Write back to the start: Nashville songwriter about No. 1 hits, Jim Thorpe and the inaugural Oklahoma Songwriter’s Festival

An interview with Marcus Hummon and the Oklahoma Songwriters Festival.  

By Nathan Poppe.  

Marcus Hummon writes hit songs but just not always for himself.

Hummon is based in Nashville, Tenn., and has written commercially successful hits for Rascal Flatts, the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks and a lot more country artists.

This weekend, he'll be workshopping and writing alongside several Okies and other Nashville musicians during the Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival. Also, he'll be performing Saturday evening at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab alongside the same combination of Oklahoma and Nashville talent. 

Hummon has struck a balance between art and commerce. For every hit song he's penned, he's got a musical, opera or any number of diverse projects going on at the same time.

It wasn't always so easy though. He initially couldn't garner much interest for "Bless the Broken Road," which he ended up winning Rascal Flatts a Grammy for Best Country Song in 2005. His big break came in 1992 after he speedily delivered a cassette tape to a Wynonna Judd recording session. That track became his first hit, "Only Love."

He spoke on the phone with The Oklahoman about his road to songwriting and what it's like to make it as a songwriter.

Q: You're fresh from writing a theatrical production based on an adaptation of Frederick Douglass' first autobiography, "Narrative of the Life of an American Slave." I understand you've also tackled a musical about famed Okie native athlete Jim Thorpe. Tell me more about that project.

Marcus Hummon: I'm a huge, huge Jim Thorpe fan, and it was first done many years ago, and back in 2011 here in Nashville at the Ford Theater (at the) Country Music Hall of Fame. We did it at Tennessee Performing Arts Center and then we did it off-Broadway. ... That was one of my biggest connections to Oklahoma, because in working on that piece I got to know Jim's daughter who passed away a few years ago, Grace Thorpe. We sent letters back and forth. I sent her a script, and finally I flew out and met some more of the Thorpe family.

So when Zac (Maloy) would talk to me about this and that we were gonna go out and do a songwriter's festival and that a lot of what it was going to be about was looking at Oklahoma writers and to inspire them — because there's been so many great Oklahoma songwriters in the national community; they have had such a huge impact — I just sort of jumped at the opportunity.

Q: A majority of the hit songs you've written have been made famous by popular country artists. Is this a genre you were intentionally aiming to get into or were you naturally drawn to it?

Hummon: No, I wasn't specifically drawn to country music as a kid. I just grew up in a family that loved music. My parents were very musical. My dad was a state department guy working at economic development overseas, so we grew up in Africa, West Africa, East Africa, Philippines and Saudi Arabia. We basically traveled, mostly overseas, until I was 17. As far as my early connection to Nashville, there was probably Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell records. Those are records that I remembered and love. ... I realized that Nashville, particularly in the late '80s, when it was exploding, it was really song-based. You needed to be able to play and you needed to be able to actually sing. It's not smoke and mirrors. I fit in, but it did take a little while, and then I had ... a couple publishers actually tell me to leave. (Laughs.)

Q: So why didn't you get out of town?

Hummon: I kind of looked into myself and asked, "Why should I stay?" I mean, what is it that I resonate with? And it was the love of songs. The actual musicians. The connection between songwriting, storytelling and what we do with our hands with these wonderful instruments. In that sense, I fit in just fine.

Q: You've had a lot of luck with your songs performing well commercially. Does hitting No. 1 on the Billboard charts feel like the end goal? What does that milestone actually mean as a songwriter?

Hummon: I would be a liar if I didn't say that the thrill of a No. 1 record is really extraordinary. I remember the first time it happened and ... it's an extraordinary feeling, but it's definitely larger than that, because it's truly a way of life. I supplement my activities as a songwriter by being a playwright. You know, opera is related to me, I've written a couple of operas, and the nature of living within music, living within lyrics within the structure of a song, expanding a song, an album, thinking of that as a canvas, thinking of writing as a kind of lifelong meditation. Songwriting can be a way to take a prismatic look at the world around you and process your feelings. ... It's a way of life, and it's a way of growing as a person, I hope.

Q: What's the draw to coming to Oklahoma for this festival and working on songwriting sessions with Oklahoma-based artists?

Hummon: I'm always interested in being around young writers these days — I'm 55, so it seems like everyone's young. I sometimes describe writers as professional dreamers, and in that sense they play a really important part in culture, and so I always enjoy meeting new writers. Getting to share the stage with some Oklahoma writers, that's probably the thing I'm gonna look forward to most. Just to hear what they have to say, and hopefully some of what they have to say will have a distinctively Oklahoma taste, like a flavor. I wanna experience that.

Zac's podcast with OKC the KATT

PodKatt Episode 2: Stories of Katt Past – Zac Maloy of the Nixons

Listen to the full podcast here.

Posted on April 13, 2016

   On April 12th, 2016, The Katt’s Jake Daniels sat down with Zac Maloy, who returned to the KATT, after several decades to discuss how his music has been finding it’s way into the heart of millions of music fans who don’t even know it. In large part, thanks to some help from the KATT during the early years of his career in the Nixons and how the little band from Oklahoma influenced some of today’s popular recording artists like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, David Cook, Skillet and others. Zac also took the time share about the inaugural Oklahoma Songwriters Festival at the end of April. Checkwww.oklahomasongwritersfestival.com to learn more. #ACM@UCO #OKLAHOMASONGWRITERSFESTIVAL #KATT40

‘Anything can happen’ at Oklahoma Songwriters Festival

April 5, 2016

Songwriter Zac Maloy said he hopes to meet many talented people at the inaugural Oklahoma Songwriter Fest this month. (Provided)

Growing up in Oklahoma, Ada native Zac Maloy couldn’t have known he would become a “professional songwriter.” Now, living in Nashville and with a fair share of hits to his name, he still doesn’t like the term.

“Professional songwriters,” Maloy said with a laugh. “It seems kind of funny to say that because we’re all a bunch of dudes sitting around in Converse tennis shoes and jeans trying to find new ways to rhyme with love, but whatever.”

Maloy will be bringing several of his denim-wearing dude brethren to OKC this month for the inaugural Oklahoma Songwriters Festival from April 28 to April 30. With special events lined up for each of the three days, Maloy said the festival will seek to connect artists with fans of songwriting as well as help guide young performers, writers and production specialists looking for future opportunities.

“It’s for anyone who loves music and who wants to hear stories behind songs,” Maloy said. “It’ll be a creative weekend where anything can happen.”

To put on the event, Maloy has brought in some of his closest songwriting associates, including: Marcus HummonJim BeaversGraham ColtonMarti Frederiksen and J.D. McPherson. The weekend will feature several songwriting workshops as well as evening performances.

NonDoc is a sponsor of the event.

“The shows, I think, are going to be eye-opening for fans of music to see these writers talking about their music,” Maloy said. “The whole goal originally was really two parts: To entertain with the public events but to also create an artery to Nashville.”

But the festival will also offer Maloy an opportunity he hasn’t had in a decade.

“At the end of the show Saturday night, I will be joined onstage by Jesse Davis and John Humphrey who, along with myself, were three of the founding members of The Nixons,” Maloy said. “We have not shared the stage together in over 10 years. We’ve been batting around a Nixons reunion for years, but it’s just hard with all our schedules.”

For more information, visit OklahomaSongwritersFestival.com. Tickets can be purchased online here.

Meet the Oklahoma Songwriters Festival open call winners.

Oklahoma Songwriters Festival has chosen 3 amazing singer songwriters from Oklahoma to participate in the writing sessions offered over the 3 day event.  The talented writers chosen are Daniel Walcher, Sophia Babb and Grace Babb.

What we saw in these writers:

Annie Oakley's Sophia and Grace Babb

“Hearing Sophia and Grace sing gave me the same kind of feeling as when I heard The Civil Wars for the first time. Insane melodies and haunting harmonies. But buried inside are really beautiful songs."

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Daniel Walcher

“Sometimes killer singers worry me because they can mask a not so good song. But at the core of Daniel’s songwriting is honesty. And great writing. You can just feel it. I think the experience he will get from working with some Nashville writers is going to be awesome for all involved."

Meet Marcus Hummon - set to participate in the festival.

Marcus Hummon has been called Nashville's Renaissance Man. He has enjoyed a successful career as a songwriter, recording artist, producer and studio musician, playwright and author. His songs have been recorded in Pop, R and B, gospel...and most notably in country music. His country discography reads like a 'who's who' list of country notables over the last 15 years...Rascal Flatts, Garth Brooks, The Dixie Chicks, Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw, Wynona, Sara Evans, Alabama, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Brian White, Leann Womack, Patty Lovelace...to name a few.

Six of his songs have charted #1 on Billboard, Radio and Records or Cashbox. BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD (Rascal Flatts), COWBOY TAKE ME AWAY, READY TO RUN (The Dixie Chicks), BORN TO FLY (Sara Evans), ONE OF THESE DAYS (Tim McGraw), and ONLY LOVE (Wynona). Several of his songs have been nominated for Grammys, ACMs and CMAs. In 2005 BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD won the Grammy for Best Country Song. Along the way he has garnered numerous BMI awards and been named Nashville's Best Local Songwriter 5 times by The Nashville Scene.

A great article on the Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival

Inaugural Oklahoma Songwriters Festival set for April.

by Brandy McDonnell  Published: March 22, 2016

The inaugural Oklahoma Songwriters Festival is set for April 28-30 in Oklahoma City.

Festival founder Zac Maloy, who grew up in Ada and is now a Nashville, Tenn.-based writer, will bring a handful of his accomplished songwriter friends in from Music City for three days of writing sessions with local songwriters, panels and small concerts. The evening shows will be one-of-a-kind events for the state of Oklahoma, where the audience will be able to sit back and listen to the writers of some of music's biggest hits, sing their tunes and tell their stories behind the songs.

"Part of our goal is to create momentum and broader relationships for the Oklahoma music community, while at the same time providing a unique set of shows not commonly available to the local music fan in Oklahoma," said Maloy in a news release.

Set to join Maloy for the three-day event are Jim Beavers, who co-wrote “Red Solo Cup” by Oklahoma-based superstar Toby Keith and “Watching Airplanes” by Gary Allan; Marcus Hummon, who co-wrote “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts (which includes Picher guitarist Joe Don Rooney) and “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks; and Marti Frederiksen, who co-wrote “Jaded” by Aerosmith and  “Undo It” by Checotah native Carrie Underwood, among others.

Check out the full article here.

 

Oklahoma's own Graham Colton is set to participate in the Oklahoma's Songwriters Festival.

After a major label career, numerous TV appearances and the limiting musical peg of “singer-songwriter,” Colton has gone through a complete reinvention on his new album Lonely Ones.

Credit his reinvention to a few things: Colton’s return to the Oklahoma music scene; a budding friendship with the Flaming Lips; and for his new record, an entirely new approach to songwriting.

Colton’s return to Oklahoma may come as a surprise. The singer admits he initially had to leave his home state to find his footing as a musician. “My dad was in a cover band, but besides that and some open mic nights, I wasn’t exposed to any sort of ‘scene,’” he admits. “I’d just sit around writing songs in my bedroom. It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas that my professional career in music started.”

And while that early career led to success — major label albums (Drive and Here Right Now), performances on The Tonight Show and The Late Show, videos on TRL, tours with everyone from John Mayer to Dave Matthews Band to Maroon Five — there were tradeoffs. A little stifled creativity. The musical designation of being a singer-songwriter, a genre not known for taking risks.

Things changed after Colton’s move back home. There, he met his wife, and re-discovered a thriving music scene…which included a creative friendship with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. “Oklahoma has a tremendously active music community,” says Colton.

For Graham's full bio please click here.

Meet Jim Beavers at the Oklahoma Songwriting Festival

Jim Beavers is set to attend the Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival.  He has had dozens of songs recorded by artists such as Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Gary Allan, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Josh Turner, Billy Currington, Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and others. Beavers' compositions have received multiple CMA, ACM, BMI and NSAI awards. Since 2008, Beavers has co-written nine #1 songs including "Drink a Beer" - Luke Bryan, "Red Solo Cup" - Toby Keith, "Am I the Only One" - Dierks Bentley, "Felt Good on My Lips" - Tim McGraw, "Why Don't We Just Dance" - Josh Turner, "Sideways" - Dierks Bentley, "Watching Airplanes" - Gary Allan. He will be on hand to write, perform and participate in panel discussions at the upcoming festival.

Open Call for Songwriters: Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival

 

The Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival, held at multiple locations throughout Oklahoma City April 28 - 30, 2016, and the Oklahoma Film + Music Office announce an open call for 3 Oklahoma songwriters to participate in one-on-one songwriting sessions with prolific Nashville industry professionals during the festival.

WHY SHOULD YOU APPLY

The selected songwriters will receive:

Songwriting session and mentorship from nationally recognized industry professionals 

Social media promotion

Feature in OF+MO eblasts with reach of over 3,300

Feature in OF+MO monthly newsletter with reach of over 5,000

Promotion on the Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival Website

Invitation to attend a private Festival kickoff networking reception

CONTEST DETAILS

Genre

All genres of songwriters will be considered.

Proximity

Songwriters from across the state are invited to apply.

Preparation

Every songwriting session is different. It is recommended that songwriters come prepared with an idea, but be flexible and open to creating new material from scratch, depending on the flow of the session.

Register for the Oklahoma Music Guide

The open call for Oklahoma musicians to participate in the Oklahoma Songwriter's Festival is in promotion of theOklahoma Music Guide, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office’s online database of Oklahoma musicians and music businesses. Therefore, acts must be registered in the database in order to be selected. If you are not already registered, please register for the Oklahoma Music Guide before submitting your application. 

APPLY NOW

Applications must be received by 11:59 PM on March 21, 2016.