What it’s Like to be a New Songwriter in Nashville

The day after my last final exam of the 2015 spring semester, I loaded up my car with my suitcases, guitars, random dormitory decorations, and made the sixteen-hour drive to Nashville, Tennessee. I have always wanted to live in Nashville and after I got a part-time internship for Toby Keith’s manager, I was able to convince my parents to let me move there for the summer. My naïve intention was to leave Nashville in August with a handful of hit songs in my back pocket.

11351395_10205190573347495_3932612438806027592_nI don’t think any Nashville newcomer has had a better first couple days than I did. On my second day, I met with John Marks, the highly regarded radio programmer for the Sirius XM station, The Highway. He agreed to put my single, “Damn Good Time” on the air! From that meeting, we walked into the building next door and met with John Huie, the head of the largest booking agency in the country, Creative Artists Agency. It was a great introduction and he agreed to keep an eye on my progress in Nashville and invited me to a big CAA event. I also had a meeting with Mike Dungan, the head of Universal Music Group Nashville, who also said he’d keep an eye on my progress. The next day, I recorded the vocals for “Damn Good Time” with the famous Nashville producer, Chuck Ainlay, who had just received a Grammy for his work on Miranda Lambert’s Platinum.

After my honeymoon week in Nashville, I quickly realized that success wasn’t going to fall in my lap. Reality had sunk in. I was a nineteen-year-old in a big city full of talented songwriters who, like me, were chasing after the same dream. It wasn’t until I joined the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International when I made my first big step. I brought my guitar into the back room of the building and played my songs for the new artist representative. She immediately fell in love with my music and began reaching out to other talented songwriters to connect me with. That night I went to NSAI’s pitch to a publisher event where I was able to meet many other Nashville newbies. I showed up to NSAI on time, which was a huge mistake. The line was out the door and I was stuck in the back next to a few old-timers who were still trying to get their big break on music row. I asked one of them where he got his boots and he jokingly responded, “Hey son that’s a good song idea.” A few weeks later, I co-wrote one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written, “Where’d You Get Those Boots?”

As time passed, I started playing at better-known songwriting venues, such as The Listening Room, and I started writing with better writers who had publishing deals like my friend, Morgan Dawson.


My first month in Nashville was very intimidating. The lows were very low and the highs were really high. My confidence quickly grew and I was able to find a unique sound. Songwriters assumed I was a lot older and were astonished when I told them I was nineteen. When August rolled around, I had made so much progress that people close to me in the industry told me to stick around. Although I didn’t want to leave, I was ready to come back to Austin with the songwriting tools I had acquired in Nashville. As I drove out of town, I had pocketful of new songs I’m still crazy about and I knew that that wasn’t the last Nashville would see of me.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Reflection

12 Responses to What it’s Like to be a New Songwriter in Nashville

  1. Caitie Labay

    Congratulations on all of the progress you made in Nashville this summer; it sounds like you got many great opportunities that most newbies could only dream of. It’s always fun to hear about other people’s successes in the industry because it proves that the dream really is possible! I liked how you talked about all the connections you made because I think networking is a very important tool that is often overlooked. This summer I had the opportunity to be exposed to big shots in my field of choice (pharmacology). I went into the program thinking I would just be a lab grunt, but through the people I met I was able to become an author on a paper and I am going to present my research at a national conference in California this spring. I wish you the best in your endeavors, and remember to never lose touch with those people you met this summer; you’d be amazed just how much people want to help those with a dream!

  2. Ginny Montalbano

    Tyler, it sounds like you had an amazing experience in Nashville! I really enjoyed reading about the different steps you went through and the various organizations and individuals you encountered. My dad got to know Dean Dillon this summer and it was really interesting to hear about Nashville and the songwriting process. I enjoyed your story about the inspiration behind “Where’d You Get Those Boots?” I was back home this weekend and as I was reading this I showed my sisters, who love country music just as much as I do. Later on that night I heard them listening to “Damn Good Time” – they loved it! Good luck with everything!

  3. Kelby Floerke

    Wait Tyler, that is so cool! I envy people who go out and chase just big dreams! I think that is so cool. I also saw on another post you posted awhile back that you went to the Chris Stapleton concert in New Braunfels! I was there, New Braunfels is my hometown. I had honestly never heard of him before I went to the concert, but a friend forced me to go. Now he is winning all these awards, that’s awesome! I really enjoy his music, I have even gotten my parents hooked on him. Anyhow- congratulations on all your accomplishments, that is SO cool!

  4. Lauren Harris

    I think it so awesome that you were so successful in Nashville in such a short time! You moved out there just for a summer and came back so accomplished. I think people always go out there with high hopes and usually they get crushed, but you managed to put yourself out there. I have listened to your song “Damn Good Time” and I loved it! I also saw you got featured on iTunes so I think you will do great things in the music industry. It is cool how you still manage to stay in school while pursuing your dream. This is a good class to be taking because you are learning a lot about your future career, although you probably already know a great deal about country music. Congrats on everything and keep up the good work!

  5. Adam Keyrouze

    This was awesome to read and I can only imagine how it felt as this was all happening before your eyes in such a short time! Not many people can say that they have already had a pretty good glimpse into their possible future at nineteen years old while they continue to pursue their education in college! For that, I am very jealous! It sounds like not only did you enjoy it but it also was a huge learning experience which you can build on to continue to pursue your dream! I wish you the best of luck and based on this article, I believe you will have no problem accomplishing your goals!

  6. Claudia Boyd

    You have such a cool story! I can’t even imagine what it was like being a new artist in such a big pond such as Nashville. I also have a great deal of respect for you just going out to follow your dreams, not knowing what is ahead of you. I listened to your song on Spotify and I loved it! You have such a classic country voice and I believe you will continue on to great success in the future. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us, it is not one that many can compare to.

  7. Katerina Biancardi

    Wow! Such a neat story. One of UT’s own has already made such success by taking a leap of faith to be one step closer to their dreams. I admire that, and hope others do the same regardless of what their career field may be. I am fan of the show “Nashville,” while it is seen as cliche and a bit dramatic (what girl doesn’t love a great drama show!?), your story is insightful to what actually the reality of being in the country music business is, and what the process is like in order to pursue your dreams. So thank you for sharing your story! Prayers and blessings.

  8. Cassidy Wilson

    I really enjoyed reading this story about your journey as a songwriter. Now a year later, I am curious to see how you have progressed from that point, which I can only imagine is a lot! Many people say it is not about what you know anymore but who you know and your experience in Nashville seems to showcase just that. Those are amazing connections to have in the future! You have a great voice and are so talented! As a fellow Longhorn, I can’t wait to watch your progress in the country music industry. I wish you the best of luck!

  9. Lee Allen

    That’s so cool that you got to live in Nashville over the summer! To be there, and be outgoing enough to gain such respect by fellow musicians and producers, it truly says something about your passion. I have actually heard your song “Damn Good Time,” and can certainly say that you’re on the right track. It’s nearly inspiring to see how driven you are to take your summer and spend it focusing on one passion. Of course we all know how tough it is to make it in any entertainment business, especially music, but according to this post, you seem like you have the tools to figure it out. Best of luck to you in the industry, and I know damn well that if anyone can make it out in Nashville, it seems like it’ll be you.

  10. Tyler,
    This was a very interesting article and goes to show young musicians can have early success if they have the talent and determination to do so. I find it very interesting how you were able to meet so many powerful people your first week in Nashville. It sounds like you are good at identifying who you need to get in contact with to grow as a musician and learned a lot from the people who have been in your shoes before. I think it is very interesting how creative minds like yourself can make a song out of a brief conversation like the song “Where’d You Get Those Boots”. I look forward to hearing your music and wish you continued success.

  11. Timothy Harakal

    Tyler, thanks for the honest and inspiring read. Your story reminded me of the truth of an age old cliche: hard work truly does pay off. But that’s not all. You understand that in order for you to have any shot at being where you want to be, you have to put yourself out there. And that’s just what you did. You played, and played, and played – any venue that would have you. That kind of drive and willingness to perform for whoever, whenever takes guts. I know. I put out some recordings several years ago and still feel that raging uneasiness in my stomach when people hear my music, expecting them to point out this flaw or that one. So props to you, man! Continue to hone your craft, defend your sound, and be bold enough to take the risk and put yourself and your music out there.

  12. Erin McWilliams

    Tyler, interestingly enough I have heard your song “damn good time.” It’s a great feel-good song! Reminds me of summer. I am happy to know all of the hard work that has gone behind your work. I know so many people that are trying to make it in Nashville; most of them have chosen to go to school there to expand the amount of time they have. It is so interesting to hear about your summer to get to understand the background work it takes to get to where they (and you) are. P.S. Thank you for all the free shows you have given me and my roommates over the past 6 months, even when they are unwelcome! <3 Apt. 516

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