Where do you find the ideas and inspirations when writing songs?

Marcel (Chagnon): Mostly real life situations.  I write from my heart..  Sometimes it hurts to dig in but someone has to.

Tommy Emmanuel:  They come upon you.  A songwriter waits patiently for inspiration and it comes, but it takes some time.  Sometimes it can be 3 months before you get a good idea.  I'm usually very much inspired by people I meet and their stories and the feeling I get from being with them.  Sometimes if I'm in the most unusual place or a place that gives me a lot of feelings, a lot of joy, I end up writing from that experience.

Julie Roberts: When co-writing, we usually begin our writing session by talking about our own lives and many times ideas come from those conversations.  If an idea doesn't come about from just talking amongst ourselves, then someone will offer an idea they've been working on themselves.

Jeff Carson:  They can come from anywhere.  I do a lot of hunting (or I'd like to do more than I actually do) but I love to crawl up the deer stand in deer season.  When it's so quiet & your minds kind of free to think a little -- that's where I get a lot of ideas.  Other times you've got to make yourself write. Go in and set a date with another songwriter and sit down & just write. Just go through a list of song ideas you've written down.  Some of them can come from anything.

Steve Azar: They can come from any conversation I may have with somebody or from people I meet who go through a little bit of a crisis in their life.   I came from the Mississippi Delta where the blues always make you feel good about your pain.  For some reason, I just inherited that thing about writing- where I find something kind of wrong.

Rodney Atkins: Everywhere.  I might get one from this conversation.  I read.  I'm an avid reader.  I read lots and lots of stuff.  Different types of books.  Sometimes even when watching movies.  I just try to listen in on conversations with people.

John Arthur Martinez: Those are everywhere.  We find them everywhere.  They're basically growing on trees.  They're floating in the air.  They're the throwaway comments that a friend will say that spark an idea.  They're lines in books.  They're words from the big screen.  They're just everywhere.

What kind of songs do you look for (or write) when preparing to record albums?

Chris (Abby) Abbondanza (PovertyNeck Hillbillies): I basically do a majority of the writing.  I really just try to write anything that will help to capture my true voice and feelings.

Julie Roberts:  Songs that I can relate to and that mean something to me.

Rodney Atkins: When we were looking for songs for this album, we wanted songs that I could really feel connected to.  You get a good idea but it takes you somewhere that maybe you can't relate to.-- We tried to find songs that were representative of me.

Tracy Lawrence: I look for things that I have some sort of personal connection to.  I look for things that I think have the same slow burn factor.  I look for things that have some sort of life meaning to them.

Jeff Carson:  Songs that I like for whatever reason.  If it's a ballad, partically, I'll look for the message in it.  A song that people can relate to.  That's a big plus in my book.  Sing a song about something that has happened to them in one way or another.  That's what I look for in a ballad.

Marcel (Chagnon): All the songs I recorded had the same vibe to them.  We had a lot of songs to choose from to create YOU, ME AND THE WINDSHIELD.  I already have enough material for another album some time in the future.

What is your favorite song that you've written and why?

Rhean Boyer (Carolina Rain): Gosh, favorite song I've ever written.  You stumped me..  I've written probably over 500 songs.  Gosh, you know, I'd have to say there's a song called "I Still Do" that I wrote with a girlfriend of mine from Cincinnati named Mindy Shaw.  I've been with my wife for 16 years now and we're closer than we've ever been.

Abby (PovertyNeck Hillbillies):  My favorite would have to be a new song that I wrote with John Colgin, Gary Duffy and Bob Corbin.  It will be on a future project.  Its called "Promiseland" and its about me growing up and becoming a man.

Sabrina (NHW Songwriter's Tour):  Like a lot of songwriters, many times my favorite song is the last one I wrote; but if I had to choose one overall it would have to be "Fallen Angel."  I wrote this song to help myself deal with the death of a co-worker and friend.  Because of all of things surrounding this tragic event, I had a heart revelation that life is short and that I needed to share what I had been given musically.

Marcel (Chagnon): The last one I wrote..hahahaha that's a joke that all songwriters make.  It's always the one you finish last that's the best one because it's so fresh..  But in this case..the last two songs I have written are topping my favs.  They are so directly about me and personal - it's scary..I get emotional listening to them myself.

Julie Roberts:  I've written lots of songs about my life.  I have one song that is not about my life that I love.  It's called "Outta Santa Fe".  It's not a deep song.  It's just fun, and that's why I love it!

Steve Azar:  The most important song I've ever wrote was "Waitin' on Joe."  I've been writing songs since I was eleven or twelve and a lot of them were preparation for songs like "Waitin' on Joe."  For this record, it was the most important song because I really feel like it helped me land my record deal as well as get me focused. It gave my album a focus.  From the cover, to inside. Everything written inside that I wrote brought me home to the Mississippi Delta which is another huge influence on my songs. 

John Arthur Martinez:  Would you ask a mother what her favorite child was?  (laugh) Boy, that's tough.  Could you imagine (like in my grandmother's days when they had 11 or 12 kids), telling her to pick which one was her favorite?  It'd be tough.  I will tell you that there are a few that are really dear to me that I've felt where directly gifts.  They're all gifts from above but there was one called "The Man Who Holds the Bow," that is the first song on my new album, "Lone Starry Night."

Rodney Atkins:  That's really hard.  I feel really close to a lot of the songs.  It would probably have to be the song I wrote for my parents, My Old Man.  It was just a really really personal song.  There's a song called "Someone To Share It With" that is also a real personal song.  It's how my wife and I surived my first year of marriage.

What is your favorite song to perform live?

Rhean Boyer (Carolina Rain):   I do. It's a song called - "Let's Get It On."  I wrote it after a show in Kansas City.  Kansas City was one of the cities that played us more than anyone in the country when our first single came out.  We went out there and we were like a Top 5 act so when we came out, the crowd just went wild.

Tommy Emmanuel:  I love playing all songs and I like all styles of music.  I think probably - It's a song I wrote in Africa called "Mombasa" where I get to play like a drum and percussion solo on my guitar.  That's so much fun.  It really turns the audience on.

Chris (PovertyNeck Hillbillies):  Really we created all the songs as a band (even the covers).  They are all our songs.  So each is special in its own way.  I can really say that I like them all.  I am a big harmony guy so anything with thick harmony catches my eye.

Marcel (Chagnon):  Tennessee- it's another song that hit's home pretty hard.  I'm all about feeling emotions.

Brad Mates (Emerson Drive):  My favorite song to perform live is a song on the new album- "Waitin' On Me."  We've opened with it every night on Shania's tour.  It's just one of those songs.  If you listen to it once, you know the words to it already. People seem to really catch on to it and sing along by the time the second chorus comes around.

What is your favorite song on your new album?

Rhean Boyer (Carolina Rain):  I think there's a song on there called "Sweet Virginia Kiss."  I grew up in Virginia Beach, close to the ocean.  I surfed a lot.  I played in a lot of bands down there.  I spent a good portion of my childhood there.  The past is most certainly inspiration for songwriting to me.  That's a special one that's just personal to me. 

Tommy Emmanuel: Lewis & Clark.  I think it's one of the best melodies I've written. 

Abby (PovertyNeck Hillbillies): "The Hillbilly Way."  I really think it sums up and makes a statement about our band.

Tracy Lawrence: My personal favorite is a song called "Bobby Darwin's Daughter"  I like it because it kind of deals with losing faith and finding faith again.  I think that's something everybody has to deal with from time to time in life.  As life kind of twists you around, you go through things emotionally with your family.

Marcel (Chagnon):  I think my favorite song on my record is "Annie Divine."  It just makes me feel good when I hear it.

John Arthur Martinez:  That's a tough one too.  I would have to say that I feel like I delivered my best vocal performance in "Home Made Of Stone" on this album.  As far as the songwriting is concerned, I think "The Man Who Holds The Bow" or "Lone

What is your favorite song that you have recorded of all time?

Tracy Lawrence:  Overall, I have to say "Time Marches On."  I thought the life message was great.  It said a lot in three minutes.  It was one of those rare things you find. I pretty much knew from the first time I heard it that it was really going to be a big record. 

Song Spotlight

Tommy Emmanuel:  "Walls" - We fell in love with that song last year when we were touring in Australia.  My manager Gina had got a copy of an album by one of the composers, Pam Rose.  And, I've known Pam for awhile as a writer and a singer.   Anyway, we got her album and we just fell in love with that song.  We loved the message of it.  And, I said to her one day "Why don't we try it as a duet?" And it just came about that it worked perfectly for us.

Dave (PovertyNeck Hillbillies): "One Night In New Orleans"  - We saw Blackhawk perform it live one night at an outdoor show.  We instantly fell in love with the song.

James Casto (NHW Songwriter's Tour):  "Good Day To Get Lost" - Sabrina, also on the NHW Tour, was at my house in Atlanta and was about to head back to Nashville.  She was worried about getting lost.  It was a beautiful day outside and I told her, "well at least it's a good day to get lost."  I immediately thought that I had a cool hook...

Joe West (NHW Songwriter's Tour):  "Where I Belong" - I was just away from my family a lot and wanted to communicate for them and myself where my heart really was. It came pretty naturally.

JP Williams (NHW Songwriter's Tour): "Everyday Beautiful" - Being blind, people have asked me - "how does the woman you're with know that you think she's beautiful?"  The song was an effort to display how I express my feelings for that person.

Julie Roberts: "Rain on a Tin Roof" - I heard "Rain on a Tin Roof" at a writers' night way before I had a record deal.  When I got my record deal, I remembered it and found out that no one had recorded it yet.  I decided to record it.

Rodney Atkins: "I will Come To You" -  That song I wrote with a fellow named, Bruce Gaitsch and my co-producer.  His name is Ted Hewitt.  We got together and I had just this idea.  Basically the chorus of the song.  I told them what it was, and Bruce started playing the melody and it all kind of fit together.  I really love the way that the song moved and what it said.

Rodney Atkins: "Honesty (Write Me A List)" - Well, I kind of call this song, career-wise, it's just a kiss from God.  It's a blessing.  Artists search and search for songs that will connect for a new artist because the familiarity is so low.  People don't know what you look like.  It's just so unbelievable to find a song that people are relating to.

Rodney Atkins:  "You're Too Good To Me" (A possible future song about Atkins son, Elijah) - I wrote a song called "You're Too Good To Me."  It's basically saying it's a prayer.  I keep standing in his doorway after I put him to bed.  I just stand there and look at him.  Watching him breathe while he's sleeping.  I wrote that song and I started writing a song..  I guess, we had been home two weeks with him from the hospital and I wrote a verse.  And then,  I had no where to go.  Then on his first birthday, I wrote another verse.

John Arthur Martinez: "Amarillo by Morning" - I had already been performing that song for quite some time before Nashville Star.  I used this song to audition for Nashville Star.  We had to do an acapella song in the local competitions.  And, that was a song that was part of that audition.  Prior to Nashville Star, I had played it at some events where radio people were involved. 

Tracy Lawrence: "Stones" - that's the kind of song that I really -in my heart- came to Nashville to record.  I had a lot of success with things that deal with life scenerios including "If my world had a front porch" and "Time Marches On" .. I put "Stones" in that same category.  That to me, is what country is about.
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