It seems no matter what style of music an artist creates, songwriting is the common language that brings all creative souls together. That realization hit Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff when he first started coming to Nashville and it’s proven to be the catalyst for the band’s upcoming album country-flavored album, These Are the Days, which releases July 13.
“The first thing I really fell in love with was the craft, the discipline and the way that everybody wrote songs around here,” Popoff tells Sounds Like Nashville of coming to Music City to write in 2005. “It was a lot different for me at first and I felt really comfortable doing it. I fell in love with going in every day on Music Row and hooking up with Nashville writers.”
Well-known for the hit “My Own Worst Enemy,” which spent an impressive 11 weeks at No. 1 on the rock charts, the members of Lit hail from Orange County, CA. Spurred by such hits as “Ziplock,” “Miserable” and “My Own Worst Enemy,” the band has sold 2.5 million albums, scored 32 million views on YouTube and 95 million total streams.
Last year they decided to record an album in Nashville and the result is These Are the Days. But long before the band decided to do a country project, Popoff had already made inroads in the Nashville community. “I was originally signed to EMI out of LA as an artist when the band got our first record deal and then when I started coming to Nashville to write, I ended up doing a separate songwriter’s deal for myself and it was completely separate from the band,” says Popoff, who is signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville and has penned songs for Jamey Johnson, Colt Ford and other country acts.
“I’ve written a bunch of songs with Jamey, but the one that everybody knows the best is ‘Mowin’ Down The Roses,’” Popoff says. “With Colt, I worked on his first record with him. I actually brought him to Nashville and put his band together when he was a Georgia boy doing hip-hop country with a lot of the Atlanta hip-hop sounds. I kind of convinced him to come to Nashville and actually use real instruments and a real band. Half the band that we put together for his first record was mostly Jamey’s band at the time, so it was all kind of in the family. I had two or three songs on that first Cole record and then on his most recent one I’ve got a couple on there. He’s a great guy and we’ve been working together for a long time. He’s got a great ear for songs and for talent too.”
Popoff currently divides his time between California and his home in East Nashville. “Our bass player Kevin [Baldes] has a condo down near [the Nashville suburb] Brentwood that he bought a few years ago and my brother, A. Jay, is planning to come out here as well. We both have high school aged kids, so as soon as they are off to college, I’ll be here full-time next year and he’ll be here a few months after that. We’ll all eventually be here full-time.”
Popoff loves Nashville and encourages people to visit often. “There’s just so many great places that when people ask me, ‘Where should we go? What should we do?’ My first response is, ‘Well how long are you there? How much time do you have?’ Because it’s become a place with world class food and restaurants and so many cool bars now and great places to hear music. I personally have been a mid-town guy and so you’ll likely find me hanging at Whiskey Jam or Winners or Losers or pop over to the Red Door. That was always the trifecta and now that I live over on the east side I love just being able to walk to Five Points. It’s a little more low key and there’s so much I love about it.
“I love driving people who have never been to Nashville out to Loveless Café and taking the scenic route,” Popoff continues. “I love Bakersfield across from Bridgestone. It’s a newer place, but they have the best margaritas and guacamole ever, so I always take people there and have dinner there if we go to a concert or something at Bridgestone. There’s just so many now. I have a list, an ongoing list that we have that we send to our friends who are coming to town. It’s long now.”
Though the food, drinks, scenery, music and the people are all reasons Popoff keeps coming back to Nashville, it was the songwriting community that first prompted his love affair with Music City. “I was from a rock and roll garage band in Anaheim, CA, and I just only wrote with my guys,” he says. “We did some co-writing and were fortunate enough to write with Desmond Child and some big LA type songwriters back in the day, so co-writing was always a thing in our wheelhouse, but it wasn’t until I got here that it really became a part of the way that we worked.”
Popoff is also a fan of the session musicians in Nashville. “I was so impressed by the people and musicians and the process of recording. The first couple times I did a session, I was just so inspired and blown away by the level of talent. I was like, ‘Wow! This is the next level!’ I just fell in love with the town and vibe and I fell in love with a couple of girls in this town and had my heart broken a couple of times. It’s been awesome,” he says with a laugh. “There’s no place like Nashville.”