Steve Dorff -010

I’m like this anonymous Oz behind the curtain guy nobody ever knows. The face of the songs are the artists who record them. -Steve Dorff

If you are a songwriter or a composer, this episode is for you! Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018, Steve Dorff was born to do what he does. Recorded in his music room at his home just outside of Nashville, Steve says he “heard an orchestra in his head” before he could walk or talk and recalls climbing up onto the piano bench at 3 or 4 to play better than his older sister. Raised in Queens, New York, Steve first heard the Beatles on the car radio at 12 and said to himself “that’s what I want to do.” The list of singers who have breathed life into his songs is massive. From Willie to Whitney, from Celine to Ray Charles, Ringo Star to Kenny Rogers and George Strait to Cher and Dusty Springfield, Steve says he is most proud of being a diverse songwriter, composer and producer who can rise and shine in any musical genre. The author of the book I Wrote That One ,Too, Steve Dorff has the kind of musical talent that doesn’t come along very often. His sage advice for young songwriters and his entertaining stories behind hits like Every Which Way But Loose, I Cross My Heart and Through The Years will keep you glued to this rare interview with a true musical genius.

TG Sheppard -009

I was only 15 when I climbed out my window and ran away to Memphis with 60 cents in mypocket. I look around at my life now and I realize that it all started with just 60 cents. -TG Sheppard

Incredible as it seems, TG Sheppard was a runaway teen with a lifelong dream of making it in country music. In this interview, TG and his wife Kelly Lang welcome us into their hime for a chat around the kitchen table and a rare look at his climb up the ladder to success. The stars aligned one night at midnight outside the Rainbow Terrace Roller Rink in Memphis when TG (his real name is William Browder) met his idol: Elvis Presley. On that night, Elvis took the boy under his wing, and the two remained friends until the day Elvis died. With 21 #1 songs to his credit, ranked #87 on Billboard’s list of the top 100 artists in country music, an Elvis tribute show on Sirius, a new album called Midnight In Memphis, and possession of his masters plus a distribution deal with Time Life, TG Sheppard is living his dream. And every day, TG continues to follow the advice of Elvis Presley who said: If you ever forget where you came from, you’ll never get where you want to go.” #countrymusic #elvis

Larry Strickland -008

Relationships are everything and in Nashville they are made of gold. When Jacy introduced me to Naomi Judd and we interviewed her at their compound in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, her husband Larry Strickland was sitting on a couch in the recording studio, just listening quietly. But when he spoke, his rich, deep voice filled the room. I knew I had to interview him because his long career as a bass singer is like a page out of country music history. From humble beginnings singing with gospel quartets on weekends in high school, Larry Strickland made his way in country music and reached the pinnacle of success singing bass and touring with Elvis Presley. His latest album is called Legacy, a labor of love that includes the gospel songs that inspired Larry to become a bass singer nearly 50 years ago. #elvis #elvispresley #gospelmusic #basssinger

Karen Staley -007

I didn’t come to Nashville having played bars for 10 years. I was a total green horn. So I learned a lot. It’s a blast, it’s like perpetual adolescence. -Karen Staley

Welcome to the success story of a woman whose songs have been played on radio more than 12 million times (and counting) with downloads at about 20 million! Karen Staley is in a league of her own as a Nashville quadruple threat who sings, plays, writes and produces. Her love of music started in high school when she hurt her back and had to give up playing varsity sports. Karen’s music teacher noticed she was floundering, handed her a guitar and taught her the chords to Annie’s Song by John Denver. Karen Staley never put that guitar down and her 30 year success story has included writing number one songs like Take Me As I Am, Hey, Baby Let’s Go To Vegas and Keeper of the Stars. She knows what it is like to tour and play to gigantic crowds with Reba, Faith Hill, Terri Clark, Patty Loveless and more. Born in Weirton, West Virginia and raised near Hookstown, PA, Karen is an iconic, hit songwriter with a tireless work ethic and a heart of gold. This interview was recorded in Karen’s home where her music room is lined with gold records and guitars just waiting to be played. With honesty and plenty of humor, Karen says: “In 30 years of writing, I’ve never had writer’s block. God gives me something every time.” Press that download button now for priceless stories about being a part of the early days of the Bluebird Cafe and a treasure box full of songwriting advice.

Kent Blazy -006

I first wrote poetry and got it published in the high school year book and it gave me a little bit of positive feedback that somebody must like what I do. The minute I got a guitar, I just started trying to put the two together and started writing songs instead of poetry. -Kent Blazy

As Jacy and I made our way up the hill to Kent Blazy’s house, I couldn’t help but wonder how his climb, his success story as a singer/songwriter and guitarist had unfolded in Nashville. In this interview, Kent explains how he traded cigarettes for the chance to learn guitar licks from a kid who lived a few blocks away from his home in Lexington, Kentucky. With a guitar in his lap, Kent turned his poems into songs and decided to make music his life. By the time he arrived in Nashville, Kent already had lots of experience as a singer, guitarist and songwriter and began creating opportunities for himself to succeed, including building a recording studio in his home. His life changed the day Garth Brooks walked into his studio. You see, Garth was hoping he could earn some money as a demo singer. It wasn’t long before they decided to take a shot at co-writing and on February 1, 1988 they wrote the song that changed the trajectory of their careers. Inspired by their wives, If Tomorrow Never Comes would get Garth a record deal and become their first of 7 number one songs. Kent would go on to write many more number ones for other artists, too. Now the newest member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Kent Blazy is a platinum-selling hitmaker who takes the art of songwriting very seriously with a sharp focus on always being prepared. For a tutorial on becoming the kind of songwriter people want to write with, hit that download button. #kentblazy #garthbrooks #countrymusic #nashville

Lori McKenna -005

There’s always growth, there’s always somewhere to go to in music, a place you have not reached. Every time I’ve stuck my neck out musically, I’ve been rewarded. -Lori McKenna

In this episode, we sit down with two-time Grammy winning singer/songwriter Lori McKenna for a conversation about humble beginnings, persistence, and the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with local radio in order to fuel your country music success story. The mother of five from Stoughton, Massachusetts, whose career began in the mid-90’s in small clubs outside of Boston, Lori has used her incredible storytelling ability to write songs about real-life experiences. In this interview, she shares the songwriting stories behind her biggest hits including Girl Crush with Little Big Town, Humble and Kind for Tim McGraw, I’ll Always Remember You This Way for the soundtrack to A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and It All Comes Out In the Wash with Miranda Lambert. Music City Mentor Jacy Dawn Valeras gets great advice from Lori about being confident and able to sing your own songs when you pitch them to an artist or a publisher. If you are an aspiring singer/songwriter, consider this episode required listening!  #songwriting #countrymusic

Crystal Gayle -004

I’m proud that I’m still here in this business. It’s what I’ve loved to do. Success is in your mind. It’s only in your mind. -Crystal Gayle

This episode brings us to Music Row in Nashville and the offices of Gayle Enterprises for an interview with Crystal Gayle. Jacy has known the Grammy-winner since she was only 14 and you’ll hear that story in her Music City Mentor segment. As for me, I’ve played Crystal’s songs on the radio for decades and couldn’t wait to meet the woman whose long hair touches the floor. The little sister of Loretta Lynn, Crystal was advised to “go her own way” and create her own unique musical style. Signed to Decca Records at only 19, she was “very, very, very shy” and it took her a while to feel comfortable on stage. Her signature song: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue was recorded live in the studio on the first take and would receive airplay on Country, Top 40 and AC radio stations everywhere, skyrocketing Crystal’s career and earning her a Grammy. With 28 top 10 songs, 12 number 1 hits and a slew of awards, this is a singer whose music has stood the test of time. This episode includes Crystal’s very wise advice for up and coming singers: “be true to yourself and to remember to have fun because you are doing what you love.” #countrymusic
#crystalgayle #countrycrossover #dontitmakemybrowneyesblue #countrymusicicon #countrymusicroyalty

Jeannie Seely -003

There’s something very special about sitting on the back porch, overlooking the Cumberland River, listening to the cicadas and talking about country music! In this interview, we are at the home of Jeannie Seely, Grammy winner and 53- year member of the Grand Ole Opry. Make no mistake about it, this 80 year old trailblazer is going strong with a new album and a career that continues to unfold. Raised on a farm in Townsville, Pennsylvania, Jeannie remembers turning a chicken coop into a stage where she and her brother would perform. By the time she was 16, Jeannie knew that if she was going to succeed in country music, she had to move to Nashville. With 50 dollars to her name, she put the key in the ignition of her Ford Falcon and never looked back. Known throughout her career as an individualist, Jeannie opened doors that had been closed to women, including the very first hosting job on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Whether she was writing or singing #1 songs, Jeannie was and still is a powerhouse with a heart of gold. Her incredible longevity is a reflection of her work ethic. Says Jeannie: “until you’re ready to get out of the race, you’ve just gotta keep on runnin’.” #grandoleopry #countrymusic #countrymusicsuccessstories

Kelly Lang -002

Barry Gibb called me and says “Hey, Kell, I”m gonna be singing Islands in the Stream at Kenny Rogers Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Are you available to sing that song with me? And you know what I said? Hold on a second and let me check my schedule!” -Kelly Lang

The stars really lined up for this interview with Kelly Lang. A prolific songwriter, vocalist, producer and visual artist, Kelly grew up surrounded by country music. Her father was Velton Lang, Conway Twitty’s trusted road manager for 25 years. As we sat around Kelly’s kitchen table in Hendersonville, Tennessee, she shared the many stories of her career in country music. At only 15, she charted on Billboard with a hit called Lady, Lady and that song was quickly followed by a stellar performance in the finals on Star Search. The mother of two, Kelly is a breast cancer survivor who was mentored by her friend and fellow survivor, Olivia Newton-John. In this interview, Kelly shares her songwriting process saying “it’s a God thing” along with her belief that cover songs shouldn’t be altered too much. Now blissfully married to country music icon TG Sheppard, Kelly shares career highlights including what it was like to sing Islands In the Stream with Sir Barry Gibb. Time and experience have not aged this beautiful country music star, but they have made her stronger. Over the next 30 minutes, you’ll come to know a woman who values family and friends above all else: “The music industry is fleeting. Success for me is lifting other people up and elevating them.” For a tutorial on what success really means, hit that download button. #countrymusic #countrymusicsuccessstories

Naomi Judd -001

I’ve been through an alphabet of tragedies and trials and I’m still here. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it at all. But I just kept going like the little engine that could. I said to myself: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. –Naomi Judd

What does it take to become a country music success story? For Naomi Judd, it took the strength of a mother’s love and the determination of a champion to build a better life for her daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd. Recorded in September 2020 on Naomi’s 500 acre farm in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, this interview takes you through Naomi’s life, including the birth of Wynonna on her high school graduation night, a job as a receptionist for The Fifth Dimension in Los Angeles, and a mountaintop home in Kentucky where there was no heat, no phone and no TV. While she studied to be a nurse, the family lived on welfare and Naomi traded her prized buck knife to buy Wynonna her first guitar. It was on the porch of their rustic home that Naomi and Wynonna learned their first song together: The Sweetest Gift: A Mother’s Love. After receiving her nursing degree, Naomi moved the family to Nashville where she was an ICU nurse. Brent Mayer, the father of one of her patients accepted a homemade cassette tape of Naomi and Wynonna singing together. He was blown away by what he heard an arranged for a LIVE audition at RCA records. The Judds were signed to a record deal that would catapult them into country music history as the most commercially successful duo of the 1980’s with 25 singles, 14 number 1 songs, 8 CMA’s, 5 Grammy Awards, and 20 million + records sold. From Naomi’s songwriting technique to her determination to beat Hepatitis C, this interview is an essay in perseverance. Music City Mentor Jacy Dawn Valeras tops off this first episode with helpful tips on songwriting. For a deep dive into the soul of a country music icon, just hit that download button. #countrymusic #womeninmusic #nashville #musiccitymentor #countrymusicsuccessstories