Used with permission of CMA Closeup News Service
Inspiration plays a big part in our romantic visions of a songwriter's life. We imagine the writer jumping out of bed, fumbling for the guitar in the darkness and playing that million-dollar lick, or singing the line that will soon be a national catch phrase. The day-to-day life of a professional songwriter isn't quite so magical.
Ed Hill, who has had No. 1 cuts with Faith Hill (no relation) ("It Matters To Me"), Tracy Lawrence ("Runnin' Behind"), Reba McEntire ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter") and John Michael Montgomery ("Be My Baby Tonight"), doesn't discount inspiration, but he hasn't got the time to wait for it to arrive.
"I have nothing against artists that have to be inspired to write a song, but a professional songwriter doesn't wait to get inspired," Hill said. "Everyday I wake up, I'm inspired. I want to hone my craft and be a professional. I want to write something worthy every time I write and that's my inspiration. I don't always have great ideas, but I'm always inspired. Songwriting is what I do. It's how I support my family, and those who are waiting for inspiration aren't living my life."
Hill backs up his professional attitude by reporting to his office everyday and plugging away at his craft. "I can't write much at home since there are too many distractions. I usually sit down with a co-writer and these days I'm doing a lot with Shaye Smith and Casey Beathard, but I have other people that I write with off and on. When I write by myself, I can get a little frustrated making all the decisions, with no one to bounce the music off."
About every six weeks, Hill takes a batch of new songs to a studio and has them demoed so he can shop them around town. "I average a song a week, but it's not a sure thing. Some weeks I get nothing, some weeks I'll finish four songs. When I have a bunch, I book a studio, the players, the singers and get to work. I may do some singing, but if my voice isn't a good fit, I'll hire a few singers."
Throughout the years Hill's demo sessions have given jobs to Garth Brooks, Joe Diffie, Gretchen Wilson and Trisha Yearwood when they were newcomers. After the final mix the next day, which takes about an hour and a half per song, he takes them to BMG Songs, his publisher, and starts working them.
Hill's demos have provided material for Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, George Strait, Clay Walker and Lee Ann Womack - quite a track record for a guy who once planned to enter law school after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy.
"I grew up in Hanford, Calif., a farming community, surrounded by music," said Hill, whose father was a cotton farmer. "I was in the grammar school marching band and I played trumpet, French horn and drums. I learned how to read music and played piano in rock bands in high school and college, writing a lot of the material myself. I was about to go to law school when I realized that wasn't the life I wanted, which was a big disappointment to my parents."
Instead, in the early '70s, Hill moved to Bakersfield, Calif. to join a Country band that played in local clubs opening for artists including Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson.