Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees Tim Nichols, Jim McBride and Pat Alger passed on their songwriting knowledge to Belmont’s up-and-coming student songwriters at Columbia Studio A Wednesday night.
“You have to have a lot of one particular thing, and that’s called persistence,” Alger said. “You can have a lot of talent — talent will take you a certain length of the run — but if you don’t have persistence, I have never seen anybody without it that made it.”
McBride — writer of Alan Jackson’s CMA award-winning single “Chattahoochee” — revealed the three things that will influence people to write.
“There is personal experience, observation and complete fantasy. And you will get tired of just writing about yourself,” McBride said.
The passion for songwriting was always in him, McBride said.
But it wasn’t until giving up a stable career and moving to Nashville that McBride learned to play guitar and began to pursue that passion.
“I sold a pistol and bought a Yamaha,” McBride said. “It seemed kind of hillbilly.”
Nichols — writer of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” — told the audience that writers can’t write about observation and fantasy without looking and listening to the work of others.
“There is a lot of output. There needs to be some input,” Nichols said.
When Nichols originally came to Nashville, he didn’t want to be a songwriter — he dreamed of being an artist.
It wasn’t until he started frequenting the legendary Bluebird Cafe that Nichols realized he wanted to be a songwriter.
“I wanted to figure out how to get in that circle at Bluebird,” Nichols said.
Alger, who grew up in small town LaGrange, Georgia, knew he wanted to write songs at an early age but wasn’t able to immediately act on it.
“I grew up in a town where I was teaching myself to play guitar because there was no one even to teach me how to play the guitar,” Alger said.
Alger taught himself guitar, started writing songs and made his way to Nashville.
When he arrived, he knew he wanted to stay.
“Nashville turned out to be the place for me. I fell right into it,” Alger said.
After a lengthy career of hit songs, awards and stories, the songwriters were all recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame — with Nichols and McBride being inducted Monday.
“It’s awesome. There is nothing left to prove. Like now what do you do? You just enjoy it, I think,” said Mcbride.
Nichols dreamed of being a hall of fame songwriter for years before he was inducted on Monday.
“After going to that event for years and years and wondering what it would be like to be up there, it was a lot of fun to not be imagining anymore,” he said.
Songwriting major Mallory Hart was among the students in attendance, and appreciated the knowledge the Music City legends shared at the event.
“I grew up listening to the songs they wrote. Getting to see the people behind the songs was incredible,” said songwriting major Mallory Hart.
Other songwriting majors in attendance, like Mackenzie Carpenter, appreciated the practical advice given during the event.
“It was really awesome and intimidating,” said Carpenter. “But they made it seem feasible.”
Alger ended the event with a final piece of advice for the students.
“It’s about the idea. And once you have written a ton of songs, you’ll know how to write the idea,” he said. “It’s a craft and a process, and it’s so much fun.”