How Much Has Nashville’s Songwriting Community Changed? It Depends Who You Ask
Today's country artists take cues from all sorts of musical traditions. For example, Thomas Rhett forged a writing team that includes multiple LA-based pop songwriters, and he has been open about doing so in order to expand his perspective, including more pop-based inspiration along with traditional country elements. But have those kinds of shifts changed Nashville's core songwriting community? Well -- it depends on your point of view.
"It's changed a lot," the Brothers Osborne's John Osborne told The Boot and other outlets on the red carpet before the 2019 ASCAP Country Music Awards. "It used to be two or three songwriters in a room with a couple acoustic guitars, maybe a piano, and you'd sit around and hash out a song."
But with the increase of pop crossover comes an increase in track-based songwriting, Osborne goes on to say. "Before you know it, there's always a computer in the room, with, like, a beat going," he continues. "Which is certainly helpful in some ways, but I think it has kind of dictated the sound of the genre, a bit."
While it's certainly true that laptops are a more prevalent part of the songwriting process than they used to be, Brett Young sees things a little differently: "You know, that's the beautiful thing about this town, is I don't think it has [changed]," he offers.
"I think there are so many talented writers here, and there always have been, and there always will be," Young adds. "Because this is an industry that has been built on songwriting, and on the strength of the song, I think the cream always rises to the top."
Though songwriters may be switching out their acoustic guitars for tracks, Young continues, the most important part of the process remains the same. "Best songs win: In this town, that's always our motto," he reflects.
"It's just beautiful to see that that's always continued to stay the case," Young points out. "It's not just lip service. The best songs win, and those are the ones that end up going No. 1."
Brothers Osborne agree that no matter what trends are on top in country music, good songwriting always rises to the top. However, for them, having a guitar -- or at least, a guitar-minded musician -- in the room is an integral piece of writing a good song.
"Lyrics to melody and rhythm -- that will always be the hardest thing to do," TJ Osborne muses. "I think what we're finding now, or what we found together, is that, yeah, it's gone track-heavy, but now people are starting to realize, 'We've still gotta write a good song.'
"There's a lot of track guys now that are also very great songwriters, great lyricists," he points out. "But if you can sit there and play a song on acoustic guitar and it sill holds water, then you've got a song."
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