by Dan Reifsnyder, GSC Reporter
Dan Reifsnyder: Tell us about yourself as an artist and writer.
Chad Hamilton: I definitely consider myself a writer first and foremost and then a producer–but not an artist. Don’t get me wrong, I love to ham it up in the spotlight, and I can carry a tune with the help of a bucket, but at this point in my life and with my commitments, it’s just not practical to pursue. Plus, having worked with artists, I can truly appreciate the title “recording artist.” Whenever I have a song I’m excited about, I can’t wait to replace my demo vocal with that of a true artist! I do most of my writing with artists. I find it very exciting to try to help them deliver something that resonates with who they are as an artist and what messages they want to send. Also, being close to the artist makes it more likely that I’ll get to hear one of my creations released to the world by someone who’s really putting his/her heart into the performance.
When I’m not in Nashville, which I am blessed to have a situation that allows me to visit every other month, I write almost 100% of the time over the Internet. Technology is wonderful for allowing me to regularly connect creatively with co-writers from Nashville and various places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Oklahoma – this year I hope to write with someone from another country! And I will write ANYTHING. In fact, I love to be pushed outside of my comfort zone. I write mostly country and pop, but I would love to do some hip hop and EDM – that’s another goal for 2018. My true ambition is to be the really cool guy that so many artists and writers want to have in the room with them. I want to watch my friends reach their goals and be successful, and if possible, play a role in helping them.
DR: Those are some pretty cool goals! What got you into music in the first place?
CH: I really think it was my dad. There was always music in the house. He had a big component stereo. Turntable, tape deck, reel-to-reel, tuner, EQ . . . eventually a CD player. I feel like so frequently on the weekends, there would be music playing throughout the house – he put speakers in three different rooms. I learned to LOVE the sound of vinyl. In fact, he never let my brother or I buy a cassette tape – we had to buy records and then he would record them onto cassette for us as a portable copy. It’s fun to see vinyl make a comeback, because I have a ton of it, and memories to boot. I can still feel the light green shag carpet in the living room where I would smell the vinyl as I pulled it out and dropped a needle on it, and I can still see myself reading the sleeve from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was my older brother’s first record. My mother and father, together, had at least a hundred albums from the 60s through the 80s, including a boatload of 45s.
But that living room carpet I mentioned was more important to my story. Occasionally, the four of us would gather in the living room, which was not a place a spent I a lot of time since it was “off limits” unless there was company or we were gathering there as a family. And no, there wasn’t plastic on the sofa – Mom just didn’t want her boys in there wrecking the place! Anyway, my father had and still has a 1960s or 1970s Martin guitar and a knack for playing folk songs. He’d sing to us – I specifically remember Puff the Magic Dragon being a favorite of mine as well as The Marvelous Toy. Later in life, I realized he wasn’t a virtuoso by any means, but as a kid, I thought he was great and those moments being together as a family were truly magical – much better than watching TV or staring at cell phones. From there I made a journey from country music to 80s pop, 80s rock, hip hop, classic rock, club, alternative rock, folk and Americana, orchestral and classical, jazz, hardcore rock and metal, and back to country and pop. I loved it all and still do.
DR: So who would you say are your musical influences?
CH: I really don’t know how to answer this, based on my broad exposure. I know when I was about five years old, I had a Care Bears tape deck, and I picked two records from my Uncle Bob’s collection – he’s my dad’s brother. I’m not sure what prompted it, but I can still vaguely see myself sorting through a stack of vinyl and finding a cover with a guy and a casino table. You got it – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler. Who says you can’t judge a book, or album, by its cover?! I brought home two Kenny Rogers records and my father copied them onto cassette for me and I played it nonstop, for hours at a time. I don’t think any of my music sounds like those records, but I guess it’s a fun story. Then I went through that journey of genres I mentioned before until Shania Twain caught my ear, and I guess my eye, too, if I’m being completely honest, and hooked me into country music. From there MANY songs and artists really captured my heart with their powerful emotions, honesty, and stories, and that’s definitely what inspired me to be a songwriter and learn to tell my stories and share my emotions in a magical 3-minute melody. But as far as influences go, it’s tough. I mean, I had a Jimi Hendrix obsession, but I could never really play like him, and I don’t think I hear any Purple Haze in the songs I’m writing. I would love for someone to tell me what influences they hear in my songs and my productions, because as far as I’m concerned, the question more easily answered is, “who aren’t my musical influences?”
DR: Nice. Well, your tastes sound pretty eclectic. How did you get hooked up with GSC?
CH: The Cincinnati-Dayton NSAI Chapters in Ohio meet every week. They really are an awesome, active group. After taking about a ten year break from writing, for whatever reason, maybe it was my divorce or new perspectives on life, but I decided it was time to truly pursue excellence as a songwriter and do it in a way that would keep me at it for the rest of my life. That group really gave me a home every week and I started rebuilding contacts and making friends there. Jim Melko, one of the coordinators, is a SESAC member, and he contacted SESAC and recommended they meet with me. Unfortunately, SESAC was not interested in an out-of-towner, which is very understandable, but they were very gracious and helpful and recommended I meet Sheree’ Spoltore’. I actually met Sheree’ in the SESAC lobby, and as they say, when one door closes another opens.
DR: It definitely seems to happen that way! What do you feel is different about GSC?
CH: There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you aren’t making progress toward your goals, and GSC truly has enabled me to make that progress and more importantly really appreciate it. It’s been one of the most inspiring and encouraging and empowering relationships for me. I look back when I had just moved to Nashville after college and think about the reasons I gave up the dream and denied myself for many years the creative time I needed, and I think it had to do with direction. I knew where I was and where my songs were, and I knew I had to grow, but while there were plenty of industry folks willing to give feedback or offer knowledge, there was no one helping me make those tactical decisions, like, OK what should I do right now, and tomorrow and next month? Sheree’ has figured out a formula that truly allows each GSC member to understand his or her personal journey and she helps teach, encourage, and equip us along the way. It’s like having a life coach or a manager – there are more than several great organizations and programs that give value to a developing writer or artist, but I don’t know any that can give the personalized guidance that Sheree’ and GSC provides. I don’t make a living on my music, can’t afford to do it full time, and haven’t reached any of my BIG goals, yet, but I still love waking up early every morning to write or produce or do the administrative work, and I don’t have to lie when I say, “I’m living the dream,” because I believe it – I owe a lot of that to GSC.
DR: Well said, Chad! Considering how broad your tastes are, this might be a big question, but what are some songs you wish you’d written?
CH: I try to keep up with a list of these and it’s over 100 long now! Some include:Letter to Me– Brad Paisley – I remember I was in my shop and just stopped in my tracks when that song hit me. The Secret to Life– a lesser known Faith Hill cut, that song helped me during a very dark time in my life. Don’t Blink, There Goes My Life– Kenny Chesney. Fifteen– Taylor Swift. Austin– Blake Shelton. Riding With Private Malone– David Ball. Back of the Bottom Drawer– Chely Wright. All of those I admire for their creative delivery, story, and/or emotion. Chandelier– Sia for it’s ridiculous melody and lesser appreciated serious message. I Want It That Way– Backstreet Boys because I wanted to be in a boy band, and how cool would it be to have millions of people around the world sing your super catchy infectious song? All I Want For Christmas is You– Mariah Carey – it’s a legacy, it’s a gravy train, and it’s for my favorite time of year. How awesome would it be to write a song that maybe your grandchildren would listen to during Christmas? Some of those Christmas classics have persisted many decades, which is really cool.
DR: That would be pretty awesome to have a legacy cut like that. Tell us about some of your recent successes!
CH: Early in 2017, I had the honor of working with a talented artist and writer, and truly special young woman, Lexi Peto, who is currently a freshman at Belmont in their songwriting program. I produced her EP and co-wrote three songs with her – I also started a label and took care of the release. It’s hard to articulate how fun, how much of a learning experience, and what great satisfaction came from that process. Another talented young woman, Jordyn Kenzie, who is a junior in an arts high school in Pennsylvania, recently was in Nashville and cut two songs that I co-wrote with her. I’m anticipating them to be released sometime early this year. I haven’t even heard them yet – I’m so excited!
DR: So I noticed you’re a parent. How has that changed your writing, if at all?
CH: Honestly, I haven’t noticed my perspectives changing much, per se, but I’ve included my daughter in my journey, even since she was an infant, and she’s not even three now. It’s funny because she’s known for most of her life that daddy goes to Nashville a lot, but I know she has no concept of what or where Nashville is, but she’ll help me get ready! Anyway, Monday through Friday, she joins me in my studio early in the morning before I commute to Cincinnati, and whether she’s making a ruckus pounding on her drums while I’m trying to record a work tape, emptying a box of tissues and ripping them up all over the floor while I’m laying down a demo track, or sitting on my lap singing with me – I cherish every minute of it. I don’t know how important music will be in her life, but I hope the moments we spend together are as magical for her as they are for me. She’s starting to sing some of my songs when I’m working on them, and that’s just the most exciting feeling for me!
DR: That’s really cool. I appreciate you taking the time to talk, Chad!