Louisiana riverboat captain and country songwriter Captain Joe Kent had the time of his musical life during a recent visit to Music City.
During a hectic few days set up by Nashville Music Guide executive editor and TCM Records head Randy Matthews, Captain Joe performed at Pick’s Nashville in the Lyrics For Lyric monthly series; played the next night at Tony Stampley’s Songwriters Night; had several key meetings and a fine photo session; and co-wrote a song with Tony that Stampley has already demoed.
“I have found a whole new family up there in Nashville,” Captain Joe said in a conversation from a Louisiana waterway between New Orleans and Morgan City in mid-March, when it was already almost 80 degrees. “Kymberly, Joe, and Randy Matthews all made me part of the family. So did all of them people at Pick’s, so when I played I couldn’t be really nervous because I was among people that cared about me.”
And when the captain came to Nashville, he brought a boatload of fans from all over to cheer him on. There were Captain Joe friends and fans from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia. Other folks from Alabama and across the country tuned in to the live Webcast on nixacountry.com.
“That shows the impact I’ve had across the nation,” Joe says.
The captain had been thinking about this Nashville trip for quite awhile, in many ways almost his whole musical life.
“It didn’t really dawn on me till we pulled up at the Best Western,” he says of arriving on Music Row with wife Denise and daughter Dianna. “We went in to get our room and everything, and the adrenaline started flowing.”
He continues: “I told myself that this is what I was up here for. I got a little nervous at first, because this is my childhood dream, and one that I thought would never be fulfilled.
“This is one of the happiest times of my life,” he says.
Captain Joe, after the requisite five or six beers, was a terrific hit at the Lyrics For Lyric show at Pick’s. The next night, Stampley, a Louisiana native himself, invited Joe onstage at Tony’s own writer’s night.
“He called me on stage after only one beer,” Kent says, smiling. “I learned that I will never step on stage without five or six beers.”
Another bud of the captain’s, an Arkansas cowboy named James Adair, is such a fan of all of Captain Joe’s songs that he actually requested one that Kent had not rehearsed for his Nashville shows.
But as always, the captain weathered that musical storm as well, and did his usual superb job.
Meanwhile, Captain Joe also met with Bob Coan of NewMediaEdge.com for a photo session.
“The photos came out just awesome, and Bob told me a lot of trade secrets,” Kent says.
Joe also had several key meetings with Randy Matthews. Both are actually opening publishing companies – Randy’s called Oil Trash Music, reflecting his proud Oklahoma roots and great accomplishments in the oil and natural gas businesses; and Joe’s is called Boat Trash Music, which he and the Missouri tunesmith and artist Curtis Lyn Cook will run.
A co-writing session with Tony Stampley yielded a new song called “The Party’s On” which is already being pitched around Music Row.
“It’s an awesome, bad-ass song,” Captain Joe says. “Everybody’s extremely excited about the song, including Tony. It’s already being billed as a hit.”
Stampley and Kent have become fast friends. Both are talkative country boys with strong Louisiana roots, and both are highly creative, passionate types with writers’ souls.
Besides, Joe Kent has dreamt of writing with Tony Stampley for a long, long time. Kent’s greatest musical hero is likely Hank Williams Jr., for whom Tony has written more than a dozen songs. And Bocephus was very close with Merle Kilgore, the country manager and songwriter (Merle co-wrote “Ring Of Fire” with June Carter Cash) who was the only Music Row executive who encouraged Joe Kent early in his songwriting career.
“Everything that Randy Matthews set up for me turned out to be a huge success,” the captain says. “Playing at Pick’s for the Lyrics For Lyric went over well. I was taken well there. And Randy set up that writer’s appointment for me with Tony Stampley.”
Don’t be at all surprised if we hear the results of that dynamic duo at country radio sometime soon.
Another delight for Joe Kent was bringing some of his crew along with him, including pilot Eric Stern, known as Big E. After both returned from Nashville, Big E asked Captain Joe something nobody had ever requested before.
“I want my guitar signed by you,” Big E said.
After happily signing, Joe told Big E, “finally I feel like an official celebrity.”
Captain Joe’s life has changed dramatically since the Nashville Music Guide, thanks to Kym Matthews’s sharp recommendation, first wrote about the captain last fall. His Web presence and fan base have exploded since then. So has his cell phone, now often with requests from other writers wanting to co-write.
“The Nashville Music Guide has opened up all kinds of doors for me,” he says. “Way back when, I thought if I ever made it to Nashville that I would be saying `thank God.’ Now, after 20 some-odd years the apt response would be, ‘it’s about time.’ ”
Patience and hard work have truly paid off for Captain Joe Kent, with huge assists from Randy Matthews and the whole NMG and TCM Records teams.
By Phil Sweetland