Welcome to the Writers Round, a new monthly column where Sounds Like Nashville sits down with Nashville-based songwriters and learns about each writer’s journey to Music City. This month, Ross Copperman sheds some light into his life as a songwriter and producer as well as shares the story behind one of his many hits including Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.”
Ross Copperman has been banging on a piano and making up songs since he was a little kid. He admits that he never dreamed he’d still be doing exactly this for a living, but somehow he finds himself on a piano making up new songs every day with artists like Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge.
The first song he remembers writing was for his school play when he was 12 years old. He also happened to win the second place prize. While he can’t recall the name of the song, he does vividly remember that the judges thought his mother wrote it.
“Looking back now, I think since I was from such a small town and people didn’t really write songs, they thought my parents must have helped me do it,” he admits.
Copperman continued writing songs throughout high school and college and says the turning point for him came when he was a student at James Madison University. While in his sophomore year, he took a songwriting class where his passion became evident.
“I remember being inspired by my teacher and falling in love with the process of writing,” he says. “That is really where it all started for me.”
While Copperman has seen much success as a songwriter, having been named 2016 Songwriter of the Year at the ACM Awards and recently receiving the 2016 Double CMA Triple Play Award where he was recognized for having six No. 1 songs in one year, he actually got his start as an artist and was signed to Sony UK.
For two years, he lived in London but soon realized doing “the artist thing” wasn’t for him. As Copperman explains, his passion was always writing and producing and after some time “in rainy London,” he decided to make the move to Nashville to chase his dreams as a writer producer.
“I’ve always loved Nashville and it was close to home,” the Virginia native explains. “I actually made my first record in the basement demo studio at EMI on Music Row. Nashville has always felt like home to me.”
For some songwriters, the move to Music City can be daunting but Copperman hit the ground running. The first place he visited was BMI where he met Executive Director Bradley Collins and played him a few songs. Impressed with what he heard, Collins invited Copperman to the Key West Songwriters Festival that year where he came back with many new songwriter friends.
“That’s basically where it all started for me,” he says. “Giving up was never an option. [I] never actually thought about an alternative.”
Copperman has quickly become one of the go-to producers in Nashville. His help with production on Dierks Bentley’s last album, Riser, earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album. At a recent listening event for Bentley’s new album, Black, which Copperman also produced, the “Somewhere On a Beach” singer had only praises for his producer.
“Ross Copperman, Mr. Positive, is here tonight,” Bentley said to an audience of music industry professionals. Bentley went on to call Copperman “just a great dude” and explained how two years ago he sent his producer an idea he had to make a concept album.
“Ross, being so positive, was like, ‘It’s a great idea. I love it!'” Bentley recalled.
Another frequent collaborator is Brett Eldredge. Copperman has had a hand in producing Eldredge’s last two albums, Bring You Back and Illinois, and is a co-writer on nine of the 12 tracks on Illinois. Copperman credits their successful co-writes as “going with the flow and always having good ideas” while Eldredge says his producer is “an amazing songwriter.”
“We have this connection now that we’ve written together and [have] known each other a long time where we know what we’re going to say before we actually say it a lot of the time,” Eldredge said of Copperman at his No. 1 party for “Lose My Mind.”
Eldredge and Copperman have been writing together for years and have shared three consecutive No. 1 songs together including “Lose My Mind,” “Drunk On Your Love” and “Beat of the Music.”
“He’s a very humble person,” Eldredge says of Copperman. “He’s an amazing songwriter but he’s so humble for it.”
This humble nature was seen firsthand at Eldredge’s No. 1 party as Copperman was named 2016 ACM Songwriter of the Year that morning. Upon learning the news, Copperman says he wished he could share it with all of his co-writers because they deserve the trophy as much as he does.
He is also the recipient of a Double CMA Triple Play Award in recognition of having six No. 1 songs in one year. In addition to two No. 1 songs for Eldredge, Copperman co-wrote Billy Currington’s “Don’t It,” A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke,” Luke Bryan’s “Strip It Down” and Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” It is an honor he says he is very thankful to have received.
Copperman co-wrote “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, who he calls “two of the best songwriters this town has ever seen.”
“I’m lucky to get to write with them. For ‘John Cougar’ I just remember knowing something bigger than all of us was happening,” he says of writing Urban’s recent No. 1 song. “It was amazing to be in the room that day. You honestly never know when one like that is going to happen.”
While Copperman has had his fair share of success as a songwriter, he says the best advice on songwriting he has received comes from another respected Nashville songwriter, Rodney Clawson.
“Rodney Clawson always says you’ve just gotta show up every day and work hard,” Copperman concedes.
It’s advice he has taken to heart and with recognition by both the ACM and the CMA, countless No. 1 hits and several producer credits, Copperman more than just shows up every day: he lives and breathes music.