Songwriting is an amazing process. It creates some of the greatest art in the world, seemingly out of thin air. The new documentary It All Begins With A Song lets us hear directly from some of the world’s most successful songwriters who work in Nashville, and it’s fascinating.
The accent is on country songs, but Nashville songwriters have written some of the biggest Rock and Pop hits too, like “Don’t Stop Believin’”. The basics of songwriting are universal, even though individuals may incorporate various approaches. Some start with an idea for a title or a topic. Others start with various chord changes or riffs. And sometimes, songwriters just wake up with a song in their heads.
That’s what happened to songwriter Michael Busbee, who wrote the song “Try” for Pink. Busbee said the song was 95-percent from his “dream”, and then he worked with Ben West on developing it into a hit. “Try” sold over 2-million copies. It was a common theme in the film that songwriters often feel like they are able to “tap into something” that delivers a song through them.
It All Begins With A Song introduces us to successful songwriters like Brett James, shown above. James has earned songwriting credits on 25 #1 country hits, including “Jesus Take The Wheel”, which was a hit for Carrie Underwood. James sang the song to great effect in the film. You’ll see that all these successful songwriters are talented instrumentalists, as well as good singers.
Still, it was telling when the film went from Jon Randell, one of the songwriters of “Whiskey Lullaby”, to the hit’s performers, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. There’s a whole other talent level with singers like that. “Whiskey Lullaby” was another 2-million seller, and the Country Song of the Year in 2005.
The documentary is filled with stories that will draw you in. It includes references to some of Nashville’s legendary writers, like Kris Kristofferson and Harlan Howard. Although not as famous to the public, Howard wrote a long list of country hits, including “I Fall To Pieces” for Patsy Cline. He’s an inspiration to other songwriters, and he famously said…”Country Music is three chords and the truth.”
And the truth is, you’re going to be very moved when you see the story of a song written by Jessi Alexander (shown above), Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary. It’s called “I Drive Your Truck”. Despite what could be the title of a light country song, it packs an emotional wallop. It won the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music 2013 “Song Of the Year” awards.
Besides being an extremely interesting 90-minutes about all that goes into songwriting, It All Begins With A Song is also high quality in all aspects of production. The film is now showing on Amazon Prime, and is available for rent or purchase.
Even though Nashville songwriters have to compete with each other to get their songs recorded, they’re willing to share their expertise and work together. A lesson for the world.