Make no mistake about it. Jeremy Stover is proud of his songwriting accomplishments, which includes co-writing Justin Moore’s recent #1 hit, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home,” plus other hits for Moore and Tim McGraw. But for Stover, crafting top tunes was only one slice of the musical pie that he wanted to enjoy. He also found a successful niche producing cuts for Moore, the Eli Young Band, Travis Denning, Drake White and new female artist, L.J., all of whom Stover discovered and developed. Now, in addition to his songwriting & producing, he is running his own publishing & artist development company, RED Creative Group.
Growing up in Ellijay, Georgia, Stover began a love for records early on, and when he graduated from Belmont University in Nashville, he landed a gig at Muy Bueno Music, a publishing company co-owned by George Strait and his manager, Erv Woolsey. Stover learned his way around the recording studio, and soon after he was turning out top tunes. His first cut was Jack Ingram’s “Wherever You Are.” From there, Stover helped pen Tim McGraw’s smash, “How I’ll Always Be,” and co-wrote & produced Moore’s hits, “Small Town USA” and “Til My Last Day.” In addition, he has written singles for Emerson Drive, Lonestar, Sarah Buxton and other artists.
We are pleased to present this new Q&A interview with Jeremy Stover. He talks about how he backed into writing a hit for Tim McGraw, why he and Justin Moore click, and what it means to “find your spot” In the songwriting room.
BC: How did your new hit with Justin Moore, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home,” come about?
Jeremy Stover: Me and Justin and the other two guys (Paul Diglovanni and Chase McGill) who wrote the song were actually in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We had watched Justin’s show the night before. Justin had been saying, “Here’s to the ones who didn’t make it back home” in his show for two or three years, talking about first responders and military and so forth. He got on the bus that day in Green Bay and said, “I really want to write that idea.” We sat in the parking lot that day on the bus, and we wrote the song that day.
BC: Did that song have any personal connections of people you have known who didn’t make it back home?
Stover: This is actually a conversation we had when we were writing the song. The song is about the ones who didn’t make it back home, but it’s also the ones who were fortunate enough to as well. My dad is a Vietnam veteran and has a lot of issues now. He was a crew chief on a Huey helicopter over there and flew through a lot of Agent Orange and that kind of stuff. He’s paying for it now, but luckily, he was able to make it back home.
Here’s the video of Justin Moore’s #1 hit ““he Ones That Didn’t
Make It Back Home,” which was co-written by Jeremy Stover.
I have a lot of friends and have heard a lot of stories from people about the song that explains how much it means. My wife posted about the [“The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home”] yesterday, and someone that follows her on Instagram commented, ‘My son’s a Marine, and every time I hear this song I cry.’ For me, that’s what the song is supposed to do. It feeds the hope of the moms and dads and soldiers, firemen, and policemen, and teachers that always want their families to make it back home from a service-type mentality. That’s really what the song in a big way is about.
BC: You and Justin seem to have a great working relationship. How did you guys first meet, and why do you think your friendship clicked?
Stover: We first met in July 2003. I think he had been in town maybe six to eight months. He came here right after high school, and my attorney at the time—who went on to manage Zac Brown Band and does a lot of big things now—said, “I met this kid you need to meet; I think he’s got something.” Justin and I are 10 to 12 years difference (in age). Justin came to meet, and right away I thought… I’m going to work with this guy. I figured out that he and I had so much in common, and at the time, I was just starting to have hits as a songwriter. I’d been trying to develop my production career, and once I heard him sing, I said, “How about these three or four songs?” He was like, “I love this.” He goes, “Why don’t we start writing?” And it just kept growing from there.
Justin is like my little brother in the sense of where we come from, what we’re about, what we believe in, how we find that family is, and close relationships are the most important.
BC: You’ve written several hits together, including “Small Town USA.”
Stover: I met him in July, and at our first writing session we wrote a song. Our second writing session was in October 2003, and we wrote “Small Town USA.” This is what’s crazy about the life of a song. That song didn’t become a #1 hit until 2009…we had that song for six years. Then in 2006, Scott Borchetta (CEO) at Big Machine offered a record deal to Justin. Through that process, “Small Town USA” became his second single and went on to be his first #1 in 2009.
Here’s the lyric video of Tim McGraw’s hit “How I’ll Always Be,”
which was co-written by Jeremy Stover.
BC: Even before you met Justin, you had a great run as a songwriter. How did you expand into producing, and then starting a publishing company and management company?
Stover: My role continues to change—I think I have embraced that. I’ve always looked at my career as a progression. I never really envisioned myself—and I mean this respectfully to all songwriters—as just as a songwriter. I always envisioned building a base in songwriting and then growing my producing, and once that started happening, then developing my own publishing company, and being able to have a management company. I’ve always taken it one step at a time, and I’ve been methodical about that. If you look at my career, it’s taken me 15 to 20 years to step through all of those different things.
BC: You’ve now had success with a publishing company and developing arts for RED Creative Group. Why were you interested in that side of the business?
Stover: I guess it goes back to the way I grew up. My dad is one of 14 kids. None of them graduated high school. When he was 18, he got drafted and served in Vietnam. Then, he came back and learned a trade, and he mastered it. He started his own business and was a very successful small businessman. So I think I learned a lot of that work ethic and progression from him.
At the point that I graduated college, I think there were 45 to 50 grandkids out of those 14 children, and I was the first one to ever graduate from college. My dad made that difference for me because he saw the other side of the world, and he came back to America and was very steadfast in working hard and teaching me and my brother to work hard. He really didn’t put any limits on what we could accomplish. For me, that’s really why. Once I was successful…I wanted other people that I believed in and I thought deserved success to feel what I felt. At our company, with our songwriters and developing artists. I hope they’re way more successful than I’ve been. I want people I believe in to accomplish and feel what I’ve felt and been fortunate to be a part of.
BC: Can you talk about your role as a producer? Does being a producer give you a different perspective on songwriting?
Here’s the video of Justin Moore’s #1 hit “Til My Last Day,”
which was co-written by Jeremy Stover.
Stover: Absolutely! I think that aspect of it for me has maybe been the most important, because I used to sit in my bedroom growing up, and I loved songs, but I also loved records. I didn’t know how to make them at that point, but I knew what I liked and didn’t like. It’s important to understand what it means to produce and sometimes get out of the way of an artist that knows what they want to do. I was very fortunate early on, because I came to college in Nashville and went to Belmont. My first job out of college was working at an independent company. The guys that ran it were awesome and gave me a lot of freedom. Then, my next job was at George Strait’s [publishing] company. For me, I got the opportunity at that point to go into the studio with the writers that were there and watch demos get made. I really started understanding how all this glues together now. It afforded me the opportunity to learn and soak in all the things on the production side, and have a good understanding of the language and the way the musicians communicate, the way the engineers work, and all these other things I learned in the two years before I got my songwriting contract.
BC: As a songwriter, are you stronger with writing lyrics or melody?
Stover: I think it’s both. This is what I tell the writers that I work with, or any writers that ask me advice. I think each day that you walk into a room, if you’re co-writing, you have to find your spot in that room. Some days you might be the best singer in the room. Some days you might not be. Some days you might be the best lyricist in the room. Some days you might not be. Some days you might be the best musician in the room but some days not. Having a good barometer of the rooms that you’re sitting in is to me the most important aspect of what being a co-writer means. I can’t count how many times there’s a new writer that’s really good at melody or lyrics, but doesn’t understand that maybe that day somebody might be better than him at that, yet they keep pushing their agenda. Each day when you walk into a room you have to evaluate it, you have to read the emotions of everyone, and the song progresses from there.
BC: Lastly, I’ve got to ask you. What’s the story behind your Tim McGraw hit, “How I’ll Always Be.’
Here’s the video of Justin Moore’s #1 hit “Small Town USA,”
which was co-written by Jeremy Stover.
Stover: This is one of my favorite stories, because I was writing it with (hit artist) Chris Janson and Jamie Paulin. Obviously, I’m thinking that we’re going to write a song for Chris Janson. I had that idea, and we wrote the song. The next day, I did a quick demo of it, and I sent it to Chris. But then he hit me back and goes, “Hey, I’m going to send this to Missi Gallimore, who’s the wife of Tim McGraw’s producer, Byron Gallimore. She does A & R for Tim and is super close with Tim and Faith (Hill). In my mind, I thought we were writing that for Chris. Here’s what amazing: within a week or two, Tim McGraw goes in and cuts the song. I have written [many songs in my whole career], trying to get a Tim McGraw cut. And what’s crazy is, I didn’t know I was writing a Tim McGraw song that day.
BC: Thank you Jeremy for doing this interview. Is there anything else about your company that you’d like to mention?
Stover: I think what’s important to know about RED Creative Group is our artist development, with [rising artists] like Travis Denning. He’s really advancing. He‘s a Universal artist that we developed. He’s had one Top 30 hit, and his new single “After a Few,” is really doing well. [We also have] Adam Hembrick, who wrote “How Not To” for Dan + Shay and Justin Moore’s “Somebody Else Will.” He’s also a Universal artist, and his next single will be coming out soon. I think that’s what’s really important to me—I love working with great songwriters and great writer/artists. And I think that’s the future for Red as we progress. We develop all the pieces now, so that songwriters and artists have the opportunity to move their careers forward.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].