How would you describe your writing
DD: Growing up I was a huge fan of Merle
Haggard and James Taylor – Taylor for his beautiful melodies and
(Haggard) for his awesome story songs. So as one might guess,
it's a cross between those two.
TS: Where do you draw inspiration from?
DD: Life. A lot of my early songs came from
listening to peoples’ stories. The old adage, "people say the
darndest things," is very true. I've come across some great
"hooks" during conversations.
TS: What is a typical writing session
like for Dean Dillon?
DD: I like to write in the mornings, so
typically I head to Sony about 10 and from then until 2 in the
afternoon it's a brainstorming session with whomever shows up
for the day (to co-write).
TS: Do you ever write with a particular
artist in mind?
DD: Yes and no. No in the sense that when I'm
writing with another writer, we usually just write the song with
no one in particular in mind. Yes in the sense that when I'm
writing with an artist, I like to pick their brain and find out
what they as an artist want to say – it's much more enjoyable
for them and me when we know that answer.
TS: What is your take on the art vs.
commerce debate; how can a songwriter feed both sides?
DD: This is a very tough question for me. I
think you've got to find a happy medium. It is the music
BUSINESS, after all. It's not like it's impossible to write a
song that takes someone’s breath away and make a living doing
it. I'm VERY content trying to do that day in and day out.
TS: Who is your all time favorite
songwriter, and how has his or her writing influenced your own
DD: There are so many, it's hard to pick a
favorite. Haggard of course, but I would have to say I learned
more firsthand about songwriting from HANK COCHRAN; what a truly
brilliant mind he possesses. I also love, and I mean absolutely
love, the style of TOM T. HALL.
TS: Out of all the songs you've had
cut, what is the one song that best sums up who you are as a
DD: (That’s a) hard question. I don't think
any one defines me, but the sum of the whole is a good
TS: What advice would you give someone who
wants to make songwriting a career?
DD: Write, write, write – your 500th song will
be a heck of a lot better than your first.
TS: What are some of the biggest mistakes
new songwriters make?
DD: (Not) staying focused on an idea, weak
hooks, and the refusal to rewrite. So often a mediocre song just
needs tweaking here and there to make it great – repetition in
this area reaps huge rewards.
TS: How would you define success?
DD: Being happy with yourself.
(Todd Sterling is a freelance
writer and songwriter from