Interview With Hit Songwriter & Producer Daniel Tashian, Winner Of Two Grammy Awards For His Collaborations With Kacey Musgraves

Daniel Tashian
Daniel Tashian

Daniel Tashian has been a professional songwriter & producer in Nashville for the past decade, and in 2016 he co-wrote the #1 country hit “Hometown Girl” for Josh Turner. He’s also had songs recorded by Billy Currington, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack and other artists. In addition, he’s the lead singer of the band The Silver Seas, which has released five albums.

Notwithstanding these fine achievements, Tashian’s career has taken a great leap forward in the past year. He co-wrote seven songs (with Kacey Musgraves & Ian Fitchuk) on Musgraves’ acclaimed album Golden Hour, and he co-produced all 13 songs on the album. Impressively, Tashian recently won two Grammy Awards for his contributions to Golden Hour, including Album of the Year and Best Country Album. He also received CMA’s Album of the Year Award for his work on Golden Hour.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Daniel Tashian, who tells how he wrote with Kacey Musgraves (and Ian Fitchuk) the song “Slow Burn,” from Musgraves’ Grammy-winning album, Golden Hour.

Tashian co-wrote Musgraves’ single “Slow Burn,” plus other key songs on the album such as the title cut “Golden Hour,” “Lonely Weekend,” “Oh, What a World,” “Love is a Wild Thing” and “Happy & Sad.” His accomplishments with Golden Hour have established him as a top creative figure in Nashville.

Tashian, who is originally from Connecticut, comes from a musical family. His father (Barry Tashian) played with legendary artists Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, and the family moved to Nashville in 1984. When he was growing up, Tashian learned how to play piano, guitar, drums and bass, and by high school he was writing songs.

After high school, Tashian focused on his music career, and he was a rock singer/songwriter who signed a label deal with Elektra Records. He recorded and released a solo album called Sweetie, but he was later dropped from the label.

Tashian subsequently started a pop/rock band called The Silver Seas, and he began writing songs for other artists, and for placements in films and TV shows. It was in 2009 that he began an important new relationship when he signed a publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog Music, a top independent music publishing & artist development company in Nashville. Tashian has remained signed with Big Yellow Dog for the past 10 years and continues to work closely with their team, including Carla Wallace (Co-Owner), Kerry O’Neil (Co-Owner) and Lauren Funk (Senior Creative Director).

As an artist, Tashian has recorded and released five albums with The Silver Seas: Starry Gazey Pie (2004), High Society (2006), Chateau Revenge! (2010), Alaska (2013) and Moonlight Road (2018).

In addition, Tashian recently recorded his first children’s album, called I Love Rainy Days, that will be released in May. He wrote and produced all the music for the album, which features vocals by his three daughters.

We are pleased to do this Q&A interview with Daniel Tashian. He tells how he got started in the music business, and he discusses his Grammy-winning work with Kacey Musgraves.

DK: Where are you from, and how did you get started as a musician and songwriter?

Here’s a video of Kacey Musgraves performing her song
“Slow Burn,” which was co-written by Daniel Tashian.

Daniel Tashian: I was born into a musical family. My grandfather was a jazz drummer, and my grandmother was a vocal conductor and a voice teacher. And my parents (Barry & Holly Tashian), who met in high school, are both musicians. In the ‘70s, they played in country and country-rock bands in Connecticut, where we were from originally. My dad had also done some work with (country-rock legend) Gram Parsons, and around 1980 he joined Emmylou Harris’ band, and that brought us to Nashville in 1984

DK: When did you start playing music and writing songs?

Tashian: My grandmother had a piano in her music room where she would teach voice lessons. I learned to play piano, and I was just involved with music…I listened to the radio all day long. After we moved to Nashville, I joined band in middle school, and I played the snare drum, which led to the drum set. I then studied the drums for a while, and I started playing bass. For my 14th bitthday, I got a four-track recorder.

By the time I was in high school, I was writing songs in the back of my car. My dad bought me a ‘70 Volvo station wagon, and I would sit in the back seat and write songs. After high school, I was offered a publishing deal by (managers) Ken Levitan and Will Botwin, which was through Polygram Music. I was there for four years, and through them I got signed to an artist deal with Elektra Records. In 1996, I made an album with (top producer) T-Bone Burnett called Sweetie…it was sort of a rock singer/songwriter album. But then I got dropped after one album.

I started a band called The Bees, and we got signed to a label in L.A. called Cheap Lullaby Records, but we had to change our name because there was another band called Bees, so we became The Silver Seas. We did some touring in the U.S. and U.K., and we had a pretty popular album called Chateau Revenge! in London and Manchester and parts of Scotland. So we had a little bit of success over there.

DK: When did you sign a publishing deal with Big Yellow Dog Music?

Tashian: Around the time Chateau Revenge! came out, I signed with Big Yellow Dog in Nashville. So it was 10 years ago (in 2009) that I started writing songs there at Big Yellow Dog.

DK: When you signed with Big Yellow Dog, was it because you were an artist in a band, or because you wanted to write country songs?

Here’s a video of Kacey Musgraves performing her song
“Happy & Sad,” which was co-written by Daniel Tashian.

Tashian: I think there was the understanding that I would do both. At the time, there was a learning curve for me. I grew up listening to country artists like Don Williams, Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings, which wasn’t necessarily [the type of songs] that was getting recorded by Keith Urban and Tim McGraw. So it was a learning curve, and I went through years trying to write to a certain formula, and to be honest, getting rejected.

I want to say it’s been great working with Big Yellow Dog for 10 years. They’ve always believed in me, and I’ve built a personal relationship with (co-owners) Carla Wallace and Kerry O’Neil that I think is hard to find (with a publisher).

DK: Three years ago, you had a number one country hit with “Hometown Girl” for Josh Turner. How did you connect with your co-writer Marc Beeson, and write this song?

Tashian: Carla Wallace suggested that I write with Marc, because he had a lot of experience writing country songs. So Marc came to my little (studio) room, and we started writing. I think I had the title, “Hometown Girl.” We worked on the verses, and the chorus originally just said, “Hometown hometown hometown girl.” But later on when Josh Turner heard it, he didn’t want to say the same thing over again. So we wrote it so it said, “Pretty little homegrown hometown girl.”

DK: How did you place “Hometown Girl” with Josh Turner?

Tashian: I think Lauren Funk (of Big Yellow Dog) pitched the song for Josh in a meeting with his producer Kenny Greenberg, and Kenny said, “Yeah we want that song.” So it was pretty exciting, especially later on when we watched the song move up the charts.

DK: Currently, you’re having great success with Kacey Musgraves and her Golden Hour album. How did you first connect with Kacey?

Tashian: Years ago, Carla (Wallace) introduced me to Kacey, and she came over and we talked, although we didn’t really write a song at the time. Then a couple years went by, and Kacey had gotten signed and made some albums, and (writer/producer) Ian Fitchuk said, “You know, I think the three of us could do something cool. What if I bring her over?” And I said, “Yeah, I’d love that.” Then she came over, and the very first thing that we did was a song called “Oh, What a World.” And we all had such a great day, that we decided to continue seeing what else we could discover together. And that’s how that started.

Here’s the video of Josh Turner’s hit “Hometown Girl,”
which was co-written by Daniel Tashian.

DK: I like the opening song on Kacey’s album, “Slow Burn.” How did the three of you write this song?

Tashian: Well, “Slow Burn” was a title that Kacey had, and we just started [getting in the mood to write]. It’s a bit like a séance—you know, you light some incense and start strumming around and humming a bit, and see what melodies are floating around in the air. Songwriting can be a mystical process. Let’s say you want something to be called Slow Burn, and then you just start fishing almost, around the chords and rhythms and little bits of words and things. Somehow, it all comes together.

DK: You’ve recently won two big Grammy Awards (for Album of the Year and Best Country Album). So a year ago, when you, Kacey and Ian finished the Golden Hour album, did you realize that it would lead to such great recognition?

Tashian: I did not realize that. It was an incredible surprise, which really knocked me off my feet. It was just an unbelievable reception. It really was a little album that could. Ever since we started working on it, it was always something that I liked and moved me, but I never understood that it would connect in a way that would win Album of the Year. And it still boggles my mind, although it does start to make you think…Well maybe my instincts aren’t always incorrect. You know, if I like something, maybe there is a chance that someone else could too.

DK: It’s been a while since Golden Hour came out. Have you, Kacey and Ian started writing some new songs?

Tashian: Yes we have…there are a few songs that we really like, that are in the works.

DK: Regarding other artists you’ve been working with, are there any songs or albums that you’d like to mention?

Tashian: There’s an album coming out by (soul/pop artist) A Girl Called Eddy that I worked on, and there’s an album that Ian and I worked on by Lily & Madeleine on New West Records. Their album is called Canterbury Girls and it’s really good. I also wrote and recorded songs with (folk/roots artist) Josh Rouse, and I wrote a song with (Americana artist) Mindy Smith called “Pretending Stars” that I like.

DK: I heard that you’ve recorded a children’s album. Is that correct?

Tashian: Yes. It’s coming out this spring, and it’s called I Love Rainy Days. It’s been a really fun process to work on. I have three daughters, and they sing on it and kind of helped me write the songs, so it’s cool.

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