Songwriter’s Spotlight: Dan Demay

Dan Demay is from Fayetteville NC. He has had songs recorded by Daryl Worley, “If Something Should Happen”, “Doing What's Right”, Messed Up In Memphis”. He also wrote “Everybody Does” by Martina McBride, “Crazy Everytime” by Tracy Byrd, “You Can't Hide Redneck” by Tracy Lawrence, “Illegals” by Cledus T Judd, “All In A Day” by John Michael Montgomery, “Heart of the Wood” by Joey & Rory, and many others. He will be playing at the Commodore Grille Dec 6.

How long have you been writing?

A. First things I remember writing were poems (when I found out girls were built different than boys), but the first time I was enthralled with lyrics was when I was 7. I found a Conway Twitty Greatest Hits album and I took my school notebook and wrote down every lyric on the record and memorized them. Kids thought I was weird for singing grown up songs but I couldn't get over how you could tell a story and sang it while the whole time it ryhmed

Tell us about the first song you wrote and what inspired you to start writing?

A. First song I wrote was for my wife and my mother sang it during my wedding, come this January it will be 33 years ago.

Who are your biggest inflluences?

A. My greatest influence were Willie Nelson, Kris Christopherson. But when I came to Nashville Don Pfrimmer took me under his wing and taught me song writing and taught me to study other songwriters. Since then it's been Casey Beathard, Anthony Smith, Bobby Pinson, Phil O'Donnell, Jim Brown, Darryl Worley, Daryl Burgess etc etc, pretty much any writer that knocks my head off with a song. I'm constantly looking for a song that moves me.

What was your first big break?

A. Don Pfrimmer not throwing me out of his office and telling me that he thought I could be a great songwriter one day if I stuck with it.

How long did it take to get your first publishing deal and how did you get it?

A. I got to Nashville in 1988 and signed my first publishing deal in Nov 3rd 2001 with EMI. I was having lunch with a cowriter and his song-plugger after a session and the plugger told me to come to his office and he offered me a deal.

Where are you currently writing?

A.I'm writing for my own company Atlantic Bridge Music

Do you believe you need a publishing deal to get a major cut?

A. No, I had my first major cut long before I had a deal.
What was your first major cut and how did it come about?

A. My first cut with Tracy Byrd on the Ten Rounds CD with a song called “Crazy Everytime”. I wrote the song with Casey Beathard over at Acuff Rose and Casey played it for Billy Currington. Billy loved the song and asked if he could get on it because it described his life growing up so we broguht him in on itchanged a couple things then Billy took it to his label and he was suppose to cut it for his first CD but Tracy loved it and cut it.

Is it true that after you get your first cut it is easier to get other cuts?

A. If the first song you get cut goes top ten then I'd say yea it's true, but if it never becomes a single then all you have is something for your resume to tell your friends and family and you're stuck in the same boat as the rest of us.

What do you believe is the secret to getting your songs recorded by major artists?

A. When I first came to Nashville it was about writing great songs that someone else would want to sing but I'm learning now that it's about politics and your publisher's and co-writer's network. Now a days it's turned into writting with the artist who usually can't write his name.

What do you think about the music industry, how it's changing and where it's headed?

A. To be honest I think that the labels are consuming the music industry. They sign an artist who can sing with vocal tuning software and looks pretty on the radio, sign him to a 360 deal and get his publishing then puts him in a room with pure songwriters and get's the artisit's name on the song. They'll release a single and put the money behind it to push it up the charts, keep in mind they are not worried about selling records or building a fan base for this artist because they are getting the performance side of the song and own the copyright to help pay back the deal on top of keeping 68 cents out of the 99 cent downloads from the internet. Back to the artist who thinks they care about him, after his first hit fizzles out they put another single out on him and it doesn't get as much money behind it and it fizzles at 30-40 then they get off it. Soon they load his buses with CD to pimp out the back and he's pretty much on his own until they find a new kid on the block. You probabl

y won't use this for the interview but I wanted to be honest. If you look a the last two or three years you'll see this is true to quite a few great singers that have had two great hits but no single out now.

What is one of your greatest moments in your career?

A. Seriously? The day they called me and told me to come to the studio after they cut the tracks to “If Something Should Happen” and Darryl cleared the room and we sat there together at the console and listened and cried together over the song, haha. The next was when Darryl called me and asked if I heard it on the radio for the first time, come to find out it was the first time for both of us.

What is one of your worse moments in your career?

A.When a song went into a master session and didn't come out, after all the hoops you jumped through to get the song there and it didn't happen.

What do you think of writers nights, and do you think they benefit the writers? In what ways?

A. I think writer nights are a great outlet to test yourself in and to meet other writers, I can't say for sure if it benefits a writer mainly because people have a hard time being honest about what they heard. Every comment was 'man that was great' and “I wish I wrote that”. I need honesty if the song sucked tell me, I'm here to learn as much as the next guy is, the last thing we need as writers are people who spend the night of testing your songs out on to blow smoke up my chimney. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but Pfrimmer taught me that none of us have time for bullsh**, because someone right now is writing a number one song and it isn't me.

Do you co-write with other writers and how do you choose who you write with?

A. I co-write all the time, mainly because I know they can do things I can't or see things from a different angle than I can and I need that. The co-writers I write with are close friends and pretty much it's a heart thing that I really can't explain. I've written with hit songwriter's who've had 10 number one hits and the song we walked out with was OK it wasn't anything I couldn't have done on my own and honestly most of the lyrics were my own. Now I don't know if it went that way to just get the song written and get rid of me or not haha.

Do you co-writer with aspiring writers?

A. Yea I do, but like I said I pay attention to my heart, if I feel a tug or see a spark in someone I'll grab them to write with if they want to.

Have you ever had writers block, and if so, how did you get over it?

A. I think we all do at sometime or another, mainly to get over it I'll read a few novels or watch alot of movies, Like I said I study other writers constantly.

Do you think you need to have a fully produced demo of your song to be able to pitch it, or can you use a work tape (Guitar-vocal)?

A. No, in fact I've had a few cuts with a nasty guitar vocals.

What “tips” do you have for writers when they are going to a meeting with a publisher or someone in the business?

A. Take songs that you absolutley know in your heart of hearts are knock your head off great not just the ones your momma loves (Momma will lie to you because she loves you) find someone who you know cares about you enough to tell you the truth, and pay attention to your instincts. You need to remember that you are playing songs for people who wished they could write a song, most of your publishers have tried and failed ended up in a tape room and got promoted after the boss moved to a better deal, there are a few who have done it and succeeded so you  need to know who you are playing for. If you are going through the lyric and you feel something wasn't said right then you are probably right, find a better way to say it. One great rule of thumb is when you have thrown out great lines for good lines that paint a better and clearer picture then you have a song.

Is there anything else you would like to say to aspiring writers that you feel will help them?

A. Be who you are, there is only one of you in the whole world. God knows we can't handle two of you but strive to be the best writer you can be. Be your own worst critic, don't settle for less just to get the song done. There's a line inside every writer that when you cross it all of a sudden you see who you are and how to do what it is that you do and no one can tell you any different. And don't try to write what's on the radio, learn right now alot of it is political favors wrapped in crap and you are 8 months behind the happening thing. One more thing don't pucker up your lips and close your eyes and kiss whatever touches your lips just for a deal, you'll get alot more than just herpes.

By Debi Champion