I’ll never forget it. But for me, I had to write 400 crappy songs before I got to a good one. But since ‘Take It on Back,’ I have felt like, ‘Yeah, I can make a living at this.’”

Maren Morris

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 03: Singer-songwriter Maren Morris attends the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“I didn’t ever think I could make a living at songwriting until I moved here to Nashville, and I realized that people did this every day, nine to five, like a job. That blew my mind. I picked up a guitar when I was 12, my dad taught me three chords, and I just started putting music to the words. But to do it for a living was so new to me.”

Chris Janson

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 03: Singer-songwriter Chris Janson and Kelly Lynn attend the 63rd Annual BMI Country awards on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

“I never got serious about songwriting until I moved to town and my wife said, ‘You know, you can’t hunt every day and just sit in a tree stand. You’ve gotta get your ass in gear and make some money.’ So I kicked it in gear and wrote ‘Truck Yeah,’ for Tim McGraw, and thank God for him.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.