After four years of extensive research and numerous interviews, Jake Brown is set to release the second installment of his songwriter series, Nashville Songwriter II: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits. Brown interviewed 35 of Music City’s most well known songwriters who have together amassed 300 No. 1 hits for the 500-page project. Today (Sept. 14), Sounds Like Nashville has the exclusive premiere of his chat with songwriter Josh Osborne about Kenny Chesney’s GRAMMY-nominated hit song with P!nk, “Setting the World On Fire.”
“It’s been four years since the first one came out, so we’re excited,” Brown says of his latest anthology series, available Oct. 15. “It’s taken me four years to collect all these conversations, because some of them we went to four to five different times because these guys kept having more hits.”
The idea for the project first came to Brown several years ago when he was getting a tire changed in Nashville. Country music videos were being played on the television and he noticed that the songwriters were listed on each video. A unique distinction for the genre, Brown says songwriters are the unsung heroes of country music.
“There’s a rich tradition in Nashville of songwriting that really doesn’t exist in any other of the genres in the music business,” he explains. “I really got intrigued by what led these people to be country songwriters so I started reaching out to people and amazingly, nobody had the title Nashville Songwriter.”
Brown is an accomplished author having penned well over 40 books, but this series is the first time he has covered the country genre after decades of writing about rock and hip-hop. Surprised by the warm welcome he received from the Nashville songwriting community, he says many of the songwriters he spoke with championed his book and helped garner additional interviews with their colleagues.
Each chapter of the anthology focuses on a different songwriter, their journey to Nashville and the stories behind their massive hits. They also provide advice to aspiring songwriters dreaming of one day making the move to Music City themselves. Songsmiths like Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally, Rhett Akins, Lori McKenna, Matreca Berg, Josh Kear, Luke Laird, Liz Rose, Chris DeStefano, Natalie Hemby, Tom Douglas, Ross Copperman and Ashley Gorley, among others, are featured in Nashville Songwriter II.
“In a lot of cases, you get inspirational journeys of people that may not have had the best voice, but they really had an amazing gift as a songwriter, and Nashville gave them a home in the sense that they can come here and make a living,” he explains. “So, I just discovered this incredible mecca of music that’s here [and] being written constantly around the clock.”
Brown hopes his anthology series explains the vast lineage of country music as well as shares a business, artistic and creative look to every aspect of the industry. Along the way, the songwriters bare their souls and detail the ups and downs of the profession.
Songs highlighted in the latest edition include Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” “Church Bells” and “Heartbeat,” Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” and “Leave the Night On,” Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops On My Guitar,” “Fearless” and “White Horse,” and Florida Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” and “Dirt,” among countless others.
One chapter includes Josh Osborne’s rise to success. The songwriter, who grew up in Kentucky, has his parents to thank for driving him to auditions as a child for the chance to perform when a slot was available.
“Josh Osborne’s parents used to drive him to Nashville on the weekends, and he would play here. He would play at Dollywood. He would play wherever there was an available place,” Brown explains. “Josh Osborne was really a great example of that journeyman story, where you start out as a 10, 11-year-old kid and play all the way through where he is now. And, the struggle along the way and all of the rewards that can come with that. For these guys that have made it, you can tell when you talk to them how humble they are, really all of them.”
Throughout his two-part series Nashville Songwriter, Brown ultimately hopes the reader walks away with a better understanding of the journey of the songwriter. He also likens the book to a roadmap of how to navigate Nashville.
“The spirit of the book was really to just explore songwriting from the point of view of this amazing city,” he concedes. “These are the real lives of country music listeners that are reflected and the real lives of these songwriters.”