Hit Songwriter Joe Leathers - Road To The Row

I love Joe’s story. I asked him to write a guest blog  because he’s one of the good guy’s and I knew it would be inspirational to songwriters looking to  come to the last great place to be one…Nashville. I met Joe  around 5 years ago and it’s been fun to watch his progress. At a time when so many writers and publishers are bemoaning the state of the business Joe just kept on doing what he does AND it’s working. From the title song of Kenny Chesneys #1 album “Hemingways Whiskey” to recent hits with Tim McGraw and  Craig Morgan , he’s a blueprint for any writer chasing a dream. In typical Joe fashion, I asked him about doing this and got it a day later. That’s what I’m talking about. Thanks Joe!

Joe Leathers

Joe Leathers

Ok, So the Odds are A Million To One, So What!

Songwriting for a Nashville publisher is a crazy, insane, frustrating, whacked out way to make a living. It is also the most amazing experience you can possible have when you start with a blank computer screen, and end up with a song on the radio. I sort of did it backwards. Many of my fellow songwriters moved to Nashville as an aspiring artist or songwriter, slept in their cars for the first week in town and then through sheer hard work and determination found their way through the House of Mirrors that is the Nashville Music Business. I took a different path.

Growing up in Memphis, if you didn’t play guitar, people thought there was something wrong with you. I was always fascinated by the Memphis music scene, I was the 15 year old sneaking into bars so I could watch some band pound it out for 5 hours. I started playing drums, then guitar and then I started playing in any band that would give me a chance. I went to college and instead of moving to Nashville at 18, I found a job, got married and had 4 children. While working for a bank, I still played in bands on the weekends and continued writing songs. I had no classical or formal music training so most of what I wrote was just from the heart, things that were happening in my life. I would say that most, if not all of what I wrote was really marginally mediocre. However, I never quit.

When I was in my 30′s, a friend encouraged me to enter a few songs in the Memphis Songwriters Association Songwriting Competition. Reluctantly, I entered 4 songs. To my surprise, I won two catagories and placed second in the other two. That was rocket fuel, I believed that I could actually almost write a song. Judd Phillips, one of the judges, nephew of Sam Phillips(Sun Records, Elvis) asked me to go to Nashville with him and meet Ralph Murphy at ASCAP. Ralph is the Dean of Nashville Songwriting.
We met and he listened to a few of my songs and encouraged me to continue writing, He told me I was close but not there yet.

In the meantime, some of my friends had heard about my trips to Nashville and my songwriting exploits. Many thought I was crazy, ridiculous, chasing pipe dreams, lying about it, and just in general on a wild goose chase.

In spite of all the comments I heard from people, I pressed on. I visited every publisher who would take my call. I played them songs, played every writers night I could play(sometimes driving 3 hours from Memphis, playing three songs at midnight and then driving 3 hours back to Memphis and then going to work the next morning) and just started weaving my way into the Nashville songwriting scene. About three years into this madness, I was offered a publishing deal at Curb Music. I think one of the main reasons I was offered a deal was not because I was an awesome songwriter, but because I had the work ethic it takes to write relentlessly and get songs to radio.

I wrote every day, something, anything. A riff, a melody an idea, a chorus, anything to keep me in the game. I met and wrote with writers who have have become my best friends. I surrounded myself with writers who were better than I was and that was not hard to accomplish. All along, I had friends telling me I was a moron, I could never beat the odds, I didn’t attend music school, what was I thinking.

Yes, working for a bank and writing a song that will be released as a single to country radio, the odds are  million to one. But I have had songs recorded by Craig Morgan, Jason Michael Carroll, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Steve Holy, Lee Brice, Guy Clark, Chris Kristofferson, Ryder Lee, and more. What is it you want to accomplish? Whatever it is, you can do it, I am proof. Trust me, if you are willing to pay the price to chase down a dream, you CAN do it. So, ready? GO!

Joe Leather
Nashville, Tennessee