Around the time my band the Nixons signed our first record deal, someone gave me some good advice: be cool to the people you meet going up, cause you’ll see ‘em again on your way down. From my current vantage point it’s downright uncanny how prophetic that statement was.
We were starting to gain some momentum outside our home region of the midwest. We finally got to that point where we could select our own opening band (seems small but at the time, one of those things that felt huge). We chose a funny little band that was making some noise in Texas called Bowling For Soup. They were silly, fun, funny, kind and great to have out. We threw ‘em bones every time we could. Lead singer, Jaret, still tells the story about politely knocking on the bus door somewhere in Carolina (or maybe Georgia) when despite being sick and wrapped in a blanket, I waved ‘em in, sat and chatted for a good long while. We offered ‘em beer, they drank it. Pretty sure they drank all of it. Several years later as I was making the transition from artist to writer/producer I got a call from the now major label BFS singer, Jaret. He asked for some advice about their producer and threw out the offer for me to come write for their upcoming album. I did. Got a few cuts, one of which was their third single. It didn’t burn up the charts but here’s what it did do: enter the Hot 100 at number 39 for one week. The week Sony Publishing offered me a writers pub deal (I’d had artist pub deals but was adamant that I needed one that could help me develop writing with other writers and artists). All told I have had over a dozen cuts with BFS over the years and even co-produced tracks on one album. Don’t know for sure but betting if I’d passed on the bus-hang-even-with-a-fever, things might have gone differently (sure the beer helped too).
Another person I was “just nice enough to/to make a little mark” was Chris Daughtry. I was now in year two or three of that Sony deal and was writing like crazy, with every band, singer, artist I could. Getting a few little things on albums here and there when I had a chance meeting with Pete Ganbarg. At the time Pete was looking for songs for the recently Idol booted Chris Daughtry for his upcoming album. I had just released a solo album, sort of a “last gasp” at being an artist. Pete had zero interest in me as an artist but really liked one of the tunes for Chris. He played it for him and his producer. They cut it. At the release party for that album, which went on to sell over 6 million copies, Chris bee-lined to me after his performance and told me a story. Somewhere in Virginia (or Maryland) he had waited in line for a Nixons autograph and when the then teen got to me said “I’m a singer and thinking of getting a vocal coach.” He asked my advice, which was something to the effect of go for it just don’t let the coach change who you are as a singer. I have no recollection of this (sorry Chris) but do wonder if that fueled the decision to cut my song. That song which introduced me to Pete, who later became my manager. The producer, who I’ve gotten cuts on probably 15 projects he’s done. It also introduced me to the management company who later asked me if I’d be interested in writing with their rising country star, Carrie Underwood. I said yes.
I could go on and on. There’s the former GM at my old record label who hired me recently to produce an artist he was managing. The booking agent for my college band who reached out when someone was looking for a collaborator. The former DJ at a station in Texas who is now an exec at Apple who has helped facilitate some things with Apple Music.
Look, I’m no saint. In fact, I know some people who might have a different story to tell. But I tried my best to follow that advice I was given cause the truth is, most people do come back down. Then, if you’re lucky, back up. Then, well you know. Now, go be nice.
The people you meet along the way are the most important people in the end.