American Songwriter
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On Tuesday evening we sat down with hit-maker Brett James before performing for the 2nd annual ASCAP experience “In The Round at the Bluebird Café”.

James has a number 1 song list, including ‘Blessed’ by Martina McBride, Jason Aldean anthem ‘The Truth’, Kelly ‘Mr. Know It All, “Kenny Chesney’s” When the Sun sets “and Dierks Bentley’s” I Hold On “.

For this occasion he played “Jesus Take the Wheel” – a song that he won a Grammy for co-writing with Carrie Underwood – as well as some originals that he will soon release. He shared the stage with Cassadee Pope, Chris DeStefano and J.T. Harding.

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We talked to him about countless topics, from music to Med school, and why Thanksgiving dinner is his favorite meal.

American songwriter:

So, if you can get us a little out of our memory. You went to high school in Oklahoma and obtained a Bachelor of Science, but then left the school to pursue music. How was that?

Brett James:

The process was a bit crazy. I went to medical school after my education, and I came to Nashville my second year, spring break from med school. My third day in town, a man named Tim DuBois, who headed Arista’s records, offered me a record deal. And I was like that, well that’s crazy. I don’t even know what to do with that. So I finished college that year and came to Nashville.

I didn’t tell Tim that I was here for another year because I knew I wasn’t ready to sign a record deal. (laughs) I finally did that, and he signed me the following year, and I was going to fail miserably as a recording artist for the next six years. (chuckling) And a long story short, I was in Nashville for seven years, went back to medical school for a year, and when I went back to medical school, my songwriting, for some reason, just exploded. I was writing songs in Oklahoma, and I had 33 cuts and five top 10 singles that year. Things started to flourish for me, so I quit school for the second time. And ended up being a songwriter in recent years, yes.

AS:

That’s a crazy story! Do you think the pressure to create songs hinders the creative process? So while you were in high school, you wrote a bit to the side, allowing you to write more authentically.

James:

Absolutely. I think much of what that was for me was the freedom to say that I am ruining the business side of things, I am just going to write what I like. I get the freedom to just enjoy. Yes, exactly. It was very bad that. It was a bit like letting go of everything, I try to fit this in a box, and I write my music for every day and suddenly I was about as far away from the music industry as you can be in Oklahoma. It was literally a kind of “F it Nashville”, I am just going to write what I like. And that’s what I did, and then it started working.

AS:

Nice! So tell us the emotion that came over you when you first had that hit single or song.

James:

Oh God. I’ve been here so long, like I said. I had been in Nashville for seven years and felt that I had given up the whole thing. I literally just went back to do something else. And so I think it was a combination of, I was ecstatic and at the same time relieved. Maybe there is a chance that I could do that. It was fun. My first hit was with the legendary songwriter named John Bettis, who is in the New York Songwriters Hall of Fame. He has written everything from Madonna and Michael Jackson, all these classics, he is one of the best of all time. And my first hit was with him, and he would just write with me, just because, to be nice. And so we had our first hit together, and then my second hit was a big song called “Who I Am”, for Jessica Andrews, and it was number one for five weeks. That really got the ball rolling.

AS:

Yes, very cool. There are a lot of inspiring songwriters and artists of course. For local Nashvillans, or really everywhere, what do you suggest as advice for them? Tips or recommendations for those who are really serious in their pursuit?

James:

I think it’s just like everything else, it’s 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration. Much of it is just working very hard on it. I think my impression of songwriters and many people before they come to Nashville and do it for a living is that we drive around and smoke weed in our car, or wherever, and go to the beach and hope inspiration strikes. But that’s not really the way professionals do it. If you really are a professional day in, day out songwriter, you show up for work, and not every day comes inspiration and you come across something. But it is really good to use and create that creative muscle every day and to write something every day. I think it’s really important.

It’s like you’re an athlete, they don’t go many days without playing their sport. They want to be a professional in it. So that is important to summarize.

AS:

Awesome. As you know, there are seasons in life, ebb and flow, and we all experience peaks and troughs. Which season in life do you think you write best?

James:

Oh, that’s a great question. That’s a great question! For me, I think it’s when I feel the tension of struggle. I think there is something that is fun, I don’t know. I don’t know what, the economy, sometimes you can’t even put your finger on it, but I think if I feel that there is some tension in my personal life, in my working life, whatever that is, that makes me .. I literally have to sit down and write a song. I’ve written a lot myself lately, which doesn’t happen much in Nashville, especially for people in professional songwriting circles. I’ve written a lot for my record, and that’s the most Catholic thing I’ve done in years and years and years, just to set aside and write down all the expectations of a genre, the expectation of an artist, the expectation of anything. just what i love. That was literally the goal, just write music that I love. That brought back the joy of the whole thing, it was really fun.

AS:

I know that was a dream of yours to become an artist from an early age, so I think the process goes from writing for other people to writing for yourself. It’s just different.

James:

It is a very different process. It is a very different process. And especially to do it without expectation, hey, I need a number one song on country radio or pop radio. I try not to write to do that. I just try to write music that I love and hope that someone else also likes it. And I think that’s a pure way to do it.

AS:

So was that what inspired your album, True Believer?

James:

Absolutely. I literally had a 50th birthday and I thought, “You know, I haven’t made a record in 25 years. I wrote for all those other people, it was great, but you know what do I want to say? What do I want to sing?” It was a lot for me, it was for my children, I want them to know that their father was more than that, you know … I don’t know, I just wanted them to know something that came from my heart. get that out of my creative system and so I literally sat down and wrote the record almost in two weeks – just alone – I had more fun, like I said, writing than I think I’ve ever had in my life, and I love just from the process and I’m working on it again, I wrote a lot of songs during Christmas, but for my future project …

AS:

That is very exciting! Okay, so at American Songwriter we want to get a little more personal and get to know “who you are” outside of the art. Here are some of the cuff questions! If you ever had to have one last meal, what would it be?

James:

Oh wow. A final meal on earth should be a perfect Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey dinner, followed by some hot chocolate cookies, straight from the oven.

AS:

What is something that never makes you smile?

James:

My daughter. My daughter, I have four children, but she is the one who always smiles.

AS:

And is there a place for you in Nashville?

James:

I am now going to a restaurant in Barcelona, ​​and I am at the bar there at least once a week, it is great.

AS:

Their wine is amazing.

James:

Their wine is amazing! Everyone knows about half price wine evening, and that’s why we go for it a lot.

Also don’t forget to sign up for the 15th annual ASCAP Experience to be held in LA on April 1-3, 2020!

For tickets and more information about the 15th annual ASCAP Experience, go to: https://ascapexperience.com/.

And, in honor of the Nashville maker community, the promotional code “BLUEBIRD” can be used for a 10% discount on non-member prizes until January 22: https://ascapexperience.com/register)

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