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Ten Questions With Jeremy Spillman 
By Todd Sterling

Every day in Nashville teams of songwriters assemble in offices all over town in hopes of writing the next big hit. The level of talent in Music City is jaw-dropping. While many have the gift to string words together and marry them to memorable melodies, few have the ability to write with the kind of authenticity Jeremy Spillman writes.

A Kentucky native, Spillman digs deep in the creative dirt to get to the oft searched for but rarely found diamonds. His songs have been cut by Lee Ann Womack, Eric Church, and Josh Turner, among others. Jeremy recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for CountryStarsOnline.com.


TS: How would you describe your writing style?

JS: That's a very tough question because I write a lot of different types of songs; from folk to really rock oriented material. Being a writer and not a recording artist affords me the luxury of being able to write all across the board. I would say more than anything there is a common thread lyrically in my music.

TS: Where do you draw inspiration from when the well runs dry?

JS: I don't know. Do you have any suggestions? Haha. To be honest, there are just times in my life when I am very open and able to receive the inspiration and there are times when I am not. It really doesn't depend on any outside influence. Sometimes it's just there and sometimes it's just not.

It kind of makes me think that I don't have any control over it. I do know that when the stream dries up, it's best for me to just step away for a while. Take a few days off. I have never really been able to search and find the idea or the creativity. My struggle is learning to be open to it at all times and learning to capture it when it is there.

TS: What is a typical writing session like for Jeremy Spillman?

JS: They are never the same, but usually there is some caffeine involved. It depends mostly on who I am writing with. I do think I would go crazy if every day was the same. I love to have a 'hook' first, but that's not always the case either. Sometimes it's a melody, sometimes a thought, and sometimes it's just a subject. I'm learning more and more to just let it happen any way it can.

TS: When you write a song, do you ever write with a particular artist in mind?

JS: Sometimes, but not always. I usually just aim to make the song the best it can be and hope an artist likes it, but these days I try to shoot a little closer to what I think they want.

TS: Which do you prefer, writing alone or co-writing?

JS: You know, in the beginning I mostly wrote alone, but I have grown to love co-writing. It's just a lot more fun to do it with someone else. In all honesty, it's a lot easier to believe it's cool if two people think it's cool.

TS: What advice would you give someone who wants to make songwriting a career?

JS: Just write and write and write. I believe that there is very little someone can 'teach' anyone about songwriting. The best thing a writer can do is to figure out why they love the songs they love and try to do that on their own.

I would say that the first DECADE of my writing was a lot of bad to mediocre songs. Then I finally caught a few good ones. It's like anything else in life. Work hard and keep at it and it will pay off.

Also, your parents and your friends are not the people you need to listen to your music to know if your song is good or not! They love you no matter what!

TS: What are some of the biggest mistakes new writers make?

JS: I know that in my early days I got caught up in thinking that my song was "good enough" all the time. But I had to learn the hard way that good enough is never gonna get you a cut or a publishing deal. You've got to offer them something great.

TS: Some writers claim they’re just a channel through which songs flow; they just tune in and the material comes. What are your thoughts on this?

JS: I very much believe that. A lot of the time we really struggle to get a line or a melody right but other times, when the really good songs happen, it pours out. It does feel like we are just wires for the current to pass through. As I said before, I'm trying to learn how to get to that spot more readily.

TS: There are creative people who can’t function unless everything around them is just right. Do you have a certain ritual when writing? Does everything have to be in its place – your coffee cup, your slippers, your pen?

JS: Ha. No. Not at all, but these days I am pretty dependent on my laptop.

TS: "Arlington," which you co-wrote with Dave Turnbull, is an amazing tune, the kind of composition I refer to as a heart song. What inspired the track?

JS: Dave has been a good friend of mine for years. We came up together in this town. At the time we wrote that song, his mother was in town visiting and he was going to help her find a new car. At one of the dealerships, he met a man named David Nixon. (Mr. Nixon’s) son's name was Patrick Nixon; he was the first marine from Tennessee to be killed in the war in Iraq.

Dave was a marine himself and was very moved by Mr. Nixon’s pride for his son. The next day Dave and I were writing, and he started telling me the story. The song just kind of happened after that. We actually didn't think anyone would like it so we didn't turn it in for a while. I was about to go in the studio and record a bunch of songs, and like always, I turned in everything I had written to my publisher. My publisher flipped out over that song! The rest is history.


( Todd Sterling is a freelance writer and songwriter from Canada. www.myspace.com/toddsterling )

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