Jason Matthews Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right

 Patrick Jason Matthews recently received the prestigious Music Row Breakthrough Writer award on the strength of "Must Be Doin' Something Right," which he co-wrote with Blacktop Music's Marty Dodson. The song was recorded by Universal artist Billy Currington, became Currington's first #1 Billboard and R&R single, and is the most played country song in the USA of 2006. I sat down with Jason recently to get his thoughts on songwriting:

Jason: There’s a whole lot of things that have to line up. It’s a series of miracles that anybody ever has a hit—as many people as have to agree on something. Everything is run by committee these days.

Lori: When you’re going through the process—do you know when it’s being pitched to someone?

Jason: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll say “I think this song would be great for such and such” but for the most part I stay out of that side. I try to trust my pluggers; they’re very good at what they do. I just want to be kept semi-abreast of what’s going on. I don’t like bad news, I just like good news.

Lori: Do you usually know when it’s been placed on hold, or when they finally decide “Okay, we’re gonna do it”?

Jason: Sometimes. Some holds are better than others. Just because a song’s on hold, it doesn’t mean anything. You can kind of gauge the difference by the way people are acting. They’ll put a song on hold just to play it for somebody, if they even remotely think that person might like it. Then they finally play it for the artist and it’s off hold. But then there are holds where “Yeah, we have to have this song.” That’s a firm hold, and you pray that turns into a firm cut. Because really, nothing in this business is for sure until the record’s in the store.

Lori: It ain’t final till it’s vinyl.

Jason: Exactly!

Lori: I can see why you wouldn’t necessarily want to be kept in every single loop. That would make you kind of nuts.

Jason: The whole job of being a writer is to try and psych yourself up every day to write in a room and hope you can put lightning in a bottle. You’re creating something that never existed before out of thin air, and you pray that it’s gonna be good. You take your knowledge of the craft and pray that you get some kind of inspiration to go along with it that day. When I’m in that mode, I can’t have people calling and giving me bad news. Then I’m out of the mood, I’m out of my groove. I can only afford to concentrate on the ball that’s coming over the plate right then, and that’s trying to write a great song today. Now after the writing appointment is over, then I can process that kind of information a little better.

Lori: Separating the business from the art.

Jason: Yeah, I can’t go back and forth between the two different sides of the brain. I’m a one-track mind kind of guy.

Lori: When you’re writing a song—for instance, when you were writing Break Down Here—do you get a pretty good feel like “Okay, this really has something”?

Jason: I try not to be writing just for the sake of writing. I look for a great idea. Chances are, if we have a great idea we’re gonna write a great song. That’s the whole genesis of everything. If you’ve got an okay idea, the best it can ever be is probably an okay song. Jess Brown and I were out in the parking lot smoking a cigarette and talking, and that title came up in conversation. We were working on something else at the time and we looked at each other and said “Forget that other thing—let’s write this!” Sometimes you’ll have great ideas and you’ll write them down in your hook book and I’ll sit on them for a long time, just waiting for the day when the light bulb goes off on that idea. And you say “I’ve got to write that today.” I don’t want to write it before then. It’s like “No wine before it’s time.” For me, the idea is king. It’s the linchpin for the whole process.

Lori: How long have you been writing?

Jason: I’ve been writing since the fourth grade, short stories and poems and things like that. When I was fifteen years old I saw this BBC biography special on Eric Clapton. It had a lot of performance footage in it. He just blew me away; it looked like his soul was coming through his fingers, through the guitar cable, through the amp. It was like he was singing his soul through a guitar. I had to learn how to play guitar. He set me on fire. As soon as I learned three chords I wrote my first song. Something connected—it was like everything lined up. The song was pretty good for having been my first song and not really knowing how to play guitar yet.

I’d been singing my whole life, in church, and after writing that first song it was like I got to do the three things I love to do most in life. I got to sing, play guitar, and write. It was like the heavens opened up, angels were singing and the whole nine yards. I had no idea how to become a professional songwriter. But it was like God revealed to me, you know, it was like that still small voice inside me. I felt like God and the universe revealed to me that what I was meant to be was a songwriter.

I just followed that, really having no idea what I was doing, how to get from Point A to Point B. I read every book on the subject, but they were all kind of vague about a “path.” All the books seemed to start from a premise that you kind of already knew what the deal was already, which I didn’t. I was back in North Carolina. Nobody wrote songs where I was from. It wasn’t like I grew up in Muscle Shoals Alabama, where you could throw a rock and hit a songwriter.

Lori: So how did you find your way?

Jason: Well, I kept writing songs. I received a teaching scholarships and attended East Carolina University for four years. I wrote songs the whole time. I was just eat up with it. I played little clubs, just me and the guitar. The scholarship was set up so you go to school for four years and then teach four years to pay off the scholarship. I tried to get a teaching job and do everything the right way, like everybody else. I did get a teaching position at Newburn High School. I taught there for five months, 11th and 12th grade English. I found out real quick that was not my bag. I just wasn’t cut out for it.

I could have probably taught a college class. I just couldn’t deal with only having only two or three students in a class that actually cared. You’re trying to set these kids on fire every day about Shakespeare or about Charles Dickens, and it just wasn’t happening. Of course, I might have been totally wrong. Who knows? Plus it was kind of disheartening—you get in there and see how broken the educational system is to begin with. I was a big stickler on having my kids write every day, journals, papers, just anything. Then you get the material back and you go “Oh my God, they don’t even know grammar.” No grasp of the English language, because every teacher before you passed them on up the chain.

Lori: And they’re in the 11th grade.

Jason: And what am I supposed to do about it now? Do I go ahead and teach the curriculum, because we’ve got an end of year test coming up? Or do I say “To hell with Shakespeare, we need to concentrate on grammar for the next six months? Then maybe, just maybe, we can talk about Shakespeare.” It just felt like I was standing on a beach and a tsunami was coming. It was overwhelming. I’d get home every day, I’d have a stack of papers this high, and I’d look at it and go “Do I grade those papers, or do I pick this guitar up and try to write a song?” And the guitar kept winning. I was trying to do my best as a teacher, but I was straddling a fence and I couldn’t continue. During that time period, I’d sent a demo tape off to this thing called Nashville Music Consultants. I saw it on TNN, it was a company Larry Butler owned.

Lori: I remember that—I knew that sounded familiar!

Jason: You paid them $200 and they’d listen to your demo tape and tell you whether it was any good or not. They’d give you a critique. At that point, I’d read every book on the subject and they said “Don’t ever pay anybody anything.”

Lori: Yes, that’s the general advice.

Jason: But I was kind of desperate. I was languishing in this teaching job going “I’ve got another four years of this. If I stay here, it’s gonna kill songwriting.” Next thing I knew, somebody was calling me from Nashville Music Consultants saying “You’re great, how soon can you get here?” I had a buddy who came up here with me. I met with this guy. He offered me a publishing deal in which they got all the publishing and I got no money. I was like “Well I hardly see what sense that makes.”

Lori: What a deal!

Jason: Yeah that’s a deal alright. So needless to say I didn’t take them up on that. But it kind of affirmed what I already believed. It backed it up for me enough so I could go “I need to be there. If it’s good enough for this guy to try to steal it …”

Lori: You knew it had some value.

Jason: If it’s good enough for this guy to try to take it from me for nothing, then I’m doing something right. During that time period, one of my former bosses—a really good friend of mine—he had a buddy in radio who owed him about $900 in golf bets. This guy had a lot of big name people coming through his studio all the time. My buddy told him “I’ve got a friend, I want to send you his demo tape. If you hook him up with somebody who can help him out, you can forget those golf bets.” Next thing I know I’m getting a call from Sandy Pinkard of Pinkard & Bowden, the comedy group. Sandy was a hit songwriter before he did the comedy thing. He wrote “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” “Coca Cola Cowboy,” “Blessed Are the Believers” for Anne Murray.

He told me I was good enough. I put my resignation in and they had me replaced before I even walked out the door, which made me very happy. She was definitely cut out to be a teacher, the person who replaced me. I was happy the kids were gonna be in good hands. I took off in 1995 and came up here. I lived on Nolensville Road in a crappy apartment, and worked little jobs for Sandy. Sandy and Richard [Bowden] were the only two guys I knew. So I tagged along with them, doing odd jobs, I roadied for them now and then, and tried to learn something from then.

They were both great songwriters—Richard’s a great songwriter. I gave that about a year. Sandy had warned me “Don’t play out; there are sharks swimming in those writers’ nights. They’ll rip you off.” But things weren’t happening and I was thinking “How else is somebody gonna hear me, unless I play?” I started out playing the Boardwalk and got a good response. Then I started playing the Broken Spoke, which was really the place to be.

Lori: Yes, it was.

Jason: Same time period I was there—Chris Wallin, Anthony Smith, Tony Lane, Gene Cook, David Lee came out of the Broken Spoke. We were all there at the same time, pretty much every night of the week, sitting around for hours waiting for our turn to get up on stage and play. I took a job at a plumbing supply warehouse, a very low responsibility job so I could make enough money to pay my rent but when I got home I could write songs and go play out. I did that for about 2 ½ years. Then I met Reese Wilson at the Spoke one night. He was pretty much the big dog there.

Lori: I’m having flashbacks. I moved to town in ’95 and I remember the Spoke. I remember Reese.

Jason: He was the big guy. I’d cold-call publishers at lunchtime and most of the time they’d tell me “We don’t accept unsolicited material.” Sometimes they’d let you through the door long enough to listen to your stuff. Tom Collins’ people were very encouraging. But it really wasn’t going anywhere, and I wanted a publishing deal. I wanted to get out of the warehouse. I wanted to do what I came here to do—I was already doing it, but do it at a level where you’ve got a shot at success, and a shot at learning more than you knew prior to coming here. When I started playing the Spoke it was pretty clear Reese was the big hit writer.

So I said to myself “I’m gonna keep writing songs and playing them here until I play a song that knocks him off his barstool and makes him want to work with me.” That’s how naïve I was about everything. But sure enough after about a year, that’s what happened. We started writing together, and I think it was the second song we wrote together, Tracy Byrd cut it. It got me my first publishing deal at Hamstein. Tracy cut it for his greatest hits project; it didn’t make the record because they pulled the project back from Billy Joe at the last minute and cut this other song. Tracy got all ticked off and left the label. Of course, that couldn’t have been the only reason he was mad, there were other things going on and that was just the last straw.

He cut four songs for the greatest hits album—all four of them were great. He cut a Jim Collins song called Go Home that was incredible. It was an honor to have someone cut your song and think it was great. I wound up losing that deal, I was there for about two years. It was pretty devastating at the time. Devastating but freeing too, because it wasn’t going well. It wasn’t the right environment to be in, it wasn’t a good fit for whatever reason. I looked at Debbie and said “I guess I’ll go get a day job.” And she said “No you won’t. I’ll make sure the bills get paid, you’re gonna keep writing like a business.” So that’s exactly what I did for the next year.

It was nice because at that point, I was coming from a place where people were critiquing every square inch of your song and telling you it was horrible, and you ask what you can do about it and they say “Nothing, just go write another song.” Then to finally be in a situation where not only are you writing the songs, you’re making all the quality decisions: “Is this a worthy song? Is this a great song? If it’s not a great song, what can you do to make it better?”

Lori: So you’re learning to critique your own songs.

Jason: Yeah. I was chief, cook and bottle-washer. I was CEO, songwriter, the whole nine yards. And Debbie would help in pitching the songs. It was a very freeing experience. I would say in that year, I found my own voice and I began to trust my own voice. I really discovered a whole lot about myself that I didn’t know, as a person and as a writer. I didn’t know I could be that strong. I don’t know that I would’ve gotten through it without Debbie, being a sensitive songwriter and all.

Lori: It definitely helps to have somebody in your corner.

Jason: It was awesome. During that period I met Kerry Kurt Phillips and we hit it off. We were like peanut butter and jelly, that’s how good we went together. I think it was the second or third song we wrote in that year was “That’s Just Jesse” with Kevin Denney. I still didn’t have a publishing deal. Kevin had a developmental deal at Lyric Street at the time, Doug Howard was the one working with him. He walked in and played Doug the demo and he flipped out. Next thing you know Kevin’s got a full-fledged record deal and he’s cutting an album. That’s Just Jesse was the first single. It was like boom boom boom.

Lori: Wow.

Jason: Yeah. You couldn’t ask for something to line up better than that. It was an honor to have his single because he’s such a talented artist. Also I was writing with Susan Haynes who was at EMI. The pluggers over there were really digging the stuff we were writing. It kind of put me on their radar. So we started talking, Greg Hill and John May, and they wanted to sign me. Sure enough it happened, and it was a beautiful thing. The cool thing about EMI back then was it was the world’s largest publisher—it’s right there under their sing, “EMI—World’s Largest Publisher.”

Lori: They’re not shy about it.

Jason: But it really didn’t feel that way. It felt homey and nice, and really quality people. It still does. It’s a wonderful place to be. I really came out of my shell with the conjunction of that year writing for myself and then going into this deal. And I had absolute freedom to do what I wanted to do. Before to get a demo session, it was like manna from heaven when that happened. Now at EMI they’re going “You know how to do a demo session don’t you? Because we’re gonna expect one from you once every month, two months.” I’m like “Okay!”

Lori: That’s the best of both worlds—freedom and support.

Jason: Yeah, it was awesome. They allowed me to be what I was, no questions asked. Which is the way it ought to be, because technically a songwriter is not an employee of the publisher. You’re business partners. Until they take out taxes on you, and pay for your health insurance, they’re not your employer.

Lori: That’s so obvious I missed it.

Jason: I know I pay my taxes as an independent contractor. And that’s exactly what you are, you work for yourself. That’s what that year with no publishing deal taught me—I work for me. I answer to me. Not that I’m not trying to work in conjunction with other people, and work as part of a team.

Lori: But at the end of the day it’s just you.

Jason: At the end of the day the only one responsible is gonna be me. The quality of song, quality of demo …I’m the one I answer to.

Lori: It seems to me that would have a very positive affect on you writing. You’re fully owning it in a psychological sense, even.

Jason: Yes. What’s great about it is, that year about myself taught me self-reliance. I can’t count on anybody else for my success, and I can’t blame anybody else for my failure.

Lori: Good point.

Jason: Not only do I not want that to be in the hands of somebody else, I relish the thought of my own success and failure being in my hands, and not being able to pawn it off on somebody else. I want control over every single little thing I can get my hands on, in regards to my career.

Lori: That’s a very empowering thing.

Jason: That’s been our mindset ever since. Nobody is gonna stand in our way. If you don’t like what I do and you put a roadblock up, I’m either gonna go over it, around it or under it. I’m gonna try to find a way to be successful. That’s what every songwriter has to do. You have to be relentless.

Lori: And pretty fearless.

Jason: And also—the thing about that year was you start looking at the people who are successful. You start looking at Craig Wiseman, Tony Martin, and you go “What’s the secret to their success?” I think it’s obvious. They go to work every day and sit in a room and write songs. They’re total pros. And they happen to have a boatload of talent to go along with that great work ethic. If you want to be as successful as they are, you have to show up and work just as hard as they do—no, you have to work harder. They’ve already earned a spot where people have come to trust what they do.

Lori: They have a track record.

Jason: They have a track record, and people are gonna go “I want to hear Craig Wiseman’s next session before anybody else hears it.” And by God, he should have that right. He’s earned it. He spent thirteen years, they were cutting the electricity off in his apartment, when finally somebody started to get what he did. Confederate Railroad and boom! Off to the races. I think he’s wonderful.

Lori: I do, too.

Jason: And that’s where every songwriter wants to be, to work and finally get in that position. If you want to be in that position, you’ve got to work as hard as he does. You’ve got to be as good a guy as he is. All of us in town at this moment in time, all of us songwriters, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. At the end of my career, and hopefully that’s a long way away from right now, I’d like people to mention my name in the same breath as people like Richard Leigh, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Linde, Shel Silverstein, Roger Murrah, Dean Dillon, my heroes. I want my work to be thought of as great as theirs is. That’s what I work on every day. I just try to write great songs. And what’s my gauge for that? I just know what I like. If I don’t like it, chances are nobody else is gonna like it.

Lori: We’re a lot more alike than we think we are.

Jason: That’s the only gauge I know. If I don’t like it, why am I gonna sit here and finish this thing?

Lori: And if you’re not excited about it, that is gonna come across in the song.

Jason: Yeah. I’d rather spend a day hunting down a great idea than to just jump on any old idea.

Lori: When I found out you wrote two of my favorite recent songs, Must Be Doin’ Something Right and Break Down Here—I thought “Why do I like those songs?” What struck me the most about them was the sense of groove. Where do you think that comes from—is that just part of the way you write?

Jason: I think it is. Part of it came from growing up in Carolina and listening to my dad’s 8-track collection. He had pretty eclectic taste—he listened to Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Motown …

Lori: I was wondering if that was in there. It’s very soulful.

Jason: Philly soul. The Eagles, Boston … it was very cool to grow up listening to that kind of music. At a young age you’re not really capable of truly appreciating it yet, so it’s just kind of seeing in and becoming a part of you and you don’t even realize it. You can’t truly appreciate what it is until you’re older, but you find when you’re older it’s already there. Then the light bulb goes off. The music I tended to gravitate to when I got my first boom box and started getting an allowance and could go buy cassettes was 80s pop music. I was already a musical weirdo from listening to my dad’s stuff, but the first two cassettes I ever bought were Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Ronnie Milsap’s Greatest Hits Volume I. I wore them out.

Lori: That’s quite a spectrum.

Jason: Then I got the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack for Christmas. That was a great soundtrack and had a lot of different stuff on it. Then in high school I was in my heavy metal period—I was listening to Motley Crüe, Metallica. I love hit songs. And back then hit songs were really hit songs. I’m sure some of it was manufactured here and there, hits that were hits because they were moneyed up the charts, but for the most part there were real hits. Especially Motown. As soon as you hear “My Girl” you know it’s a hit. “Tracks of my Tears,” you know that’s a hit from the first fifteen seconds.

Lori: They had the magic going on.

Jason: Yeah. So that rubbed off on me. In college I started getting into singer/songwriters, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, John Hiatt, Neil Young. I remember listening to the Running on Empty album over and over.

Lori: I loved that album.

Jason: The Pretender—I was amazed at that song.

Lori: I think you can read a million books, but where you really learn—it’s like that osmosis thing you were talking about earlier—is when you listen to stuff like that over and over, and you’re internalizing what Jackson Browne did whether you know it or not.

Jason: What’s interesting about him is, he’s got a way of writing six minute hit songs that have no chorus. He’s the only guy on planet Earth that can get away with that. When you hear the song, musically it shifts like a hit song shifts, from verse to chorus. But in his songs there is no solid lyrical chorus. He’ll sing something different in that spot where the chorus is every time, and yet it doesn’t matter because it’s so tight and so beautiful. He’s a true poet. If I ever get depressed, I put on a Jackson Browne record and sink into it.

But after having read tons of novels and been to college and having been having a record collection that’s God knows how big, and writing songs every day—at the end of it, it’s all still a mystery. No matter how much you know about it, you still know nothing. Something’s gonna happen that just surprises you. We all still rely on the gifts from God.

Lori: Sounds like a quote to me.

Jason: I’ll tell you a story about Must Be Doin’ Something Right. Marty and I were throwing hooks back and forth trying to find something to write. They were all fine hooks, it’s just that there was no inspiration, no light bulb going off saying “Write this today.” That’s what I try to look for, “What does the day want to offer us today?” I just start playing on the guitar, trying to hook into something. I call it the God Frequency.

Lori: The God Frequency?

Jason: It’s like that great big radio channel in the sky that you keep trying to tune into and every once in awhile you catch a little bit, and then it’s back to static. You take what you heard and you write it, you try to put all the other stuff around the inspiration. I remember clear as day [sings] “Must be doing something right” popped into my head. That’s all that was given. I just repeated it and Marty looked at me and said “What’s that?” Then I knew that’s what we were supposed to write. We went off on it. I won’t say it fell out because we did work, but it wasn’t as hard as other songs have been. It was so enjoyable, everything about it just felt right.

It felt good writing it and it felt good playing it. We did a guitar/vocal of it. Marty played the guitar/vocal for his publisher, Mike Sebastian, and he flipped out over it and started running with the guitar/vocal before we even had a chance to demo it. Abby pitched it to Brian Wright over at Universal and he put it on hold off the work tape. He played the work tape for Billie, he loved it; played it for Carson, he loved it; played it for Luke Lewis, he loved it. That song literally got cut off the work tape in a matter of weeks. They told us it was gonna be the title cut, then they told us it was the first single. It was the quickest I’ve ever had a song recorded.

Lori: I honestly think that song would’ve been a hit no matter who cut it. But Billie’s voice was a great match for it.

Jason: Billie’s a fantastic singer, plus he’s got abs of steel. With him singing a love song rolling around on the beach with a girl …who’s not gonna buy that?!?

Lori: I hadn’t noticed!

Jason: I told Marty “If he takes his shirt off one time for the video, there will be a Brinks truck rolling up to dump money on our lawn.” They finally showed us the video and he didn’t have a shirt on the whole time. I was like “Yes!”

Lori: Cha-ching!

Jason: Because after you write the thing, then you start thinking about how to market it. I think they did a genius, brilliant job. They played to their strong point. Billie’s a good-looking guy with abs of steel—why not have him with his shirt off singing a love song?

Lori: Hey, I totally agree with their decision.

Jason: Do it! By all means, do it! And they sold a boatload of records. I thought everything they did was pitch perfect.

Lori: It’s a great record, it really is. I love the feel of it. And honestly, the first time I heard it I didn’t have a clue who was singing it and I didn’t care. I thought “I don’t even care who’s singing this, I love the song. It’s so groovy.” Plus it had all those cool inter-line rhymes.

Jason: While Marty and I were writing it, we got on this discussion. Marty said “Why doesn’t anybody write songs for people going out on Friday or Saturday night anymore?” Country music used to have a lot of songs for Friday and Saturday night.

Lori: The date song.

Jason: The date song! Being with your girl, making out in the backseat, steaming up windows. There used to be lots of songs on the radio like that. Conway Twitty. Alabama had the market cornered. Then it seemed like we entered this period where there was none of that. I said “Dude, Friday and Saturday night didn’t just disappear. People are still going out. If they’re not listening to some country singer sing a love song, you can bet they’re listening to an R & B singer sing one.” So for me this song is kind of like Al Green meets Alabama. What would that sound like? It’s R & B but it’s country.

Lori: That’s absolutely what it was.

Jason: That’s my favorite kind of music. Probably more than ten years ago, Tony Brown did that country rhythm and blues album when he was still at MCA, all those duets with country and R & B singers. I loved that album. There really is not much difference between country and R & B. It all comes from the same place, same water. Ray Charles was the guy who proved that. He broke all the barriers down. I wanted to hear more songs like that.

Lori: That’s cool; write what you want to hear. This has been awesome. I really loved hearing your background; it’s always interesting hearing what brings somebody to the music.

Jason: You’ve got to follow your muse. I think it’s true that people are born to be songwriters. I also think it’s true that songwriters have something unique, each and every one of them, that they’re supposed to say. Their music that they’re supposed to bring into the world. That’s all I’m trying to do. Music can heal the world.

Lori: I absolutely believe that.

Jason: When I was in college you had to read so much, and one of the quotes that stuck with me—because I’m really not a guy who memorizes quotes—but Phillip Sidney wrote this thing called In Defense of Poesy. Basically, it was a whole argument for the existence of poetry and the existence of poets. He said “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Why is that? I think it’s because poets influence the way people think. If you influence the way people think, then you’re going to influence the way people act. I can make an argument that Bob Dylan’s Masters of War ended the Vietnam War. The Times They Are A-Changing, Blowing in the Wind …

Lori: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Jason: Yeah; he was the right man at the right time, saying what he was meant to say. I don’t think he had any idea the effect his words were going to have. I don’t think he wanted to be leader of some movement. He was a songwriter. How would you handle it if you’d written these songs, and to you they’re just you being a songwriter—and then they have that kind of effect on the world? I can understand why he doesn’t really want to take credit for it, but I’ll give him credit. That’s what poets can do. And the only poets that are left, the only people getting paid to be poets, are songwriters. There aren’t any kings and queens anymore willing to keep a poet on staff. It’s songwriters, so it’s our duty to find some way to merge art with commerce. It can’t all be art, because then it’s inaccessible; but it can’t all be commerce either, because then it’s crap.

Lori: Amen!

Jason: So we’ve got to find a way to merge it, get the art in and yet make it palatable and catchy but say something.

Lori: The heart and the soul. I think that hit songs have both those components.

Jason: Songs that move me, that I’ll be trying to live up to for the rest of my life, trying to write something that equals them are like A Boy Named Sue. Cover of the Rolling Stone. Walkaway Joe. The Song Remembers When. The Dance. He Stopped Loving Her Today. What’s that song Gary Burr wrote about his daddy?

Lori: Oh yeah--That’s My Job. Just about anything Gary Burr wrote, I’m telling you.

Jason: I Can’t Make You Love Me. Trying to write something that’s going to be that memorable, that pure, that great. That’s what makes those songs great; they’re pure, they’re real …

Lori: And they’re honest.

Jason: They’re honest and they stay with you. A Boy Named Sue may be the greatest story song ever written. It just so happens that it’s funny. But it’s brilliant. I read a Rolling Stone interview with Bono the other day and he gave full credit to the song A Boy Named Sue for making him want to be a musician. Without A Boy Named Sue, U2 wouldn’t even exist.

Lori: That’s amazing.

Jason: A Boy Named Sue, written by Shel Silverstein. That’s the song that set his world on fire. Without that song, he could’ve very well been stuck in Dublin the rest of his life, working in some factory.

Lori: And if you hadn’t seen Eric Clapton—everybody has that defining moment.

Jason: Exactly. That’s the beautiful thing about it. When I go to songwriter shows outside of Nashville—you just don’t know what kind of effect your songs are having on people. They’re coming up to you and telling you what it meant to them. Telling you that you wrote their life, or you moved them to tears, or they fell in love to your song, they danced with the person they’re married to now for the first time to your song. That’s why we do what we do. It’s not for money, though we have to make money because this is what we do for a living. But the real reward is that; that means more than any Number 1 plaque, any Song of the Year, anything that somebody’s gonna hang on the wall. That’s what music is all about.

Lori: Amen. That’s a good place to stop!

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Jason Matthews was born in Harrell's Store, North Carolina. At fifteen he saw Eric Clapton on television and became obsessed with writing songs. 

His first industry fan, WRFX DJ Macon in Charlotte, gave Matthews' demo to legendary musical comedy team Pinkard and Bowden, who subsequently invited Matthews to be their roadie and in-house writer. After a year on the road, he settled in Nashville to pursue his dream of becoming a hit songwriter. 

In 2006, he landed his first Number One with Billy Currington's version of his song, “Must Be Doin' Something Right.” This earned him the coveted Music Row Magazine Breakthrough Writer Of The Year award and several ASCAP awards. 

In 2008, Jason released the critically acclaimed album called "Hicotine" and the single "That's What Mamas Do". 

Jason is an artist with Valhalla Music Group.