Used with permission of CMA Closeup News Service
By Wendy Newcomer
It would have been strange if songwriter Aimee Mayo hadn't gone into the family business.
She learned the craft from her father, Danny Mayo, who wrote classics including Alabama's "If I Had You," Tracy Byrd's "Keeper of the Stars" and "Feed Jake" by Pirates of the Mississippi.
"I've been writing as long as I can remember," said Mayo. "The first song I ever wrote, I wrote with my dad when I was 8 or 9. It was called 'If Only I Could Hold You Again, I'd Never Let You Go.' We had been to the movies, and afterwards I told him I wanted to be a songwriter. He said, 'Well, what makes you think you can?'"
"I said, 'Because I've got a title,'" she said, laughing. "I told him the title, and he pretty much wrote the rest, and then made a record of it. I still have that little 45. I couldn't even believe I had my name on a record."
It was the first of many times Mayo would see her name on a record.
Since moving to Nashville, the Gadsden, Ala. native has established herself as a premier songwriter. She's written or co-written songs including the Faith Hill and Tim McGraw duet "Let's Make Love," Lonestar's "Amazed," Martina McBride's "This One's for the Girls," Tim McGraw's "My Best Friend," and "Drugs or Jesus," Mark Wills' "Places I've Never Been," Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today" and more.
"Aimee has a knack for writing very relatable, very universal lyrics. What she writes, everybody could have lived - it's so simple, but so clear - because it's all the living Aimee's done set to song," said Chesney.
"A lot of my bigger songs have been ballads," Mayo said. "Everybody said to write tempos, and the only big tempo song I've had is the Martina cut. I think it's because I listened to so much Lionel Richie growing up," she said with a smile. "I loved him."
As a child of the 1980s, Mayo listened to her father's favorites including Jackson Browne, Bob Seger and The Steve Miller Band. She also loved Cyndi Lauper and Rick Springfield. "I thought I was going to marry Rick Springfield," she grinned.
Mayo started out in Nashville waiting tables at Brown's Diner, a frequent haunt of struggling songwriters. In 1993, with seven songs in her catalog, she signed a publishing deal with publisher Karen Conrad's AMR/New Haven Music (later acquired by BMG Music Publishing in 1997).
Then Mark Chesnutt cut her song, "Strangers."
"I remember hearing it on a jukebox in a bar for the first time," Mayo said. "It freaked me out. I couldn't believe it."
Mayo wrote "Amazed" with Chris Lindsey (her husband) and Marv Green in 1999. The song became a career landmark for all three, spending eight weeks at the top of Billboard's Country singles chart and two years on BMI's list of the 50 most-performed songs, crossing over to the pop charts and being nominated for a GRAMMY and a CMA Award. Mayo and Green were jointly named BMI's Songwriters of the Year for 2001.
"I was completely overwhelmed with 'Amazement,'" Mayo said. "My daddy had bought all of these newspapers that said the song was No. 1 for nine weeks. He bought every newspaper this guy had. I had them all in my truck when he died. So I had this crazy high in my career, and then my dad died a month later. Then I found out I was pregnant a month after that. We brought our son Levi home from the hospital exactly nine months to the day after my dad died. And we'd gotten married right before all of that. So between the death, and getting married and then finding out I was pregnant, it was really so emotional."
Mayo believes honesty is the key to writing Country Music songs.
"Everybody probably said this, but, just write from the heart," she said. "I think it was Kenny Chesney who said, 'People are suckers for the truth.' If you're just being honest, you're going to be a lot more effective than if you just make a bunch of stuff up. The biggest songs I've had have all come from an honest place, not 'What does this person want to cut?'"
The joy of hearing her songs performed never gets old.
"I love hearing my songs on the radio," Mayo said. "It's also great because I'll be driving down the road and hear my dad's songs, and it's like he's still here. It's so unpredictable. You never expect it."
"And now I'm experiencing it with my brother, too (Mayo's brother, Cory Mayo, wrote the recent George Strait hit, "You'll Be There"). Because I'll be driving around and Cory's song will come on. I think some of that song is about our dad."
"I love that part of being a songwriter."