Spotlight: Hit-Songwriter David Chamberlain

David Chamberlain

David Chamberlain was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas where he sang in numerous night clubs and discovered he could write songs.  After working in Corpus Christi and Houston, he moved to Nashville in the 1970’s.  He currently lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee on the outskirts of Nashville with his wife, Jean. He spends most of his time in downtown Nashville on Music Row working with other writers and artists. Recently, he has expanded into record producing, including award-winning artist, Johnny Lee, Texas artist Kelly Kenning, and others.

His songs have been recorded by such artists as George Strait, Gene Watson, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker, La Costa, Charley Pride, Johnny Paycheck, Keith Whitley, Dottie West, Connie Francis, Donna Fargo, Tammy Wynette, Billie Jo Spears, Sammi Smith, Larry Boone, Margo Smith and Barbara Fairchild to mention a few.

David Chamberlain Q & A

How long have you been writing?

Since I was about 15 years old

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

I really can’t tell you much about the first song I wrote.  All I remember is my uncle Kenneth McGarr telling me how great it was and he built that fire inside of me.  I would run to him with a new song constantly. He sang in bars and wrote songs himself and was definitely a big influence on my career.

Who are your biggest influences?

When I first came to Nashville, I met Herschel Wigginton and he introduced me to Buddy Killen at Tree International.  All those great writers were my influence such as Harlan Howard, Sonny Throckmorton, Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman, and many more.  I always tell everybody I went to “Tree University”.

What was your first big break?

I met Jim Vest in Printer’s Alley and he introduced me to a lot of people in the business. We wrote two hit songs our first week writing together.  “I’m Not Easy” – recorded by Billie Jo Spears and “From Cotton to Satin” by Johnny Paycheck

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

Having written some songs with Jim Vest led to my first publishing contract with Column I Music which was owned by a friend of his.  He really liked what we were doing and signed us up.

Where are you currently writing at?

I am fortunate enough to be working for Davis Entertainment.  I have an office in the old RCA Building where I write for Questar Music even though I am involved in many other aspects of the company.

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

No, you don’t need a publishing deal, you need a great song. A great song will lead to a publishing deal if that’s what you want.  Remember, everybody wants to make money.  That’s what a great song can do for you.

What was your first major cut and how did it come about?

“I’m Not Easy” recorded by Billie Jo Spears.  Jim Vest knew her and played the song for her. Larry Butler then produced the record.  This led to me signing with Billy Sherrill who was running CBS Records at the time.

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

Having your first cut certainly makes people more willing to listen to you rather than someone who has not had any success.  A proven track record goes a long way in opening doors.

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

I don’t think it’s a secret.  We all know it takes a hit song and like it or not, politics plays a big part.

What is one of your greatest moments in your career?

One of the greatest moments in my career was winning ASCAP Song of the Year.

What is one of your worse moments in your career?

When my George Strait single was cancelled because a new artist hit the charts with the song.

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

I think Writer’s Nights are a good thing.  It gives unknown writers a chance to be heard, gives them a chance to network and it inspires them because they hear their competition.  They learn to accept criticism from other writers.  Who knows who will be in the audience that can change their life.

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

I do get to co-write with others and these days are much different.  Everybody has a calendar and we fill the dates as much as possible.  Luckily, I get to write with some of the greatest writers in Nashville.  Most of my co-writers have been friends for a number of years.

Do you co-write with aspiring writers?

I do write with aspiring writers if I sense something special about them or if they bring me an idea that I think will make a great song.

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

I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you have a “hook” or a title of the song, it asks a question or tells you something, and that’s what you write about.  If you should get stumped, look at your “hook”. It’s telling you what to write. You may need to fixate on something clever.

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)?

It’s not necessary to have a full blown demo but I prefer them.  I have found that I hear certain music on my songs that I would like for the producer to hear and if it wasn’t demo’d, it would be left up to chance, such as the twin fiddles that kick off “What’s Going On In Your World” by George Strait.  However, there have been many songs recorded from a simple guitar demo.  Just remember this:  In some big fancy office, demos that cost thousands of dollars are being played; then yours comes on with a simple guitar. There’s certainly a letdown in the production and perception.

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

If you’re meeting with someone in the business, just bring two or three songs and make them your best shot.  Don’t overstay your welcome and be sure your materials are marked with your name and number so they can reach you later.  Don’t try to sell your song.  Let your song sell itself.  If they have any advice for you about your song, you should consider it.

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

What I would say to an aspiring writer:  You’re never as good as you’re “gonna” be.  Never give up and you will find what you write next year will beat what you wrote this year. Don’t let anybody destroy your dream.  I would go hide if people could hear some of the things I first brought to town. It’s a learning experience, a growing experience.  As long as you can look back on yesterday and you’re better today, keep climbing that ladder.

Are you playing anywhere or have any current projects you would like to tell us about?  Do you have CD’s for sale?

I’ve done a lot of performances of my songs throughout the United States with various other writers. I really enjoy it. On September 9, I will be at the Commodore Lounge and am looking forward to it.  I will have cd’s of some of the songs I’ve written with me.

What do you think about the music business?  How it’s changing and where it’s headed?

Country music had to change, had to modernize with new generations.  Just for the record, I grew up on the great rock groups like the Stones and Credence, but I love country music.

We haven’t had a big country star since George Strait and Alan Jackson. I believe they’ve sold a hundred million albums between them in their careers.  We haven’t had anybody like that in a long time but we do now.  His name is Jacob Lyda and he will be a mega star.  Radio needs a good mix for all ages and for all tastes of country music and as one of my good friends would say, “That’s a good thing”.

Songwriter’s Spotlight by Debbie Champion | |

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