Hill: Persistence & Inspiration
plays a big part in our romantic visions of a songwriter's life.
We imagine the writer jumping out of bed, fumbling for the
guitar in the darkness and playing that million-dollar lick, or
singing the line that will soon be a national catch phrase. The
day-to-day life of a professional songwriter isn't quite so
Ed Hill, who has had No. 1 cuts with Faith Hill (no relation)
("It Matters To Me"); Tracy Lawrence ("Runnin'
Behind"); Reba McEntire ("The Heart Is a Lonely
Hunter") and John Michael Montgomery ("Be My Baby
Tonight"); doesn't discount inspiration, but he hasn't got
the time to wait for it to arrive.
have nothing against artists that have to be inspired to write a
song, but a professional songwriter doesn't wait to get
inspired," Hill said. "Everyday I wake up, I'm
inspired. I want to hone my craft and be a professional. I want
to write something worthy every time I write and that's my
inspiration. I don't always have great ideas, but I'm always
inspired. Songwriting is what I do. It's how I support my
family, and those who are waiting for inspiration aren't living
backs up his professional attitude by reporting to his office
everyday and plugging away at his craft. "I can't write
much at home since there are too many distractions. I usually
sit down with a co-writer and these days I'm doing a lot with
Shaye Smith and Casey Beathard, but I have other people that I
write with off and on. When I write by myself, I can get a
little frustrated making all the decisions, with no one to
bounce the music off."
every six weeks, Hill takes a batch of new songs to a studio and
has them demoed so he can shop them around town. "I average
a song a week, but it's not a sure thing. Some weeks I get
nothing, some weeks I'll finish four songs. When I have a bunch,
I book a studio, the players, the singers and get to work. I may
do some singing, but if my voice isn't a good fit, I'll hire a
the years Hill's demo sessions have given jobs to Garth Brooks,
Joe Diffie, Gretchen Wilson and Trisha Yearwood when they were
newcomers. After the final mix the next day, which takes about
an hour and a half per song, he takes them to BMG Songs, his
publisher, and starts working them.
demos have provided material for Sara Evans, Martina McBride,
Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, George Strait, Clay Walker and Lee
Ann Womack - quite a track record for a guy who once planned to
enter law school after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in
grew up in Hanford, Calif., a farming community, surrounded by
music," said Hill, whose father was a cotton farmer.
"I was in the grammar school marching band and I played
trumpet, French horn and drums. I learned how to read music and
played piano in rock bands in high school and college, writing a
lot of the material myself. I was about to go to law school when
I realized that wasn't the life I wanted, which was a big
disappointment to my parents."
in the early '70s, Hill moved to Bakersfield, Calif. to join a
Country band that played in local clubs opening for artists
including Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.
was burning out on progressive rock and wanted a steady
paycheck," Hill said. "We were a house band and the
guitar player, Jim Williams, showed me how to play Country
Music. He showed me color tones and pedal tones. He loved chords
and could play blues and Country standards. He showed me how a
song was built, which made me better at making up my own
left Bakersfield to play piano with the Palomino Riders, the
house band at Los Angeles' Palomino Club. Mickey Gilley hired
Hill in 1980 for his Urban Cowboy Band and the band won a GRAMMY
that year for "Orange Blossom Special" from the Urban
Cowboy soundtrack. By 1984, Hill was ready to take the plunge.
He moved to Nashville to be a songwriter.
took my dad's truck, with a camper shell on the back of it, and
drove to Nashville. When I heard the people playing the open mic
at the Bluebird Café, I knew I'd have to knuckle down and get
serious about my writing. I was glad I loved doing it, because
there wasn't any money in it for quite a while. If my dad hadn't
bailed me out a few times, I might have starved."
1987, Hill showed a few tunes to Karen Conrad and she took him
on as a staff writer for her AMR/New Haven Music publishing
house. Ten years later, the company was purchased by BMG Music
Publishing. Conrad is now Senior Vice President of BMG Music
Publishing's Nashville-based Country Music Division.
the regular paycheck, I was just about to leave town when Reba [McEntire]
cut 'The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,'" Hill said. "Then
it became a single, then a hit and the money from that held me
over till I got the next cut. And since then, every track has
sustained me till the next one, but you have to have a lot of
persistence to make it."
song is different," Hill declared. "Some are great
because of the groove, some have a good message, but my goal is
to write songs that are still going to sound good in 10 years.
Sometimes they come quick, sometimes I'm changing the lyrics
right up to the time we get a singer to sing it, but it's a fun
adventure cause you never know where the song may go. And I know
I'll run out of time before I can do everything I want to do. I
saw a recent interview with Robert Redford and they asked him
when he was going to run out of ideas and he said 'I'm going to
run out of time before I run out of ideas.' That's how I feel. I
know I'm lucky to be able to do something I love for a living. I
want to do something good with the time God is going to let me
lives in Franklin, Tenn. with his wife Laura and their three
children, Savanna, Gracen and Beaux.
2004 CMA Close Up News Service
courtesy of Ed Hill
the Web: www.bmgmusicsearch.com