Nashville songwriter Aimee Mayo is enjoying an amazing career as co-writer of the record-breaking Lonestar hit, “Amazed.” Written with husband Chris Lindsey and longtime songwriting partner Marv Green, “Amazed” spent eight weeks at the top of Billboard’s country singles chart, the longest period a song has spent at number one in 30 years. Then, for good measure, the song crossed over to top the pop charts, making it the first country song to accomplish such a feat since Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers crossed over with their 1983 song, “Islands in the Stream.”
The list of awards “Amazed” has received is truly impressive. It garnered the Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) “Song Of The Year” award for 2000, and spent two years on BMI’s list of the 50 most performed songs for 2000 and 2001. In addition, BMI awarded its writers the 32nd Robert J. Burton Award for being the most performed country song of the year. It received a Grammy nomination and was nominated for “Best Song” by the Country Music Association (CMA). Mayo and Green were jointly named BMI’s “Writer Of The Year” for 2001.
In a recent interview, Mayo recalled the events which influenced the creation of this immensely popular love song. “Chris and I were falling in love, though we were still mostly friends. We got together with Marv to write the song, and our feelings for each other just started coming out as we were writing. About six months later Jim Catino at Dreamworks (Lindsey’s label) played the song for Lonestar producer Dann Huff and he loved it.” Lonestar recorded the song on their Lonely Grill album along with one of Lindsey’s songs, “Smile,” which also became a number one single.
“Amazed” was the second single released from the album. “I guess it was out for a couple months, then it just started flying up the charts,” said Mayo. “We loved the song, but we had no idea it would get such a great response. Everyone was calling and wanting them to play it on the radio. I’d get in my car and turn on the radio and they’d be saying ‘we’re gonna play it, quit calling.’ I loved it.”
Mayo shared an important milestone with her husband when the song reached number one in the summer of 1999. “It was my first number one song and my husband’s first number one. It stayed at number one for eight weeks, almost all summer. We were so excited. That was a great summer for us. We were so excited when it crossed over to the pop charts. We loved hearing it on the rock stations.”
Mayo’s relationship with husband & songwriter Chris Lindsey has provided inspiration for some of Mayo’s other hit songs. “My Best Friend,” co-written with Bill Luther and recorded by Tim McGraw on his album A Place in the Sun, also hit number one on the country charts. “Bill was my first, steady writing partner,” said Mayo, “and we’ve been really close friends for about eight years. We were trying to write a great love song for Valentine’s Day. I was reading a copy of Country Weekly magazine that was a couples issue, and I saw that a lot of people were saying that their husband or wife was their best friend. I thought that would be a great idea for a song, [then] Bill and I sat down and wrote it a couple of hours.”
Mayo’s songwriting roots run deep. Her father, Danny Mayo, who wrote such hits as “Keeper of the Stars” (with Dickey Lee & Karen Staley) and “Feed Jake,” was one of Nashville’s top writers. Aimee credits her father’s influence for her stellar success. “I was always surrounded by music growing up. He was always writing songs and my little brother, and I would critique them all and tell him which ones we thought were hits. We were right a good bit of the time. I also stayed grounded most of the time and I spent all my time in my room writing poems, so I guess I can thank my stepdad for keeping me grounded.”
Aimee came to Nashville in 1990 and supported her songwriting habit by waiting tables at Brown’s Café for three years before signing a publishing deal with Karen Conrad’s AMR/New Haven Music (acquired by BMG Music in 1997). “I played a lot of songs for a lot of different people,” said Mayo. “I just kept knocking on doors and my persistence finally paid off. I think a lot of people didn’t take me seriously because I was so young.”
Success as a songwriter doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, Mayo said. “I lived in a lot of basements where we all had to share a laundry room. It was probably seven years before I could afford a house of my own with a real bathtub.”
Mayo offered advice for new writers trying to break into the business. “If you’re writing country songs, you pretty much need to move to Nashville and knock on every door you can. Go to workshops and be there during writer’s nights. Somebody’s gonna hear you. I know of a lot of writers who did this and had deals before they knew it. Also, BMI and ASCAP are very helpful as far as working with new writers.”
There is no real formula for writing hit songs, Mayo said. “We just write what we love, not what we think people want to hear,” she said. “If it doesn’t inspire us, chances are it won’t inspire others. But you just can’t tell what people will like. Sometimes it’s a matter of what artists are looking for at the time. Faith (Hill) is getting ready to record a new album soon and we’re praying she includes one of our songs on her next record.”
Amidst all the excitement of her career, Mayo has found time to start a family. She and Lindsey are the proud parents of one-and-a-half-year-old Levi, and are expecting their second son in about six weeks. Sadly, Mayo lost her father on his birthday in October of 1999. “We brought Levi home from the hospital exactly nine months to the day of my dad’s death,” she remembered.
The popularity of Mayo songs continues. “We hear a lot of stories about how couples are using “Amazed” as their wedding song,” she said. “One story that really touched me was when I learned that a couple used my dad’s song, ‘Keeper of the Stars’ in their wedding, then played ‘Amazed’ for their first dance. That was really special to me.”
To date, Mayo has had approximately 60 of her songs cut by both new and established artists. Despite their growing family, she and Lindsey continue to write together every day and look forward to a bright future.
Jayne Moore is a freelance music/entertainment journalist. She has launched a new service, writing bios, articles and press releases. Moore can be contacted at [email protected]. You can also visit her website: www.musicgerm.com.