Songwriting with Singer-Songwriter Johnny and Heidi – E113

Matthew Campbell of My Wedding Songs and Singer-Songwriter Duo Johnny and Heidi chat about what it’s like being a singer-songwriter and trying to be successful. We also talk about writing love songs!

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Show Notes:

  • How Started In The Music Industry
  • Compare Yourselves to Famous Couples
  • Describe Your Music Style
  • Writing Songs for CreatiVets
  • Writing Love Songs with Wedding Theme
  • Process of Writing a Song
  • Writing Custom Wedding Songs
  • Writing Songs For Vets
  • Writing Custom Song for Grandparents
  • Producing Custom Wedding Songs
  • Great Love Song Ingredients
  • Move/Films Debunked
  • Promoting & Ownership of Songs
  • J+H Content Creators
  • Upcoming Projects
  • Connect with Johnny and Heidi

Welcome everybody to the Wedding Songs Podcast. I am Matt Campbell today. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to write a love song or maybe you are an aspiring artist? Well, today I have the duo, Johnny and Heidi joining me. Welcome to the show. Thank you very much for being on the show.

How Started In The Music Industry

Just to give everybody a little bit of background, can you tell everybody a little bit about yourselves and how you got started in the music industry? You want me to go for it, honey? Okay. I grew up in Orlando, Florida, the happiest place on earth.

We had Disney World right down the street. And, I think because of that, I got to be around every kind of person they make on this planet, Kind of gave me a good perspective on that. And, I loved growing up in central Florida. I had a lot of really cool stuff you can do down here outside of the theme parks for sure.

But, being in Orlando wasn’t necessarily like a country kind of a place, but in north Florida, where my family’s from, I had that kind of woods life, that more rural kind of country life. And I just, I loved it. So, I ended up, in high school, I started playing guitar and started writing songs when I was about 14 ish.

Then I won a singing competition when I was in college. And, you know, I’d been touring with my band for a long time while I was going to school and I won a competition called the Colgate Country Showdown, which brought me to Nashville. I’d already kind of been up there writing with a few people, but when I won that competition, that was when it was time to.

Look at school and see if I was going to finish college or not. And Warner Brothers wound up signing me to a writing deal. And, I left UCF with a few credit hours left to finish. Don’t tell anyone that, but, no, obviously everyone just heard. But, but yeah, that was, that was my big, like, didn’t finish school, went on to do music thing like typical musicians do.

Right. While I was up there, I became friends with a lot of great artists like Chris Young and Lee Brice and Dan and Shay and a lot of the people in my, as we call it, our class up there, and, had a couple of hits on the radio as a songwriter and, somewhere, In all that, I met this one in a Writer’s Round.

Yeah. Yeah. In Kentucky. In Kentucky. That’s right. A Writer’s Round we still play to this day. Every year. You know, we make sure we get out there to Henderson, Kentucky. My story is a little different. I grew up in a very, very tiny town called Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada. I started singing my first solo.

I was three years old and, I did it in church. And then another church was like, Oh, well, she should come sing at our church. And then. The community production was like, Oh, she should come do this. So, I started at a very young age. just knew that I wanted to sing, but I was later to the songwriting thing.

I didn’t start writing songs till, I was about 14, 15, maybe, 16, even just started to dabble in it. I was fine singing other people’s songs as a kid, you know, and, and doing. A lot of music theater and acting and stuff like that. So when I was a teenager I knew that I wanted to take it more seriously, like this could be a career kind of thing and not just a hobby.

that’s when I decided that, I needed to start writing my own music. And I always knew I wanted to do country music cause I was. That was the only kind of music I, you know, outside of like show tunes for acting, everything was just country radio and George Strait records and Reba McEntire records and that was pretty much it.

So I was just, I’m, country music runs in my blood. It’s in my veins. My parents said, you know, you can go to Nashville and you can be a singer, but you have to get a degree first. So, I went to college and I became a registered nurse. And then the day I found out I passed my boards, my parents said, Okay!

Have fun! And I packed up the car. And that day I moved to Nashville. So, I didn’t clock one hour as a nurse. Not a single hour. And, Yeah, moved to Nashville. We actually moved there the same, like, even within the same month. We both moved there, in 2010. it just took us a few years to find each other, you know.

It took us way too long to find each other. Way too long. But, yeah, that was the Yeah, that was kind of our road to Nashville story. So we kind of come from two really opposite ends of the continent. And, That’s where we differed too I did have a little bit of pop and rock influence coming up and Heidi was through and through country.

We both sing in church. Yeah. Gospel is the backbone. And then, yeah, he leaned pop and rock and I leaned country. Well, I, and I was the school of Garth. Right, right. Pop and Rock did a lot of that stuff and you were more of a George Strait so I have to ask then, when you guys get in an argument, Heidi, you can always say, well, you know, I’m the one who has the degree.

I’m smarter than you. Oh, that’s right. That’s right. Hey, I graduated. That is right. Thank you, Matt. I’m going to wait for her to start using that one. So how small of a city then? About 10,000, like a one high school kind of town. Yeah. So I’m, I’m originally from Montana and there’s 30,000. Okay. In my hometown.

I know what you’re saying. Yes. In those small towns. Yeah. It’s like a mobile DJ, it was, it was rock. It was country and it was top 40. Yeah. I was good. Those are the days when rock had a channel and you know what I mean? I think that radio has changed quite a bit since then. For sure.

Compare Yourselves to Famous Couples

Many country couples are famous. Johnny and June, Tim and Faith, Blake and Gwen. Are there any couples that you guys look up to? Yeah, it wouldn’t necessarily be in the artist. I’m a big Garth fan and she’s, and she loves Tricia. So, I mean, we look up to them, but as far as the way I would look up to a couple, it would be their relationship.

And it’s kind of hard to know what their relationships are like. but we know a lot of great songwriters that we love their relationship like Jason Matthews and his wife Debbie are very, very much, supportive and loving to each other, which they’re a team. I think teamwork is they’re never going to leave each other kind of thing and everything together.

We do everything like we are literally together 24/7. We work together, which in our job is a 24-7 job. You know, you get emails at 2 a. m. and you get meetings at 8 a. m. It’s just you’re always on the clock kind of thing. And so we are literally side by side, every minute of every day. So you have to be a good, good team.

And so I think teamwork is important. You know, you might find out that some of them, and I won’t name any names or anything, cause I don’t really have any in my head, but when you find out that like some couples don’t even have the same bus when they’re on tour or something like that. I just couldn’t imagine that Heidi and I, this duo was formed out of the fact that we realized we didn’t want to be away from each other and, and we realized that when we realized that our parents were both that way, they never can get enough of each other, I guess is kind of the thing and I know that’s not how everybody’s relationship is.

Some people like being independent and having their own stuff, but, But yeah, we are pretty, pretty lucky in that department, pretty lucky in the fact that I don’t really need a whole lot of friends because I got, you know, my best one is here working with me all the time and yeah, I will, I like having friends, but But I don’t need it as much, you know.

I will say, this just popped into my head. Chris Stapleton and his wife, I think, would be a great example of that, the artist that is a good team in their love story. They work together, they sing together, perform. He’s told a cute story about how he’s like, I need her on stage with me.

You know, it’s people, everyone knows Chris Stapleton, but people don’t realize that’s his wife. Often that singing harmonies beside him and he said in an interview that he was having panic attacks and things like that and he’s like, I need her by my side. She’s my support on stage.

And I thought that was really special that they get to do that together and they didn’t support each other and help each other and they get to have a great career together that he might not have otherwise if she wasn’t able to do that for him, perhaps. Yeah, it’s the best getting to work together like that. And I think probably, just to stereotype a little bit, I think the couples that you don’t hear about are the successful ones you talked a little bit about.

Describe Your Music Style

How would you describe your music style? Singer-songwriter, I would say. Yeah, Heidi probably paints herself into a box more than she should with the country thing because she has incredible pop and rock sensibilities and a great understanding of all genres and I lean on her a lot. Even in genres, I would say that I excel in, I would still lean on her because she’s just overall great musically.

But yeah, singer-songwriter, whatever we often do with a lot of our rights, it’s kind of whatever song needs to be written that day is the one that we write, you know? And I think that’s a singer-songwriter trait where we don’t put ourselves in one genre. We write the song and we can leave a lot of that up to production.

Writing Songs for CreatiVets

Because, and I know that we’re going to get to the custom songwriting talk in a bit, but before we get to that, we do a lot of writing with, I’d say half of the writing that we do is, we volunteer to write with, veterans through a program called CreatiVets. That’s where we help write their story.

Wounded combat veterans, whatever they’ve gone through, whatever they want to write about. A lot of them hate country music. They’re like, Nah, I don’t want to write a country song, you know. But we’re just the songwriters. So, that’s fine. Do you hate country music? That’s fine. Lots of people do.

And so we’re just in the room to write the song and write their story. And we can shape that in production after. Do you want it to have a rock undertow? Perfect. Tell the producer, to lean this way. But, that allows us to be very chameleonish if we You know, as the chameleonish, you know, if we’re, we’re the songwriter and so we’re writing the story.

I think exactly what you’re saying and how it connects with the finished product. You could write a song, it’s your story, but then John Legend could take it in one direction or One Direction could take it in one direction. You know, it just depends on how those artists can just take that song and make it their own and you’re just giving them that inspiration.

Well, it’s. It’s been proven a bunch of times. I will always love you. Right. Look at Dolly Parton versus Whitney Houston. You couldn’t have two more separate styles of music and They each made it the biggest song in their genre. Right. So, and it’s just a good song, and it could be produced this way, it could be produced this way.

You got Travis Tritt with Take It Easy, he did a great cover. Oh yeah, oh I love his cover of Take It Easy. Clint Black did Desperados in a great way, and then more recently, you know, you’ve got songs like Fast Car with Luke Combs where, you know, you sit there and you think your whole life, well that’s a pop song, Tracy Chapman.

And then. You hear it produced with a steel guitar or whatever they put on it to make it country. And you’re like, Oh yeah. All these songs, you can even pick some of the boy band stuff. Alabama did an NSYNC song. Oh, that’s right. God must have spent a little more time on you and did a great job with it.

It’s all melodies and lyrics outside of like EDM-type music, if it can be performed acoustically, then it can be produced. I think, in almost any direction you want. Let’s get a little bit more about you guys.

Writing Love Songs with Wedding Theme

I’m going to put you on a pedestal a little bit because you’ve written several awesome wedding songs, like my favorite, Never Not Loving You Time With You, and I Don’t Know Any Better. Do you think about the songs being played at weddings when writing the songs or producing the songs? Well, two of those were custom writes, so, Never Not Loving You, we wrote with someone who was, surprising their wife on their 20th anniversary.

So that was very much their story. and then Time With You, we wrote with a female veteran, and her fiancé for their first dance, so that is their story. And then I Don’t Know Any Better is our story! And then you take it from there. Well, I Don’t Know Any Better was an accident we were just trying to write a normal good song that day song and I did that I don’t know any better and then she Answered it and harmony together and that song wanted to be a do it It became a duet after we wrote the chorus But yeah, when you write a song a lot of songwriters a cool exercise to do While you’re writing it to make sure that it makes sense and that it feels right is to kind of write the music video while you’re doing it.

And oftentimes, especially with like, I don’t know any better in time with you. There was a point where we were like, this is a first dance song. Like there is a point songwriters have that mode where they go, Oh, this is a wedding thing, or this is a, whatever part of a wedding.

So then you start thinking about the song in terms of. What wouldn’t you want to be said at a wedding so like, for instance, a good For instance, for a wedding song, in a lot of love songs, you might have mentioned the past? You might have an ex like an, like a hurt or negative. And some people want that at their wedding.

They don’t mind the whole God bless the broken road approach. But even that song doesn’t really talk about it very much. Cause who wants on their wedding day to hear. And then those girls I dated, you know, they don’t want that brought up during the first dance, or the guy you left, it’s just not something they want to be discussed.

So, you put things like that, you keep things like that in mind to make sure nothing’s off-putting for a wedding day kind of, yeah. So Switch gears, but yeah planning out. Oh, when she walks down the aisle Or this is what would be a great time when the doors open and then the band can kick in So yeah We kind of keep all those things in mind as we’re going and one of my favorites is then you realize Some people aren’t paying attention to the lyrics anyway because every now and then you’ll get as someone asks for a wedding They’ll go can you sing as I will always love you and I’m like I don’t know if you want that anyway.

It’s a, it’s a breakup song. It’s the saddest song ever. They’re like, it’s my favorite love song. I’m like, but you probably run into that Matt where you realize that people aren’t actually considering the lyrics all the time. It’s surprising. It’s happening more and more actually, past episodes, maybe three or four ago. We were talking about how it’s a great upbeat song or baby. Yeah, but it’s a breakup song.

Yeah, everyone on Or, I do it at our cover gig sometimes, I’ll do that song, Follow Me, which is just a whole song about a musician trying to get a girl to cheat on her husband with him. But it’s follow me, everything’s alright, I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night. I don’t care about that ring you wear.

Yeah, I don’t care about that ring you wear, because as long as no one knows, then nobody can care. Yeah, it’s just a nice, upbeat, like, fun song about cheating. It’s not obvious. Like all my exes live in Texas.

Process of Writing a Song

Can you walk us through the process then for writing a song? Never the same. Yep. I don’t think we’ve ever, I mean, they’re like fingerprint prints, songwriting is, and, there’s this initial hang, depending on how well, your co-writers, if it’s a first time, Like Heidi and I don’t have to do the catch up on each other, get to know each other thing, obviously. So we can get right into writing, but in a normal Nashville, co-write, you have this little dance you do at the beginning where you’re kind of getting to know each other, trying to see where.

Your instincts and your talents kind of overlap with the other person, and then see where the song comes from. Oftentimes people will come in with tons of hooks and ideas ready to go, whether it’s a half chorus or just a general idea or a hook in, when I say hook in country music, that usually means like the last line of the song or the title of the song.

Cause we tend to write songs in that way. A hook for a pop person, like from LA is Typically the whole chorus or whatever the big overall hook is the production hook for the song when we say hook we typically mean it as a lyric a specific line, or lyric The turn at the end of the chorus the turn at the end of the chorus Yeah, the thing that well, I will always love you is the hook for For I will always love you.

But, just like, I don’t know any better is the hook for that. As far as the way it starts, we either, if we have nothing to go off of like no one has a hook ready to go and we’re just kind of feeling it out. It’s literally that we will sit there and chat and talk, get to know each other, and then someone eventually, like songwriters has a thing.

If they’re true songwriters, they accidentally speak in lyrics a lot of the time. And hopefully, someone in the room is listening and goes. Wait, what did you just say? That was cool. That’s the thing is, sometimes we don’t realize we’ve done it. I’ll say something and Heidi will go, Oh, that’s really cool.

Write that down. And I’m like, oh. I’ve heard it said like that before. And vice versa. We’ll help each other in that way. So that’s if no one has an idea. It’s rare, we’re trained as staff songwriters, we’re, it’s kind of like a no-no, you kind of don’t want to get into the writer’s room and not bring anything to it, it’s kind of like, But if you’ve written 600 songs that year, and you’re just kinda, but especially like, when we’re coaching, like, we do a lot of like, mentorship and stuff, so if we’re teaching like, up and coming writers, we’re always like, never go into the room empty-handed, have 10 ideas, Have them thought out, have a hook, have an idea of where you’re going, cause it’s, it, you know, when you get into the writer’s room you don’t want to go, well, I’m here to work, but I, I don’t know, I don’t, I don’t have anything, what do you have?

I have nothing. And you’re like, oh no, well, we’re gonna have to dig. So, it’s always a good idea to kind of go in a semi-prepared kind of thing.

Writing Custom Wedding Songs

But if we’re talking like the custom writing thing that Johnny and I do where we write, wedding songs and things like that, we’re interviewing, Matt Campbell, and Matt Campbell, you want a song, for your bride to walk down the aisle to, tell us about her, what does she look like, what do you love about her, how did you meet, tell us your love story, what are some of her quirks, and then we get really specific, because this has to be, None of this is cookie cutter or recycled.

This is all brand new, original, your story. So then we’ll go, we don’t want to say, oh, your green eyes shine if she has brown eyes. So we need to know things like that. when it comes to weddings, family is often a big part of it. Do you call your dad, dad, daddy, father?

Do you call your mom, mama? Mom, mother, you know, ’cause we don’t want to go, Hey mama. And then they hear it and they go, I would never call my mom, mama. And we’re like, Oh, well it’s too late. We can’t say, mother. Cause it, rhymes. So we know what kind of specific things matter for that song.

We also know what we just under toast to, like can we say, Oh, I thank God for you. Some people want that. Some people don’t, we don’t want to write that if you don’t want that. So we ask all kinds of questions to make sure that. It’s, what we want, right? Because we know what our natural things are we naturally want to, right?

Because you’re gonna call mama. I call my mama, mama, right? So I, I’m gonna put Mama in the song often we’ll in language use terms, like, and then God sent her down. Yeah. Because we are Christian, but not everybody we work with is so we just want to make sure it fits them and it’s true to their story because I want people to listen to this song for the rest of their lives.

They’re going to make a wedding montage and they’re going to put it on YouTube with a slideshow of their photos and they’re going to share that with their friends. And I want that song to make them cry every time I hear it because they go, Oh, that’s my story. You know? Well, and it’s the cool thing is Heidi and I.

We’ve used songwriting as our own therapy forever. And have you ever looked through a photo album and those pictures hit you nearly as hard as listening to a song you wrote during a certain time? Like, you almost see the moments more vividly through the song than you do actually looking at them in the picture.

That’s so true. It’s weird, but yeah. That could be a great song. Yeah. Powerful, you know, it really is. I’m so glad you brought up about the custom songs, because just working with professional songwriters, I think that it brings it to a different level that isn’t out there or available.

Writing Songs For Vets

And I love that you offer that service working with the vets, like you said, creating songs for them as well. Can you just talk a little bit more about that? Writing with the veterans has been the best thing I’ve got to do in my career. It’s, it’s been life-changing really. It’s, it’s more than just a career game-changer.

It’s been a life changer. We’ve been given a skill, Johnny and I, and that is, to write songs and to perform them, to sing. And sometimes you struggle, you go, well, what do I do with this talent or this skill? How do I use it? And the music industry is very heartbreaking and ruthless and awful.

A lot of the time, you know, it can be, I want to get a normal job. It makes you kind of want to wish you would have got a nine to five and use that nursing degree. but at the end of the day, I’m so happy that we do push through and persevere because it is worth it.

A lot of the time we’ve seen a lot of beautiful things come of it. Like writing with veterans, like getting to sit down with them and have them tell you their story and what they’ve been through and getting to put that into a song, taking it out of here, which keeps you up at night and keeps you fighting over it in your mind or reliving it or having those ugly memories or those bad memories.

And you take them out and you put it in a song. And then it’s like it’s not living in you anymore, it’s now in a song, and you can listen to that song, and you can enjoy it, and relive it, but it lives there now, it doesn’t live in here anymore, and that’s kind of the point of CreatiVets, is that they’re helping people heal through, through music, and it’s just been The greatest thing we’ve got to do.

To sit down, tell their story, write it in a song, and give it to them and watch them go, Oh my goodness, I haven’t been able to talk about this since I got home from Vietnam in 1969. And now I was finally able to talk about it. Like, that’s, that’s important stuff. And they don’t have to talk about it again.

Cause a veteran think about it. One of those warriors doesn’t like to cry in front of people very often. They don’t want to talk about it. So, yeah, but once you get it out, you can kind of go, here’s my story. Listen to it. And they can watch you listen to it.

And they can kind of like, I don’t know. It’s just the coolest thing to do. This is how I feel, put it into music and then play it for somebody and see them at the moments when you think they’re going to go or, and to see them do that, it lets you know. I’m not alone. I, other people feel exactly the same way.

Writing with the veterans keeps us so sharp, one of the skills you have to learn, as a staff songwriter in Nashville is you have to be ready to write a radio-ready hit any time of day, in any condition, sick or whatever, if the opportunity is there, you have to be ready to write a song.

So the veterans keep us really sharp. aren’t typically songwriters in the room. So me and Heidi are actually getting to sharpen a blade or sharpen a skill that, is pretty cool and unique we don’t necessarily need the third to be musical or even, in a lot of ways, just an input, a story that they put into this.

A machine of songwriting and then whatever gets made on the other side is kind of a perfect mixture of that story and our experience in Nashville as writers. Well, I have to say thank you for offering that because, even though I was never in the service, we definitely have family members, parents, and grandparents who were in the service and were in wartime.

So, yes, I think that’s such a wonderful thing that you guys are doing.

Writing Custom Song for Grandparents

Just to bring it back just a little bit. Can you talk about writing the custom songs? We’re always talking about the couple that’s getting married, but I also think about parents and grandparents writing a song that’s their story, but then passing that on to the future generations to say, Hey, maybe you’ve never heard our story.

Now here it is in the song. We’ve done that. We actually wrote one, with my grandparents. It’s the coolest. I mean, getting to see my grandpa, who is a Marine and a boxing champion from the Marines. he was served in Korea and. He’s just the toughest guy ever. He’s got, still got muscles from digging ditches in the military.

He just doesn’t get emotional like that. And, getting to see him here that we interviewed, my grandparents got to hear their whole story. And we decided after hearing the story. Cause this was obviously just a present for them. Something we wanted to do they’re, they’re getting up there in years.

And I just, anyways, I, we wanted to do something nice for them. So we write their song and in the middle of it, we were going to write like, think of like a Brad Paisley, what was his big song? All because two people fell in love. We thought going in, we were going to write some big, song about we’re all here because of you, grandma and grandpa.

And. We realized grandma and grandpa kept talking about a specific part of their life. It was when they met, they eloped young and it was one of those super teenage love, just classic love story and all the elements of Right down to the clothing and the cars they drove and the bikes and that they could go to a show and in the pool for a dime and, all these stories that we got and we put it in that moment.

So we wrote the song as if we were in 1950. And, the style of music so it’s a very doo-wop, shoo-wop kind of song. And it was so fun to write a doo-wop song. I put on my crooner, like, yeah, he sang like a crooner, the Elvis kind of voice and I got, you know, like doing all that stuff.

And it turned out so cool. We wrote a song that if their favorite artist wrote a song about their lives. When they were in high school, what would it have sounded like? It’s called Forever For Two we have to add that to the stream. Like we haven’t learned that or anything That was all right before Christmas. So we’ve we’ve been kind of work busy playing catch-up this year.

Producing Custom Wedding Songs

Yeah Yeah, we’ve had fun being able to capture Yeah, so it’s not like oh we’re just going to produce it the way Johnny and Heidi would produce it. It’s what? What do you want? How do you want it to sound? And so we’ve had a lot of fun getting to, like, we really custom those details and it’s been, it’s been a fun challenge for us to learn other instruments and other production tools and other production styles and, phrasing and singing like all of it.

So, we try to make it as. Best that we can. Yeah, we’ve done a bunch of different stuff. We’ve written songs for people’s businesses. We’ve written company songs, whether it’s a jingle wrote a song for a guy’s book that he wrote.

Yes. We’ve written songs for A motivational song. Speaker that does speaking engagements for their walkout song. we’ve written a campaign for, teeth brushing. Oh yeah. Dentist, dentist campaign. yeah. So we, a newborn kid, first birthday, a mom wanted a song for her, her baby girl’s first birthday party a letter to what she would say to her little girl growing up.

So, yeah, we’ve done all kinds of occasions and, And we go at this, like, there’s a version of this where we could kind of phone it in, but, and just kind of write something in, and we don’t have that gear. We don’t have that gear. We like to take all the time. We pretend that the third person in the room is Garth or George Strait.

And, and we’re going, how am I going to get on this next record? And we write like we’re writing it for the radio and we produce it the same way. And. That’s a good way of putting it. We write it as if we want that number one spot. So we put everything into it cause we want that number one spot.

And that’s how it was just kind of trained into it. You know, Johnny and I were both, staff songwriters in Nashville for over a decade. And it’s when he goes, we don’t phone it in. It’s, it’s just kind of trained into you. Like you don’t want to put your name on something. That you can’t be wholeheartedly proud of.

 I don’t want, if you write a bad song and someone’s like, Oh, I wrote this with Johnny and Heidi, I’d go, Oh my gosh, no, don’t, you know what I mean? So I’m like, no, I have to make sure, I can’t phone it in. I need to be super proud of this. If I’m going to put my name on it. So we try to have everything with, at that level, right?

So instead of saving this till the end, how can people contact you about a custom song? theJohnnyandHeidishow@gmail.com. or if that’s, too much, we’re the only Johnny and Heidi out there. So we’re kind of lucky. You can send us a message on Facebook, or Instagram. Our website is just johnnyandheidi.com and you can send us a message from there. We’re pretty easy to find. Awesome. I didn’t want to save that to the end. Cause that was a great story about writing the songs.

Great Love Song Ingredients

What would you say is the most important ingredient to writing a great love song? The subject, the story.

The love, yeah, the love itself is, so there are two ways of looking at that. I can write a pretty solid love song that I make up, right? Yeah. But that’s because I’ve always been obsessed with it. Romantic stuff, I’m that, yes, I played football and it was a jock and all that stuff, but I also was when my friends were like, we’re going to see the new, Whatever, boxing movie.

I’m like, cool, I’m going to watch The Notebook and write a song about it. Yeah, but yeah, it’s hopelessly romantic. I love it. So I kind of already have that input in my head anyway. Heidi does as well. But really when it comes to the love song, even for us.

My love songs got better when we got together, right? That input going in, it’s the same thing as a breakup song. If you want a great breakup song, have the most wonderful love end. You know what I mean? It was going through a breakup. It’s a bad relationship and a breakup. The song is probably not going to be that great.

I think that the songwriting itself is, We all, as songwriters, we can write songs whenever we need to, and then there’s that gasoline you throw on the fire, and whatever that gasoline is, whether it’s, in my grandparents’ case, it’s the fact that they eloped, because my great grandmother was not a fan of my grandpa, so, the fact that they had to run away together, that’s gasoline on the fire, you know?

Fifty-seven Chevy, like, all these little details that we might not have thought to make up. Yeah, we didn’t have the actual story, right? Yeah, that’s awesome. I agree I think of movies like Coyote Ugly where they experience it and then once they experience it. They express that in the song and that’s what makes the song great.

Move/Films Debunked

Not just writing about something you We do have to debunk something. We see a lot in a lot of these movies like A Star Is Born the songwriter’s Oh, I just had this feeling, and then like, two seconds later, they have a fully formed song, and the band knows it, and then, you know what I mean?

And, without doing a soundcheck or a rehearsal, we’re gonna play it right now all together, and we know our parts and our harmony parts, and the band knows it, and Johnny and I are like, The bands, now I will say the bands in Nashville are incredible and they will learn a song almost instantly if someone charts it, but not without, not just following along, like, yeah, 30,000 people, but we, yeah, we love, we love those shows. It has their expertise. That’s throwing that in there.

Promoting & Ownership of Songs

As singer-songwriters, do other musicians take claim to your songs or produce your songs? How does that work? Do you mean like a traditional cut, like when someone cuts a song or records it or what do you mean?

I was thinking because you were talking about, how you’ve written songs that other artists have picked up. Okay, like a cut. And there are different kinds of cuts. There’s a, there’s an album cut, which means it’s just on the album. And then there’s singles, writers typically want to get those singles because that’s where you make money.

And, oftentimes if you have a publishing deal, an album cut just goes towards. Recouping your draw. but it was on your resume, but it doesn’t necessarily help your bank account, right? It’s something you can brag about. Oh, I got a cut with so and so But it might not have financially been as far as getting them cut, the way that works is typically like a leasing situation.

We still own the song. It’s just, whatever they use it for, whether it’s the name of the tour, or if it’s on merch, or if it’s on the radio, we all get reimbursed a little bit from And when I say a little bit, I mean a very little bit. They had to invent a new term called a micropenny for how much we get paid.

Unfortunately, they haven’t figured out the laws on that yet, but yeah, getting a song cut is great. and, that’s the goal. Heidi’s had, obviously she’s got a lot of cut cuts on Heidi Ray on her records. Yeah. she was an artist and, a solo artist and toured and did the radio tour thing and had songs on the charts and all that stuff.

So she’s, had cuts that way. She’s also gotten what we call an outside completely outside cut, and that’s a traditional type of cut in Nashville where. Her plugger pitches the song to an artist, and that artist, without knowing Heidi, wants to cut the song. They have no ties to it. They don’t own any part of it.

They’re not, it’s not their writer, or they own any publishing on it. It’s just totally like, oh, I like that song, I’ll record it. And that’s the purest type of cut, I think. The most traditional, purest type of cut in Nashville. One that you can be the most proud of, too, because you wrote a song, and all that happened was that the artist heard it and then recorded it.

Those are both of yours. No, I was going to say the other way, is being in the camps and being close with them. And not that, I mean, Chris also loved the song. Yeah. He really loved the song. Because he was your friend. But I also got to play him like 50 songs that day.

You know what I mean? And not every writer gets, gets that much exposure with an artist. Like Heidi had to kind of go, what is my best one for this particular artist? And I had an afternoon with Chris and he’s like, I want to hear everything you’ve written this month. So that’s a way easier pitch.

They’re both very difficult, but that’s the easiest pitch. And then in the case with Lee Brice, with the song there, I wrote the song with someone who was introduced to me by Chris Young, who was also best friends with Lee Brice and was the producer of Lee Brice. So, kind of networking, even more now than ever, I think being in those camps, in those groups is how songs get cut.

Because if you look at artists now, it’s not like it used to be where there’s a bunch of writers and they’re on every project a little bit. It’s kind of like Luke Combs has these writers and this is who he’s working with all the time. And yeah, that’s a product of there’s not as much money as there used to be.

There used to be many more writers in Nashville working and making a living than there are now, unfortunately, but yeah. So you’re not reaching out to Lainey Wilson. Hey, what are you doing for lunch? I have some ideas. Our publisher would do that. They would go It’s more the other way like Warner Brothers would reach out to our publisher and go currently Wilson and Blake Shelton and Bob are recording What do you have for these three artists?

And then our publishers would go, Oh, I got these two for Laney and I have this one for Blake and I have these four for Dierks Bentley. And so then our publisher would take those eight songs and go have a meeting and play those eight songs for the A& R person at Warner in hopes that they go, Hmm, I think I’ll take that one for Blake, but I’ll pass on the rest.

You know, so we’re hoping that they just take one. Yeah. And that doesn’t mean they cut it. That just means I like it enough to then. Play it for someone else at work the chain to get a cut has to go through so many steps Then they put it this is how hard how scary it is too because they’ll you’ll be like Oh, they like they took it in a meeting.

They took it and then you’ll get a call and they’ll put it on hold which means Yeah, so step one is that they took the song, that’s good, that’s step one. Then once it’s on hold, they’re like, please don’t pitch this to anyone, which you kind of can still pitch it, but they’re like, please don’t pitch this to anyone else, we think we might record it.

And then they might record it, and it still doesn’t mean it’s on the record. Now you’ve got to, I have so many songs that they’re recorded by some of my favorite Artists major artists that I love the recordings. Great. It’s just when it came time to record time. It didn’t quite make the record either.

They cut two similar songs, that didn’t fit with the other song with the other songs or they didn’t want to sing it live is another thing. Like very long is too challenging to do live every night. They might go. This one has the same impact there are a bunch of different reasons why a song would get recorded and then not make the record.

But those are the tough ones when you’ve had a song on a record for months and you know, it’s coming out. And then, and then a week before it comes out, they go, Hey, we had to drop the song from the record, but Hey, we might use it in a future project. And you’re like, no, you won’t. It kind of keeps us like, Oh that recently happened to Morgan Wallen, where the old record label was going to release the album and some of the songs he didn’t authorize. So he quickly re-released one of the songs that’s a major love song that just came out in the last couple of weeks.

Yeah. That was his way of getting around what the label was doing or something. Is that what you’re saying? Exactly. Kind of the Taylor Swift effect where, okay, you guys own the music, but you’re going to claim it yourself and release it. Well, I’m going to release it myself. So I can get that.

Okay. Yeah. It’s sidestepping the label. Hopefully, what it does is promote a more fair system in the future because, at every turn in the industry, I’m not saying everybody’s trying to cheat anybody in the industry, but no one’s doing anything to make it where it’s difficult it is set up in a way.

It’s easy to take advantage of, naive, talented people who just don’t know any better. Like the things I know now compared to my first day in Nashville, I would have made a lot of decisions, but it’s almost like the system set up to where sometimes if you were a conspiracy theorist, you’d be like, Oh, I just feel like they don’t want me to know these things so that I’m easier to manipulate.

But, until they start changing the system to where. Those people aren’t. That’s what I mean. Not everybody’s doing that but everyone could if they wanted to all the labels could if they wanted to all the fill in the blank profession could if they wanted to and hopefully change is coming because there are big artists Beyonce and Taylor Swift that could change the industry and hopefully they’re able to so that way the micropayments don’t happen any longer Well, I, and I, I love the artists that do that.

The one, cause they don’t have to, they’ve already made all their money. They’ve had all their success. They’re good. But the ones that turn around and go, you know, this is what I saw was unjust on my way up, let’s make it better. I like people like that.

J+H Content Creators, Performers

Can you guys just talk a little more about what you guys are doing? Cause I know that, you have a Twitch following, you have Discord, you have a private concert that you’re putting together.

You’re creating a. Super fan, as we like to say in your community, what are some of the things that you guys are doing? Well, we do a Twitch stream, on Mondays and Wednesdays, and, we are typically gigging Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or somewhere, We do our custom songwriting during the week, we’ll squeeze it in, you know, sometime between Monday and Thursday, and then we’re also, record and write during the week.

We perform pretty much every night. And every weekend night, it’s easier to name the things we don’t do. We still work in the Nashville industry, so, even though we live in Florida, it’s one of the beauties of Zoom, and how technology has allowed us to live at the beach, but still work in, on music row, essentially, so, Every morning could be different.

We’ll open up and it’ll be an inbox full of, Hey, can you demo this? Hey, I need a vocal on this. Hey, can you re-sing this? Hey, can you pitch this? We need bios here. We need it. So, Which is why sometimes you’ve seen us have to cancel streaming a lot. And sometimes the Nashville side. We’ll maybe take precedence for a week and we’re like, Oh, we’re all busy on the industry side.

And then the next week it might be just booking beach bars down in Florida. And that keeps us busy. And the next week we might be up to our eyeballs and custom songwriting in the studio, putting out our own songs or recording the custom songs, or we’re in main writing songs with veterans, every week.

We’re just kind of like this all the time. Heidi and I will lay in bed at night and daydream and go, imagine what a routine would feel like being able to do the same thing two days in a row. We never wake up at the same time. We never go to bed at the same time. We never eat. A meal at the same time, you know, every day is different every day, but it’s fun.

It’s exciting. We love it. On your Twitch though, you were talking about that you’re doing that a couple of times a week. Can you just talk a little bit about that process of connecting with the audience? Some of the things that you do on your streams that I think are unique. Well, we’re very self-deprecating.

We don’t have the traditional artist ego, I guess, where I’m not, I’m not afraid to be silly. We get really silly. Our Twitch stream is much different than our live show. Like our live show is a, we’re very professional, you know, and we, we’ve been doing this long, you know, and we do our national songwriter professional show.

And Twitch is very silly, casual, and laid back. We make mistakes and laugh at it, and we play games and laugh at it, and we poke fun at each other. Heidi draws. We do this thing called picamature, which is picture and amateur together because neither of us can draw.

We’ll do that when like if there’s not a request and somebody’s like, oh, we want to have a good laugh like a break between songs We’ll sit there and do a picamature I know what she’s drawing at the chat doesn’t know what she’s drawing. So they have to guess like a Pictionary and we do trivia, we do fun trivia, we have things called song swaps where our community can have me sing a song that Heidi normally does.

And we have a community member who loves to get me to do Taylor Swift and stuff. and then Johnny loves, oh, it’s the best loves that. Yes. And then we have all kinds of ways that our community We’ve given them several ways, with through channel points, which you can earn through watching us.

And it’s free, it’s a currency that doesn’t matter. They can spend, 100 channel points and make, Johnny sing one of my songs. And they can take away the lyrics. Silly things like that, where it’s possible, take the lyrics away.

And then he’s playing and has no idea what the lyrics are. So he’s like fumbling through or making them up. Yeah. Unwarranted or personal nightmare for me, I panic we use our tablets with lyrics and. Chords and then you try to remember them and it’s always on and you take it away So we’ve armed them with all kinds of like really fun harmless ways to troll us to troll us make the show a little funnier, you know just A little more interesting, I guess, but we, we just have fun with it.

It’s a very laid-back, casual experience for people and it’s all because it’s live and there’s a chat, people will ask questions anywhere from What did you eat dinner today? If they’ve been a long-time community member and they are genuinely interested in what we ate for dinner and some people just Popped in two minutes ago and they’re like, oh, who are you guys?

What do you do? What kind of music do you or some people go to? Hey, I want to move to Nashville and be a country singer What advice do you have for me? So it’s it’s fun that we never know what the stream is gonna be and what kind of discussion We’re gonna have and it’s again like our lives Every stream is different just depending on who’s watching and who’s talking and and what songs get requested sometimes It’ll be a really normal stream where we just sing our usual songs.

And, and then sometimes we have a stream where like everything goes wrong and it’s just, we’re laughing and we’re just a hot mess the whole time. So you just, you never know what you’re going to get. I think as a viewer, you feel like you get to know you and your personality and that connection.

And I think that, creating those, like I said, super fans of. followers, it’s just awesome. So if you’re not tuning into their twits, make sure that you do today. Yeah. It’s like being in the green room. That is a, I’ve never thought of it that way, but like, yeah, our normal shows were up there.

The people at those shows don’t care how silly we are. They want to hear us sing a song really well. And then the people who show up at the stream might be more interested in getting to know us. And yeah, it’s my favorite way that it happens. I feel like I get to know them. I’d rather them know me too.

Upcoming Projects

So do you have any upcoming releases or projects that you want to share with everybody? It’s one of those things, we are creating every day,I don’t have, a date, like, oh, our next single is dropping here, I would encourage people to follow our YouTube because we currently don’t have a lot.

Going on in that channel we have it’s been a little inactive, but as soon as we get the time freed up We are going to be Putting a lot of content out on that Yeah, we’ve been doing a lot of the pre-production on this side of things on like mapping things out Planning things out so we’ve been doing kind of like the less glamorous side of things unfortunately, coming soon, but

if you want to go to johnnyandheidi.com, all our tour dates are there. We’ve booked over 100 shows so far just for the year, and we add dates every day. So this is probably going to be, we typically do between 100 and 150 dates a year, which is a pretty heavy tour schedule. Those are just the live shows, that are not Twitch included.

And this year, I think we’re probably going to surpass that because we do 100 streams ish too. We play a lot of music. So chances are if you’re in the area, you’ll, you’ll find us one day, but I tell people to go to JohnnyandHeidi.com. That’s where our tour dates are.

And if you sign up at the bottom of our website, we only send out one email a month on the first of every month. We send out a, here’s where we’re playing this month. and then you might go, Oh my goodness, you’re coming to my hometown. I’ll see you next week. You know? So I just encourage people to go there. Just, it’s a good way to. Stay in touch with us and maybe we’ll get to meet you on the road.

Connect with Johnny and Heidi

One final question. Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to bring up today? I think mine was going to be the YouTube thing. But yeah, I mean, basically we have all the different ways you can consume.

Like if it’s streaming just music from Spotify or YouTube music or Apple Music, you got that. If you want to come hang out with us live on Twitch, You got that we’re about to do the video content, the YouTube thing and try to just make sure all the different ways that you can consume a musical artist or a content creator, that we have all those covered and working in tandem and seamlessly.

And because I know some people are like, yeah, I’ll watch a YouTube video, but I’m not going to hang out for the Twitch stream. Or. I don’t want to watch the YouTube video. I want to come hang out for the Twitch stream. Yeah, all kinds of kinds. So we try to accommodate. Yeah, we try to have everything covered.

If you’re interested in a custom song, just reach out to us. And if you are a veteran or, you know, a veteran that could benefit from the creative program, it’s creativets.org. So C R E A T I V E T S creative, like creative. But if you’re a veteran, and you could benefit from some music therapy, or if you know someone who could, maybe you go, Oh my goodness, my dad needs to tell his story and he could benefit from this. Please see CreatiVets. They’re changing and saving lives. So make sure you see them. I tell you what, we’ll add those links in the show notes so everybody can easily find that information.

Thank you guys so much for being on the show today. It’s been a pleasure talking about you guys and, and the music industry. Thanks, everybody for listening, and stay tuned for another episode of the wedding songs podcast every Thursday morning.

Thanks for listening and have a great day. Thank you.

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