With a career spanning two decades, David Hodges is known as a top songwriter & producer who has co-written a dozen hit songs in several genres, ranging from rock to pop to country. He’s had hits with Kelly Clarkson (“Because of You”), rock band Evanescence (“My Immortal” and “Bring Me to Life”), Avril Lavigne (“Here’s to Never Growing Up”), Christina Perri (“A Thousand Years”) and other artists.
Currently, Hodges has a new hit, co-writing Kelsea Ballerini’s single, “Miss Me More.” This song is the third single from Ballerini’s album, Unapologetically, and it’s reached number one on Bilboard’s Country Airplay chart. The single is also moving up Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart.
Other key hits co-written by Hodges are “Crush” for David Archuleta, “See You Again” for Carrie Underwood, “What About Now” for Daughtry and “Wanted” for Jessie James Decker. Notably, his hit “Because of You” was also a duet country hit for Reba McEntire & Kelly Clarkson.
Hodges grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he learned to play piano and other instruments. His big break was in 2003, when he teamed up with Evanescence members Amy Lee (lead singer) and Ben Moody (guitarist), who were also from Little Rock. Hodges wrote seven songs with Lee & Moody for the band’s multi-platinum debut album, Fallen, including the Top 10 hits, “My Immortal” and “Bring Me to Life.”
After leaving Evanescence, Hodges started writing songs for other artists, and in 2005 he co-wrote & produced the ballad hit “Because of You” for Kelly Clarkson. This hit confirmed Hodges’ reputation as a talented, versatile songwriter & producer. In the following years, he co-wrote several hits for artists whose careers were launched by the TV show American Idol, including Carrie Underwood, Daughtry and David Archuleta.
In 2011, Hodges collaborated with singer/songwriter Christina Perri, and they wrote her ballad hit “A Thousand Years,” which was featured in the popular movies, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 & 2. Then in 2013, Hodges co-wrote & produced 10 songs on Avril Lavigne’s fifth album (titled Avril Lavigne), that included the Top 20 hit, “Here’s to Never Growing Up.”
Hodges has also co-written songs for many other artists, including 5 Seconds of Summer, Keith Urban, Dan + Shay, the Backstreet Boys, Jason Mraz, Blink-182, Lady Antebellum, Nickelback, Switchfoot, Anastacia, David Cook, Lee DeWyze and Katharine McPhee. In addition, he formed the alternative rock band Trading Yesterday, which was signed to Epic Records.
Here’s the video of Kelsea Ballerini’s hit “Miss Me More,” which
was co-written by David Hodges.
After living for many years in Los Angeles, Hodges decided to move to Nashville in 2016, where he is now based and has a studio. Hodges is managed by Lucas Keller of Milk & Honey (a music management company). He is also partners with Keller and manager David Margolis in a music publishing company called Third & Verse Music.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with David Hodges. He discusses his early years working with Evanescence, and how he co-wrote hits for Kelsea Ballerini, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Avril Lavigne and Christina Perri.
DK: I read that you grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. How did you get started as a musician and songwriter?
David Hodges: I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but we moved to Little Rock when I was 5 years old…I grew up there. When I was about 8, I took piano lessons. My parents wanted me and my siblings to take piano lessons, and so I did that for a good number of years. The whole time though, I really didn’t think much of it. But I remember one day when I was 16, I was sitting in class, and I heard some melody of a song in my head, and I kept wracking my brain…what song is that from? But I realized, this isn’t a song…it’s a melody that popped in my head. When I got home from school that day, I sat down at the piano, and I was able to fumble my way through and write a song. And man, I was hooked. The song was terrible, but I was excited to have made something that didn’t exist before. And I remember thinking…this is what I want do for the rest of my life.
DK: How did you go from being a teenager who started writing songs, to becoming a member of Evanescence and helping to write their hits?
Hodges: The band—Amy (Lee) and Ben (Moody)—are both from Little Rock as well. I met Ben the summer of 1998, and we hung out together. I met his girlfriend, who was Amy at the time, and they were making some music together. Around then, I was doing my own singer/songwriter thing. I went to school in Nashville at Belmont University for a semester, and in that process, I became very disillusioned with the idea of being a singer/songwriter and making music by myself. And I remember talking to Ben about it. He was like, “Well maybe over this Christmas break, let’s try making music together.” And so we started writing songs together, and we just loved the process of it. Then a month later, I dropped out of college, flew back home to Little Rock and we started making music with Evanescence full-time. And about a year later, we got a record deal and moved out to L.A., and then it all happened from there.
Here’s the video of Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Because of You,” which
was co-written by David Hodges.
DK: On the two hits you co-wrote for Evanescence (“My Immortal” and “Bring Me to Life”), can you talk about how those songs were written?
Hodges: I think “My Immortal” was one of the first songs that we did as a band. There were a handful of songs that Ben and Amy had written before I came along. “My Immortal” was a song that Ben had written, and then he brought it to me and Amy. I think we wrote a bridge to it, and changed a couple of things around, but much of that song existed just in Ben’s brain. Then we recorded that song early on, and it was one of the songs that we got a record deal off of.
“Bring Me to Life” was one of the last songs that we wrote for the Fallen album. We’had pieces of it—we had the verse and part of the melody in the chorus, and had a lot of the track. And I think that song had two or three different choruses along the way. And then in the 11th hour, the record label came to us and said, “What if there’s a rapper on this song as well?” Because at the time, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park were the biggest rock bands in the world. So I think the label was thinking…How do we make this chick-fronted rock band with strings and pianos, something that works in the current marketplace? They thought having a rapper would be the thing that connects the dots with that. And so putting the rap part on the song was the last piece of putting the album together.
In the process of writing that album, it felt like it was taking forever. Two of our singles—“Bring Me to Life” and “Going Under”—were the last songs we recorded for the album. But I’m really glad that we took the time that we did, because I feel the best stuff came at the end.
DK: At what point did you decide to leave Evanescence?
Hodges: Actually the truth of the matter is, they kicked me out of the band. After I dropped out of college, Ben (Moody) and I had moved in together. We spent a year making a demo CD that we called Origin, which got us a record deal. Then we spent about two years living in L.A., the three of us together (with Amy Lee), writing & recording the Fallen album. And towards the end of that process, the three of us were pretty burned on writing, plus the drama that comes with dealing with record labels, and having little money. We were wondering…are we going to get dropped (from the label), and is this really going to work? So my brain was kind of moving in other directions, thinking about other music and doing other things. And Ben & Amy wanted to continue the torch and keep going with it.
Here’s the video of Evanescence’s hit “Bring Me to Life,” which
was co-written by David Hodges.
It was at the end of process—we had finished writing and recording the album, and we were up in New York having meetings. And they said, “Hey, we want to move on without you.” And looking back on it, it was definitely a hard season to deal with all that, and not knowing if the album was going to succeed. But at the same time, I was really glad to be in a headspace of making new music and thinking about different types of music. I remember listening to a lot of John Mayer and Jason Mraz at the time, and thinking I’d like to explore other types of music.
DK: About two years later, you had the big hit “Because of You” with Kelly Clarkson, which I noticed that you wrote with Ben Moody.
Hodges: After leaving Evanescence, I moved back home to Little Rock. Ben & Amy started to promote the record, and “Bring Me to Life” comes out of the gate swinging, doing really well. Then about nine months into it, I think Ben became tired of the process as well, so he left the band. In the course of those nine months, Ben and I reconnected. He had apologized for everything that went down, and we started to rebuild our friendship.
Ben told me that he’d left the band, and started co-writing with other people. About nine more months passed, and then we got a call that Kelly Clarkson wanted to write with us. She was working on her new record, and she had really liked the Evanescence record. And Ben said, “Hey man, Kelly wants to write with the people who made the Evanescence record. So we should do it together.” Then we met with Kelly, and she was just amazing. She had the concept of this song “Because of You” in her head. She had some of the melody and she knew how she wanted to tell the story. I felt that our session with Kelly was super smooth. We just loved the song, and loved working with her. And to see what that song has done, with Kelly’s amazing voice and her ability to make the song so personal. Then a couple years later, when Reba McEntire cut “Because of You,” it was pretty wild to see it become a hit again.
DK: In 2008, you had the hit “Crush” for David Archuleta that reached #2 on the pop chart. How did you co-write this song?
Here’s the video of Christina Perri’s hit “A Thousand Years,”
which was co-written by David Hodges.
Hodges: “Crush” happened during the era, when American Idol took up much of the focus of the music business. American Idol became this mechanism where songwriters had the opportunity to write songs for the artists who were on American Idol. The A&R people were having to put these records together quickly for these artists.
At the time, I was writing a good bit with two amazing songwriters: Emanuel Kiriakou (aka Eman) and Jess Cates. We were working on a lot of different things, and we ended up writing “Crush.” We thought “Crush” was pretty catchy and fun, but we didn’t know about David Archuleta, and what was going on with American Idol at the time. I think Eman knew somebody at 19 Entertainment (the management company & label for American Idol) and sent it over. They loved the song, and David continued to do well that season, so it all came together fast. Within six weeks of writing the song, “Crush” was already at radio and doing super well.
DK: In 2011, you had the hit “A Thousand Years” with Christina Perri. How did you team up with Christina?
Hodges: “A Thousand Years” is one of my favorite songs. Whenever I play live at a songwriter rounds, that’s the song I finish with.
During the process of writing and recording a song, there’s often many compromises and things you need to change, and people you need to please with it. But I feel with “A Thousand Years,” from the moment Christina and I wrote it, to the moment it was recorded and became part of the Twilight movies…everything about it was exactly how I wanted it to be. I’ve become really good friends with Christina over the years, and to watch Christina onstage in front of 15,000 people singing that song, and hearing them sing it back to her, and hearing the song on the radio…I will always have special feelings toward that song.
DK: A couple years later, you co-wrote many songs for Avril Lavigne’s fifth album. Can you talk about your collaboration with her?
Hodges: It was great to have the opportunity to do a full album with Avril. Maybe because I came from being in bands, there’s something really romantic to me, about the notion of making an entire album. There are few opportunities that you can be in with an artist, and develop a whole thing.
Here’s the video of Avril Lavigne’s hit “Here’s to Never Growing
Up,” which was co-written by David Hodges.
Avril, Chad Kroeger (hit writer/producer & leader of the band Nickelback) and I got together one morning in February 2011, and we had scheduled two days to write together. Chad and I had met before and worked together, but I’d never met Avril. And the three of us really hit it off in the first couple days. Then Avril said, “I’m here for the next couple weeks—do you want to keep working?” So we kept writing songs, and she was trying to reinvent her sound and what she was doing. And I just loved the exploration of that whole thing. We really spent a lot of time developing, and we would explore all sorts of different routes. We’d write a handful of really heavy rock songs, even those not making it onto the record. I felr like I grew a lot as a songwriter, just in that process and because of all the time that we spent making it.
DK: In 2013, you had the hit “See You Again” with Carrie Underwood, which was before you moved to Nashville. Did having that success with Carrie influence your decision to move to Nashville?
Hodges: Yes. At the time I had the connection with American Idol, and (A&R exec) Iain Pirie was running 19 Records at the time. Then Iain asked me, “Would you be interested in going to Nashville to write with Carrie Underwood for her new album?” And I was ecstatic by the idea. Then Carrie and I wrote a couple times for her Play On record, and the relationship continued. We ended up writing for The Chronicles of Narnia movie, and one of the songs was “See You Again,” that ended up being on her Blown Away record and became a single.
I remember early on coming to Nashville and writing, I realized that eventually we would move here. There’s something about this town that really fits for me and my wife and our family. My wife and I have four kids; we’re both from Little Rock and so all of those dots connected together to make sense for us to be here.
DK: You have a new hit with Kelsea Ballerini called “Miss Me More,” that’s reached #1 on the country chart. How did you co-write this song with Kelsea and Brett McLaughlin (aka Leland)?
Hodges: Writing “Miss Me More” was the last session I had in L.A. before we moved to Nashville. I love Kelsea’s music, and I’d written once before with Brett McLaughlin, who has an amazing sense of melody.
Here’s the video of David Archuleta’s hit “Crush,” which was
co-written by David Hodges.
The three of us got together, and Kelsea walked in and says, “I just broke up with this guy, my whole world was wrapped up in him, and I see now that I kind of lost myself in the process. And this is what I want to write about.” Then I play this little swampy guitar riff, and Brett starts singing melodies, and I feel like we wrote the song really fast. It all came together super quick. There was a lot of laughing and storytelling…it was just a fun, really easy day. And now with the single out, it’s been exciting to watch it climb the country charts and see it sneaking up the pop chart as well.