Songwriter Spotlight: Byron Hill

Legendary songwriter Byron Hill needs no introduction. Ever since moving to Nashville in 1978, he has been one of the country songwriting staples of his generation. He has generated more than 650 recordings, earned seventy-seven RIAA certified Gold and Platinum awards, ten ASCAP awards, twenty-nine U.S. and Canadian top-ten chart hits, and he continues his songwriting legacy in penning hits one after another.

Hill grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and began playing guitar at a young age. It was through his father that he became very appreciative and aware about songwriting.

“My dad sat me down when I was 16 years old and had me sit down and listen to Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down,’” Hill says, “and when I heard that tune, it lit a fire under me to write really good songs and set the bar high for my songwriting.”

After deciding to pursue a career songwriting years later, Byron reminisces about his first experience out in Nashville saying, “I took an exploratory trip out here to take some meetings, and I checked into my downtown hotel and opened up the yellow pages to get the music publisher page out so I can have the phone numbers handy, and the page was torn out!”

Hill laughs and goes on, “So, I went down the hallway to the pay phone to another phone book to get the same numbers from the same page, and that page was torn out also, so I knew then I was going to have a lot of competition out here and I’m going to have to work hard to do this.”

After that trip, Hill’s songwriting career in Nashville began out of a relationship with Jonathan Stone, a publisher with ATV at the time. That friendship led to Hill’s first publishing deal with ATV.

While at ATV, he received his first string of breakout cuts, including “Out Of Your Mind” by Joe Sun , “Pickin’ Up Strangers” by Johnny Lee, and many other cuts and several smaller singles along the way, including George Strait’s first No. 1, “Fool Hearted Memory”. Hill had many other early cuts including recordings by artists such as Juice Newton, Conway Twitty, Mel McDaniel, Ricky Skaggs, Margo Smith, and Reba McEntire.

After his tenure at ATV, Hill worked independently and with other music publishing companies in Nashville, getting cuts such as “Nights” by Ed Bruce, “The Pages Of My Mind” by Ray Charles, “Alright Already” by Larry Stewart, “Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous” by Tracy Byrd, “High-Tech Redneck” by George Jones, “Over You” by Anne Murray, “If I Was A Drinkin’ Man” by Neal McCoy, “Politics, Religion And Her” by Sammy Kershaw, “The Strong One” by Mila Mason, “Nothing On But The Radio” by Gary Allan, “Size Matters” by Joe Nichols, and “Born Country” by Alabama.

Hill is fond of all of his cuts and hits, but he specifically reminisces about his Alabama hit in saying, “That record was taken to a level beyond my imagination. We demoed that song in the studio real simple, same tempo, and it sounded like a good country demo. Joe Diffie sang the demo on that song, as well.”

Hill continues, “When Alabama took that song into the song into the studio and I heard it for the first time, I went nuts. They took the song to another level and the arrangement was unbelievable. It just blew my mind and the record went to No. 1.”

Other artists that have cut Hill’s songs include Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Rhonda Vincent, Dionne Warwick, Doc & Merle Watson, Trace Adkins, Asleep At The Wheel, John Michael Montgomery, Toby Keith, Gene Watson, Porter Wagoner, Brooks & Dunn, Hank Thompson, Bill Medley, Blackhawk, Highway 101, Jeff Bates, Rhett Akins, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Van Shelton, The Whites, The Seekers, and many others.

“I’m always trying to come up with a great song idea, none of that has changed. I’m still writing ideas down and always keeping my antenna out there, “ Hill says.

Hill still writes about 80-100 songs a year, which proves that this Nashville songwriting legend loves his craft more than ever. With the massive amount of success he has had over the years, Byron Hill continues to prove why he is one of the great country songwriters.

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