Welcome to the Writers Round, a monthly column where Sounds Like Nashville sits down with Nashville-based songwriters and learns about each writer’s journey to Music City. This month, David Garcia sheds some light on his life as a songwriter, as well as shares the stories behind some of his many hits, including Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha’s “Meant to Be” and Kip Moore’s “More Girls Like You.” He also discusses what it’s like to produce an album with Carrie Underwood.
David Garcia was certain he’d never move to Nashville. The songwriter relocated from a small town in Florida to Los Angeles when he was 18 to pursue a career in music. He lived there for about five years, trying to make things happen for himself in the music industry as a songwriter and producer. Circumstances eventually brought him back to Florida but he didn’t stay there for too long. A friend suggested he try out Music City and after an initial visit in 2008, he moved to Nashville for good.
“One of the places that I’d say I would never move to was Nashville, and oddly enough, I came up, started out, and had a lot of success in the Christian genre,” the 35-year-old songwriter/producer tells Sounds Like Nashville. “Nashville does community very well. I lived in L.A. when I was in my early 20s, and anyone that’s lived there says once you find your community, it can be a cool place [but] it’s very hard to find community there. So that’s what’s cool about Nashville — everybody’s pretty welcoming. It’s just that type of city. It’s that type of culture.”
Following his move to Music City, Garcia found himself working with countless Christian artists, including TobyMac, MercyMe and NF. In 2015, Garcia was named ASCAP’s 2015 Christian Music Songwriter of the Year and he’s received four Grammy Awards for projects with TobyMac and Mandisa. Not one to boast, while he is honored at the recognition from the Recording Academy, Garcia says the awards haven’t changed his drive or passion for his career.
“What has always been a big motivator for me is conquering new territory and doing new things,” he explains. “What was really great about some of the Grammys I’ve won, it has always been with people that I’ve had a deep relationship with. TobyMac is one of the artists, one of my first Grammys was with him, and we’ve made a lot of music together. But it was also from doing a lot of life together. It’s really special when you are able to achieve things with friends.”
In the midst of his work within the Christian genre, Garcia met an up-and-coming songwriter named Josh Miller. At the time, Miller didn’t have a publishing deal but Garcia thought he was “super talented” so the two began crafting songs together. Through Miller, Garcia met Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and the three songwriters began writing, eventually penning the 40+-week (and counting) No. 1 hit, “Meant to Be.” The song surpassed Sam Hunt’s previous 2017 record with “Body Like a Back Road” for the longest running streak in the history of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
Garcia attributes much of his success to being open to explore new creative outlets. He says he’s fortunate to have met some talented people and continues to work on his craft every day. While he never set out to solely create country music, his success within the genre slowly came together with the willingness to work with different artists and songwriters he’s met along the way.
“I have a lot of respect for country music and its history and the songwriting. Although I grew up in a small town, I don’t necessarily have the background. But what I do appreciate about country music is the care in the songwriting,” he explains. “I think my perspective was to try and integrate some other influences to it. With some artists, it was just timing, and it’s been really awesome. Nashville has a great songwriting community. They love writing a great song and they don’t get hung up on, ‘what kind of song is this?'”
Garcia’s love for many genres of music came in handy when he sat down to write “Meant to Be.” The co-write with Hubbard, Miller and Rexha began with Hubbard mentioning that his wife, Hayley, told him that if it’s meant to be it’ll be that they write a hit that day.
“That’s the thing Hayley said to Tyler going into the write, and a lot of people don’t know, but we had a creative music week. We were in the room with John Legend earlier that day. We had written a couple great songs with Jason Derulo and we were already on cloud nine. It was just a great week,” Garcia recalls. “We were approaching that as, ‘Hey let’s just see what happens.’ It’s amazing how everything took place after that. It’s really a gift.”
Each of the writers were in their second co-write for the day and Garcia admits that for all intents and purposes, the song probably shouldn’t have worked out.
“What’s interesting about it is Tyler is such a talented songwriter, and he’s a talented person. I always feel like, if you have that, it doesn’t really matter what you do. I think people are intrigued by that. And Bebe herself, she is an incredibly talented and gifted person as well,” Garcia says, praising his co-writers. “All we did was make a song that we felt really great about that day. It had elements that fit Bebe’s world a little bit more. But Tyler and myself and Josh, we love urban music. That’s what we listen to all the time. So, it wasn’t a stretch for us … never a stretch for me to go there. That’s kind of what happened with that.”
Garcia says what makes “Meant to Be” so special is that it was obvious people were streaming and listening to the song long before it went to radio. By the time it made its way to radio listeners couldn’t get enough of it, making the song such a success on the charts. While a radio single is often the goal for songwriters, Garcia stresses that it’s also important to be careful that you’re not chasing success so much that there’s no heart and soul in one’s music.
“The goal is that you’re trying to bring some heart and soul, so when you press play, you hear something, you feel something, through the speakers. That is what music really should be about, is that it makes you feel. It makes you feel something,” he stresses.
A heartfelt song Garcia is especially proud of is Kip Moore’s “More Girls Like You.” One of his first country artist co-writes in 2016, the song was also his first country No. 1 the following year. As he recalls, co-writers Miller and Steven Lee Olsen had a similar concept written when Moore brought the idea for what became “More Girls Like You” to their writing session. Moore was talking about his travels around the world and how the one constant theme he’s noticed is the joy a family brings people and how fathers often seem in awe of their daughters.
“We came in there with a little bit of that inspiration, that idea, and Kip really helped make it more of his own,” Garcia recalls. “Kip is a force. A lot of people really don’t understand how talented he is. He’s a great songwriter, he’s a great producer. He just gets music a lot and he feels music.”
Garcia went on to co-produce the song with Moore, as well as several other tracks on the singer’s 2017 album, SLOWHEART. He says working with Moore gave him the confidence to produce other artists within the country genre, most recently being Carrie Underwood and her sixth studio album Cry Pretty.
“Kip was really on top of his game. A lot of times people are looking to you for the inspiration and it was so amazing to see someone come in and they were inspired. So, you were just trying to make their vision come to life as quickly as possible and that’s usually the way it is working with him,” he explains.
Much like with Moore, Garcia worked alongside Underwood to produce Cry Pretty. The first time the singer served as a producer on her own project, Garcia raves about Underwood and how “normal” she is. He explains that the two producers simply caught a vibe in the studio and says that working with Underwood was one of the most fun experiences he’s had making music.
“People just don’t understand that at the end of the day, Carrie is a regular person until she sings. She transforms, and you realize it’s like Clark Kent, Superman, Superwoman,” he admits. “She was very involved with me [in producing Cry Pretty]. We were really able to make decisions together. I’m proud of the record. There are incredible shining moments for me on the record.”
Garcia penned six of the 12 tracks on Cry Pretty with Underwood and at a recent album listening event in Nashville, the singer praised his talent as both a producer and a songwriter.
“I started working and writing with David. He would do the demos and I would get them back and be like, ‘Holy crap, this is really good! What’s this guy’s story? What does he do on the weekends when he’s not writing?'” Underwood told the industry crowd. “I started diving into him as a producer and I remember the day I talked to Ann [Edelblute], my manager, about potentially him producing and me producing with him, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I think it worked out.”
Country fans will get to hear a lot more from Garcia in the coming months thanks to his numerous cuts on Underwood’s project as well as several other artists’. Additional songs penned by Garcia include Chris Lane and Tori Kelly’s recent collaboration “Take Back Home Girl” as well as Underwood’s latest release, “Love Wins.”
“I’ve been doing music in some form or fashion since I was 19 or 20. I’m 35 now. Yes, I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s been a journey as well. Being a producer as well as a songwriter, I have that whole side of the equation that has always been a part of my life,” he explains. “I’ve always loved making records. Part of songwriting is a craft. It’s a skill, it’s a trade. You can get better at it. It’s the same with making records. It sometimes feels like it’s a black art, but you can get better, and that’s the thing that makes it so enjoyable.”
He concedes, “More than anything, I just want to make music that I love, that I’m passionate about. I’ve been fortunate enough over the past few years to really create from that perspective. I think it’s really important. A lot of times you have to really keep yourself honest as a songwriter, as a creative, as a producer. For me, as a creator, [it’s important] to make sure that you’re making music that’s from the heart, that’s yours.”