To quote those head-banging, hard living, outlaw Mormon siblings of the ‘70s, The Osmonds, “It’s a little bit country, it’s a little bit rock and roll”.
Who are your top 5 musical influences?
I’m all over the map: The Beatles, Jerry Reed, Michael Franks, Joni Mitchell, KrisKristopherson.
What is your most memorable songwriting experience and/or studio session?
Writing ‘Long Slow Beautiful Dance’ with my friend Fred Wilhelm from Nashville. It was kind of a hip hop song with spoken verses and a cool loop. I threw in a mandolin to make it “country”. Fred called and said he was pitching it to a boy band that doesn’t have a record deal. I figured why not. If they liked it maybe we’d at least get a better demo out of it. The demo turned out better. The band turned out to be Rascal Flatts.
Tell us about ‘Beer Me’ and why you decided to create an album all about beer?
I had written a few beer songs already just for fun. My publishers said why not do a whole record of beer songs? I thought the idea was so stupid it just might be brilliant. So the task was to write a bunch of beer songs without relying solely on silly puns and cheap jokes. Not that I don’t like silly puns and cheap jokes. I think we pulled it off and I’m proud of the record. It has some cool, fun, and almost serious moments, with stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends.
What is the best concert you have been to?
Carol King. I don’t know how she did it but she made all seventeen thousand of us feel like we were in her living room. A close second was Cold Play. A close third was a friend of mine from Ireland, Nicole Maguire. She played at Genghis Cohen in L.A. last year and it felt like what Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s must have felt like.
How have you evolved as an artist and songwriter in recent years?
I have two answers. One, lyrically, I have been working on making things simple – not dumb – just simple. In fact, I have a song called So Simple where the hook line is, “it’s so simple it’s profound.” Even in the beer songs, I try to tell the truth about something – even if it’s a funny truth – in a simple way. And two, learning to be a better producer has helped my songwriting. Music is so heavily influenced by technology now, that if you don’t know how to use the studio to your advantage, you could potentially be behind the curve. I don’t want to be the musical equivalent of some luddite crying, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”
If you could have a beer with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?
Probably any of the outlaw country guitar slingers like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings. They were writing through the lens of a hard lived life. I don’t mean they necessarily had hard lives. I mean they lived life hard and full. Just to sit at their table and listen to them talk would be all any songwriter could ask for.
What is next for you professionally?
I just want to keep getting better. I’m addicted to songwriting. I just love making stuff up. Before we had kids my wife and I would take long walks and she always noticed when my mind drifted off. She would say, “You’re working, aren’t you?” “Yes, dear. Sorry.”