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10 Jun 09 Texas-Nashville Divide Could Be Closing

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For the past two years, I have heard many people profess that a wall exists between Texas and Nashville. Texas musicians claimed that Nashville tries to take Texas songs and force them into a cookie cutter to fit commercial success. And Nashville musicians claimed that Texas musicians refused to come to Nashville, as a way of keeping the Texas sound pure. I wondered which side was right.

I have a somewhat unique perspective on the situation. I can now look, as one person once put it, from both sides now. I am a Texas songwriter. I love Texas music, Texas songwriters, and all the opportunities that have opened up for me since I first started writing songs. I am a member of the Collin County Songwriters Association. I have performed with the Dallas Songwriters Association. My band has even performed at a festival outside of Austin.

I am also a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association, now entering my third year. My music contacts include Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, a country music legend, and Rivers Rutherford, who has written many great hits, including “There Ain’t Nothing About You” for Brooks and Dunn. One of my best friends once produced “Nashville Now” and “Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.” Yes, he did get me backstage.

So who is correct in this Texas versus Nashville argument? The good news is, I don’t think either side is right. A wall may very well have existed for several years. But assuming it did, I believe it is now coming down.

During a recent trip to Nashville, I attended ten different shows of Tin Pan South, one of the largest country music festivals in the country. I consider it a tamer version of South by Southwest. Each show featured a group of three or four different songwriters. A few of them were young, but the majority were veterans who have had a lot of hits.

After each show, I introduced myself to the songwriters, and asked them specifically if they have any Texas music ties. About 75 percent of the time, the answer was “yes.” I was shocked, but pleasantly so. For me, music is music, regardless of where it comes from. And music lovers should appreciate the songs for their value, not their birthplace.

One example of the Nashville/Texas connection is Thom Sheppard. A very talented songwriter – he created the Redneck Yacht Club – Sheppard wrote “Cheaper to Keep Her,” which Texas native Kevin Fowler took to number-three on the Texas charts. Based on that success, Sheppard is now working on several songs that Fowler may put on his next CD.

I also found out that the membership director for the Nashville songwriters group is traveling soon to Austin, to help the Austin Songwriters build a stronger association for themselves. Cooperation is exciting. There are many more examples, which I will discuss in future stories. But it is refreshing to see the wall, perhaps, come tumbling down.

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Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Good artical. I agree. They are both country. Just different styles. Personally. I like both types. Like right now,I’m listening to Rodney Atkins’ new CD,but before,I was listening to George Strait.

    • |

      Speaking of George Strait, I also just visited with Aaron Barker, who now lives in Nashville, but keeps a home in San Antonio. Barker wrote “Baby Blue” and “Forever and Ever Amen” for Strait. Of course, Barker is also the famous voice from the Bluebell Ice Cream jingles!

  2. |

    First, “Forever and Ever Amen” was Randy Travis, not George Strait.

    Second, Thom Sheppard spent most of his time before co-writing “Private Malone” telling everyone in Nashville how pathetic Texas — and Texas music — was to him. Thom told me personally “I think mostly people without talent get on the Texas Charts when they just can’t make it in Nashville.”

    You may see a divide, a gap, or a tie. I see the Red River, which should be as far east as a true Texas musician should ever go.

    • |

      Correct, I meant to say “Love Without End, Amen.” However, your comments about Sheppard actually work toward my hypothesis. “Private Malone” was several years ago. Assuming he was putting Texas music down at the time, he has “changed his tune” since then. Thanks for your comments and please make sure to keep me on my toes!