Just about every songwriter has had one of these moments. The kind when a song hits you so hard that you just can't keep your car on the road. You are forced to pull over, and then ultimately, you have to move to Nashville.
At least, that's how the Warren Brothers' Brett Warren described the feeling.
"Every songwriter who has moved to Nashville, really, has that one song that made them move there," he told the capacity crowd at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta's Little Five Points neighborhood last week. "For me, I was living in Tampa, I was 25 years old, and I was driving down the beach boulevard and I remember hearing Bonnie Raitt's 'I Can't Make You Love Me.' I just pulled over to side of the road. Left my foot on the brake. Kept the car in drive. And just sat there staring out front window in front of Indian Rocks Beach.
"In that moment, I knew I had to move to Nashville."
His goal ever since, he said, is to write songs that make people pull over to the side of road.
Brett and his brother Brad did move to Nashville in 1995, inspired by Raitt and maybe a little bit by the songwriters of that 1991 tune, Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin. Both men are well-known country hitmakers and members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
When they first arrived in Nashville, the Warren Brothers started out as a artists. And then from 2005-2006, they were the stars of their own CMT series Barely Famous. But as they spent more and more time on the road opening for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, they realized their true calling was songwriting. "Our songs always did better when other people were singing them," Brett joked.
Their acoustic set, opening for songwriting legend Tom Douglas, started with McGraw's "Highway Don't Care" and ended with his "Felt Good on My Lips." But they also shared songs they'd penned for Toby Keith, Keith Urban and Blake Shelton.
But it's the McGraw songs that always seem to shine, even when they've got a roomful of music lovers on the verge of tears. That's how it felt when they shared the story behind "If You’re Reading This."
"The whole song is a letter written from a soldier back to his family, when he's going out on dangerous mission," they explained about the song that was inspired by a magazine story they'd read about war casualties. "It was Tim’s idea to make it a letter telling people what you want them to know. Just in case you couldn't."
A few weeks after they'd written it, McGraw debuted the ballad live on the stage of the 2007 Academy of Country Music Awards. He has since gone on to record more than 20 songs written by the Warren Brothers.