Hit Nashville Songwriter Craig Wiseman Builds Big Loud Shirt, A Top Music Publishing Company

Craig Wiseman 2015
Craig Wiseman

For the past two decades, Craig Wiseman has been one of the most renowned, hit songwriters in Nashville. He has co-written an impressive 21 #1 country hits, plus many other chart singles and cuts. Wiseman has penned hits for Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, LeAnn Rimes, Chris Young, Blake Shelton, Tracy Lawrence, Diamond Rio, Brooks & Dunn and other artists. Notably, he’s a Grammy Award winner for Best Country Song, and he’s received honors from the CMA, ACM, NSAI (Songwriter of the Decade) and ASCAP (Songwriter of the Year three times).

In addition to his major success as a songwriter, Wiseman launched his company Big Loud Shirt in 2003, which has become one of the hottest music publishing companies in Nashville. Big Loud Shirt publishes the songs of top songwriters Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Sarah Buxton, Joey Moi, Matt Dragstrem, and Wiseman’s own songs. Notably, Wiseman is also a partner in Big Loud Mountain, a record label, management & music publishing company which represents the platinum-selling country duo Florida Georgia Line (Tyler Hubbard & Brian Kelley) and other artists.

Big Loud Shirt has been a Top 10 mainstay on the country charts for the past decade, achieving a massive 38 #1 hit singles and bringing home Grammy awards for Best Country Song for “Live Like You Were Dying” (recorded by Tim McGraw), “Before He Cheats” and “Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood), plus garnering three other Grammy nominations including “I Saw God Today” (George Strait).

Here is a sampling of other hit singles Big Loud Shirt publishes: “Get Your Shine On,” “Round Here,” “Dirt,” “Sun Daze” and “Sippin’ On Fire” (Florida Georgia Line); “Drunk On You” and “Crash My Party” (Luke Bryan); “Burnin’ It Down” and “Take A Little Ride” (Jason Aldean); “Drunk On A Plane” (Dierks Bentley), “Summertime” and “Ain’t Back Yet” (Kenny Chesney); “Feel Like A Rockstar” (Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw); “One Of Those Nights” (Tim McGraw); “Bartender” (Lady Antebellum); “Voices” (Chris Young); “Hillbilly Bone,” “Drink On It,” “Sure Be Cool If You Did” and “Boys ‘Round Here” (Blake Shelton); “Love Me If You Can” (Toby Keith); “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely’ (The Band Perry); and “Something’s Gotta Give” (LeAnn Rimes).

In addition, Big Loud Shirt represents the catalogs of Clint Lagerberg, Don Poythress, Jenn Schott and Deanna Bryant.

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Craig Wiseman. He tells how he started Big Loud Shirt, and discusses the company’s hit songwriters. He also talks about the sister company Big Loud Mountain which represents Florida Georgia Line.

DK: What made you want to start your own company, Big Loud Shirt?

Wiseman: I realized I had a lot of success as a songwriter—what was my next move? I had been signed first with Almo/Irving Music and then with BMG Music. When my deal with BMG ended, I decided to keep my publishing and launch Big Loud Shirt, which would also sign other songwriters. I was the first writer signed to Big Loud Shirt. I bought a building on Music Row (in Nashville), and then expanded in 2011 by buying a bigger building.

Tyler Hubbard (of Florida Georgia Line), Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman, Joey Moi and Brian Kelley (Florida Georgia Line).
Pictured (l-r) : Tyler Hubbard (of Florida Georgia Line), Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, Craig Wiseman, Joey Moi and Brian Kelley (Florida Georgia Line).

DK: When did you sign Chris Tompkins and Rodney Clawson?

Wiseman: We signed Chris Tompkins first. His song “Before He Cheats” (recorded by Carrie Underwood) was just coming on the radio. We were hanging out in 2005 and he officially signed with Big Loud Shirt in 2006. I bought his company and catalog.

Rodney Clawson was signed with Extreme Music, and he already had several big hits writing with John Rich. But at the time, Extreme Music was in the process of selling its catalog, so I stepped in to sign Rodney in 2007.

Both Chris and Rodney had success (before signing with Big Loud Shirt). I did sign some young writers, but I realized I had to step up to sign Chris and Rodney. Since they’ve signed with Big Loud Shirt, we’ve had incredible success together.

DK:  How did you sign Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley from Florida Georgia Line?

Wiseman: Around 2008-9, with Chris and Rodney signed, things were really starting to gel. We were sitting on a lot of great songs. My VP Seth England and I talked—he said we should sign a band, and sell our own records. We looked at some young artists. We liked one kid from Belmont (University), but he mostly wrote with these two other guys who turned out to be Tyler and Brian. We liked the songs they wrote, and they had a great attitude and great work ethic.

Around that time I was also writing with Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, and I met Joey Moi (who was producing Nickelback). In 2010, Joey signed a publishing deal with us, and he and Rodney did some great work with (country star) Jake Owen. Joey introduced me to his manager Kevin “Chief” Zaruk, who was also the tour manager for Nickelback. We decided to join together (Moi, Zaruk, England and Wiseman) to form a new company called Big Loud Mountain, which would be a record label, management and music publishing company.

The Big Loud Shirt team: Matt Dragstrem, Amy Allmand, Brian Kelley, Chris Tompkins, Tyler Hubbard, Sarah Buxton, Craig Wiseman, Seth England and Kimberly Gleason.
The Big Loud Shirt team: (pictured l-r) : Matt Dragstrem, Amy Allmand, Brian Kelley, Chris Tompkins, Tyler Hubbard, Sarah Buxton, Craig Wiseman, Seth England and Kimberly Gleason.

Then we signed Tyler and Brian (from Florida Georgia Line), and we put them together to write with Chris and Rodney. Tyler & Brian loved writing with them—the first four songs all made FGL’s album.

At first, we put together an EP for FGL. The first single “Cruise” started taking off. That attracted a bunch of major labels who became interested in partnering with us. We decided to sign with Universal (Republic Nashville). As an independent label, we had sold 20,000 singles of FGL when we handed it off to Universal.

DK: Are there other artists who have signed with Big Loud Mountain?

Wiseman: Yes, Chief and Joey brought in Dallas Smith, who is already big in Canada. Our latest signing is Chris Lane, who has a new EP coming out.

DK: At Big Loud Shirt, who are the other writers you’ve signed, besides Chris Tompkins, Rodney Clawson and Joey Moi?

Wiseman: We’ve signed (writer/artist) Sarah Buxton, whom I’ve written with and produced. She co-wrote a big hit called “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely” for The Band Perry. She also co-wrote the #1 hit “Sun Daze” for FGL. We also have Matt Dragstrem, who co-wrote FGL’s new single “Sippin’ On Fire. He also co-wrote the new single by Eli Young Band, “Turn It On.”

DK: Since you’ve been running Big Loud Shirt, do you still have time to do as much songwriting as you used to?

Wiseman: Yes, I try to keep my songwriting my first priority. For the most part, I still write five days a week. I’ve got the next Blake Shelton single and the next FGL single.

DK: How many employees do you have at Big Loud Shirt?

Wiseman: We have five people. We have Seth England, (Vice President of both Big Loud Shirt and Big Loud Nation), Matt Turner (Creative Director), Amy Allmand (Creative Coordinator) and Kimberly Gleason (Office Manager) whom I’ve worked with for 20 years.

DK: You’ve had so much experience as a songwriter and publisher. For young songwriters who are trying to break into the Nashville music business, what advice would you give them?

Wiseman: It’s important to have the work ethic, enthusiasm and energy. My advice to songwriters—Do it. When you’re starting out, you don’t have to be in Nashville. You can upload your songs onto your computer, and post your music online. When you write a song today, post it online tonight and see what people think. If you only have two Likes…maybe you’re not that good yet. Write a lot, and after six months or six years you’ll get better.

At some point, you’ll have to be in Nashville. You’re only going to get so good playing basketball in your backyard with your little brother. If you’re a basketball player, you need to get your game up, move to Chicago and play against Michael Jordan. If you’re a songwriter, you’ll need to move to Nashville to compete against the best songwriters. Keep writing songs all the time.

Dale Kawashima is on Google+

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima