Country Music People December 2018 - Page 27

Jake Brown with Shane McAnally Carrie Underwood: “We have virtually her whole catalogue in this book. You really get to see the evolution of the writers.” Perry, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town…. there’s a whole generation of groups that depend on songwriters to give their audience the songs they want to hear.” And what audiences want to hear has changed beyond all recognition in the past decade. Established Nashville writers have had to adapt their writing style to remain relevant in a millennial driven market. Brown cites Shane McAnally (Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark) as an example of someone able to write, “All over the spectrum.” “Shane is really a genius at knowing… the more that these songwriters went through the motions themselves, you see the experience, and you hear the experience within their own… Shane’s a guy who turns a lot of things down. Things that you or I might not like, someone else loves, that is younger maybe, or that have a different kind of beat than I would prefer for a country song. That’s the beauty of the craft of the songwriters. It is often suggested that most songwriters in Nashville would rather be writing the kind of country songs that drew them to town in the first place. “They would all be!” asserts Brown “In fairness, using Shane and Josh (Osborn), they have a band called Midland, and their mission was to do a ‘70s style’ so you do still see it. It’s more a niche when it used to be the norm. “Songwriters are storytellers. In a sense you still have to do that in three minutes whether you do it in a classically produced Midland set or whether you’re doing it in a kind of urban rhythm track, you have to deliver the fundamentals within the song. “The bro-country thing pushed the hip-hop element and country rap kinda became its own genre. You still have a lot of pop that’s being experimented with. They’re having hits with it but can you sustain a whole artist’s career with it or is it just a one-off? The competitive nature almost requires that these writers kinda force themselves, even if they’re not natively wanting to write in that arena, they have to go there.” At the suggestion that some of the big- name writers are effectively responsible for either changing the face of country music and increasing its global appeal, or killing it, depending on your point of view, Brown laughs and assumes I must mean Florida Georgia Line. “To be fair, Brian and Tyler in Florida Georgia Line are both from the songwriter’s mouths pretty solid writers in their own right. The bro- country thing, you could make the argument in both directions. In a sense it reinvigorated and revitalised country commercially and kept it relevant. It was almost a kind of necessary evil. What it allowed them to do… If you look at like Dirt, that they’ve done since This Is How We Roll, they really have tried to evolve into a more mature catalogue, and that comes from the fact they were able to start out, like Thomas Rhett has done from T-Shirt to Life Changes, so you see the evolution of these people as writers. They’re very credible and they had to. These artists, the millennials, grew up in more of that newer sound so they know they’re trying to tap into the sensibility of the listener. For potential songwriters of the future Jake Brown’s book is full of advice, but the final chapter, in which he speaks to music publishers, might be the most important. Also, it highlights changes in the industry, and how, now, like many an artist, many songwriters are setting up shop DECEMBER 2018 - cmp 27