“Things are blowing up and there is a reason to celebrate all of the time right now. It has been a long haul for my wife Laney and me and when you have six kids and you are doing this, people think you are crazy. I wouldn’t trade the last 13 years but the timing of this was great because I don’t know how much longer I would have stuck it out here.
I lost my record deal with Capital in 2012 and felt the sting of rejection. Yay, I am free and the next day, oh crap, I am free. I was young and naive and didn’t understand the power of politics. Publishing deals and record deals fell into my lap and I took it for granted. When I was dropped, I felt the pressure to give up and move on. Usually, if radio rejects you once, they are unlikely to give you a second chance. We lost the deal and lost a lot of friends. I got a job stocking produce at Costco from one of my fans who worked the tire center there. He came to my show and was lit up to meet me. He told me he worked at the tire center at Costco and I asked if they were hiring. I would run into fans and peers at Costco and it was humiliating and humbling.
At Capital, I was a nice-looking guy with a few clever songs, but there wasn’t much personality in them. They never emotionally connected. After I lost the deal, I hit bottom and became a drunk working at Costco, I knew the end was coming but there was enough of a lit fuse and still fighting phase that I became reckless and started writing with honesty that came from painful moments.
I felt like I was writing good songs but couldn’t give them away. I always wrote as if something would come of this, but at some point you know in the back of your mind you won’t be the .001 percent of the population that made it on the radio. The older I got, the more I gave up.
I pitched songs to Shane McAnally who was working with a couple of big country acts and hopes him using my songs would start my writing career. He said he couldn’t get any of the songs cut but he loved them and thought I should sing them. He rescued me from Costco and signed me to a publishing deal. Now I am on his label that is partnered with Sony. It is a miracle, but there are a billion miracles. I am so grateful to say I have a single out and it is working, that is the biggest miracle.
We are just starting to hit radio and have sold over 70,000 copies of’You Broke Up with Me.’ It is pinch me every day. They tell me the numbers and the shazams and stations that add it and it is still hard to digest. I became jaded and had little expectation for what I created. I don’t quite understand what happened, but it is amazing right now. They will call and say you sold 2,000 downloads today and Laney and I will look at each other and say ‘We don’t know 2,000 people, who is buying this?”
CMA Fest put me on my heels. I took the family and thought there would be a handful of people who knew me and a few more. It was much bigger than that and they knew the words to every song. I played ‘Lela’s Stars’ last and told them she was on the side of the stage. When I walked off stage, Lela said, ‘Dad, you didn’t tell us you were famous.’ I told her that is not how every show goes. That was surreal.
‘You Broke up with Me’ is not about a girlfriend but friends who let you go. Once things started looking up the people who had abandoned us and never returned calls or emails started coming back and wanted to collaborate with me. I tell my kids this is life. I wish I didn’t take it so personally, but I do. I am a sensitive artist.
I am so proud of being from Mobile. My writing is embedded in the language of Mobile and Mardi Gras, magnolias, rivers and bays. Laney and I went to St. Paul’s and all of our love stories take place in the humidity, the rain and the soaking wet streets with steam coming off of them and the Dew Drop Inn. When I sit down to write a song, my head is always in Mobile. I dream of having a place on Dog River so my kids can experience it like I did. Every time I go back to Mobile it gets better but what I love about it hasn’t changed either. The identity is not getting lost. There is so much talent and tradition there.
I played sports in high school but I met Laney in our high school musical and loved it but never thought it would be how I would pay the bills. I took a piano class my sophomore year at Birmingham Southern and that changed me. When I got out of college, I thought I would sell real estate with my dad. I am not that great of a singer but my dad kept telling me I should do it out somewhere. He was a member of the Yacht Club in Mobile and he asked the waitress if I could sing. I did it once so he would leave alone. That night I told Laney I wanted to move to Nashville. She said “why not” and 13 years and 6 kids later it is actually beginning to work.
I have found what sets me apart and I am lucky people are embracing it. I want to play arenas in front of hundreds of thousands of people and sing these songs with them. Writing the truth was hard and I mined through that part of my life for songs. Now life is good, it will be even harder to write. I want to provide a relief in the heavy times of life and love hearing about parents listening to these songs with their kids. Music was an escape for me and I love the idea of being a part of a soundtrack of a part of life. Five years from now someone may ask, “do you remember that ‘You Broke Up with Me Song’ that we sang that summer. I can look listeners in the eye and see them singing the lyrics of songs I wrote. This is a new sensation for me. I want people to be proud that I am from Mobile.”4