Pet peeve time. Country music partisans have been known to boast about the strength of the genre’s songwriters, and between all the showcasing on ABC’s Nashville and the emergence of mainstream link-ups like the Pulse Recording partnership with Beth & Luke Laird’s Creative Nation, the world outside of Nashville is becoming increasingly dialed into the importance of and depth of talent among country music’s songwriters. So what’s with the recent trend of leaving the songwriters out of press releases for country singles? Press releases announcing Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party”, Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown”, Blake Shelton’s “Sure Be Cool If You Did,” Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart, and Blake Shelton’s “Drink On It,” all fail to mention the songwriters who crafted the tunes. There is an exception: the press release for Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” does name songwriters Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, further acknowledging that they cowrote her Grammy-winning smash, “Before He Cheats.”
Now maybe you’re saying, what’s the big deal, do press releases ever mention the songwriters? Well, they do when the performing artist is a cowriter on the song. Check out the press release for Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim” and “Over You” and the press release announcing that Luke Bryan was set to perform “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” on TV.
Let me make one thing clear: this is about press release writers, not the artists. I’m *not* accusing any of these acts of trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes about their writing abilities. Lady Antebellum are proven songwriters in their own right (and have landed cuts on other albums), and have featured Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, and Natalie Hemby (the writers of “Downtown”), as well as Eric Paslay (cowriter of the title track of their upcoming album) at a CRS showcase at Puckett’s earlier this year. Miranda Lambert is an accomplished songwriter and has mentioned in interviews how she begged Kacey Musgraves for “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Kacey cowrote that song with Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally). Luke Bryan’s website featured a news item about Luke Bryan celebrating a #1 with his cowriters, Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Ben Hayslip. In all cases, if the singles in question hit #1 (and some of them already have), the songwriters will be feted in industry parties which will include the artists thanking them, with media coverage and pictures. And press release mentions don’t affect songwriter royalties.
Still, this is a matter of principle. High profile cuts and especially singles can be important to songwriters in establishing momentum and raising their profile. There’s also an implied devaluation of the songwriter’s work when the announcement of a single only credits the songwriter in cases where the performing artist cowrote the song. Those press releases now get picked up and posted in a wide network of country blogs and country media sites. Why not acknowledge all contributors to the song in the first place? While it’s nice when an artist has cowritten his or her latest single, people know that the great songwriters of Nashville come up with great songs that shouldn’t and can’t be passed over just because the artist didn’t cowrite the song. Songwriters are the backbone of country music, and they should be treated as such.
In that spirit, here are the names of the songwriters who have written top-40 singles currently on the country charts, plus a couple of recent chart toppers. If you see a name you don’t recognize as a performing act, look it up! Chances are this songwriter has helped write some of your favorite songs!
Posted by Deb (Guest Writer)
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