Hit songwriter & producer Jordan Schmidt came into penning tunes through the back door. Growing up in a musical family, the Duluth, Minnesota native picked up the guitar at age 5 and started recording local acts by age 16, and he eventually became an in-demand producer. While building his experience, he made suggestions to improve songs, and one day realized he had become a songwriter. He moved to Nashville in 2012 to sharpen his songwriting skills, and three years later Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard enlisted Schmidt into their publishing family at Tree Vibez Music as its flagship songwriter.
Since then, Schmidt has co-written an impressive five number one singles, including Blake Shelton’s latest hit “God’s Country,” Mitchell Tenpenny’s “Drunk Me,” Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy” and “Lights Come On,” and Kane Brown’s “What Ifs” (featuring Lauren Alaina). He has had 82 cuts in total, including 10 by Florida Georgia Line, Granger Smith’s hits “If the Boot Fits” and “Happens Like That,” and Rodney Atkins’ hit “Caught Up In The Country.”
Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line recently spoke highly of Schmidt. “It’s already been an unbelievable journey with Jordan, and we feel like we’re just getting started,” he said. “He continues to create and produce on a level that is unmatched.”
Tyler Hubbard of FGL added, “We admire how Jordan continues to step up his game and inspire not only the people around him, but the industry as a whole. We don’t call him J VIBE for nothing.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Jordan Schmidt. He explains how producing helped him become a songwriter, and he tells the stories behind three of his top hits.
BC: You established yourself as a respected producer before coming to Nashville. What effect did being a producer carry over to the songwriting?
Jordan Schmidt: Honestly, I owe everything to that because that’s how I got in the rooms with people. I was a “track guy,” which is somebody that can build a track and have a demo made by the end of the writing session. I was also able to do it on a level that a lot of people might not be able to do, because a lot of people, especially new track guys, were starting out. It was such a new concept, and I had already been working, recording and producing for about 10 years before. Everything kind of fell into place because of the producing.
Here’s the video of Blake Shelton’s hit “God’s Country,”
which was co-written by Jordan Schmidt.
BC: Do you have a different perspective or insight with songwriting since you’ve had that experience?
Schmidt: I was always helping [artists] write the songs when we were in the studio. I guess I didn’t think to really put a name—songwriter—to it. Looking back on it now, I’m like, ‘Damn, I wrote a bunch of songs that I never got credit for! (laughs) I was just helping people out.
BC: How did the songwriting evolve for you after that point?
Schmidt: My parents are also musicians and songwriters in Minnesota where I grew up. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. My brother is also in music at Sony/ATV Publishing (Creative Director Dane Schmidt). We took it to a different level by moving to Nashville and actually trying to do it as a profession.
BC: How does the songwriting process work for you?
Schmidt: Most of the time it’s get together at 11 a.m. with your co-writers, sit and [chatting] for about a half an hour to an hour. Then, it’s just talking through ideas and concepts for songs, titles. We’re all throwing out ideas. It’s very timid at first and very quiet and awkward. Then, you kind of start landing on something, hopefully, and it takes off from there.
BC: What’s the greatest strength you bring to the table?
Schmidt: I’m kind of a chameleon. I can adapt and kind of be whatever the room needs me to be. Some writing sessions I’m writing a lot more lyric than others. Sometimes I’m in with great lyricists, and it’s like I’m going to back off and focus more on making the music awesome.
BC: Are you still involved with tracking?
Schmidt: I’ve been doing a lot of producing lately. I produced Mitchell Tenpenny. I produced “Drunk Me,” which was our #1 together. I’m producing Granger Smith, Renee Blair, and a few other people. I’m getting back to that side of things as well, which is always nice.
Here’s the lyric video of Jason Aldean’s hit “You Make It Easy,”
which was co-written by Jordan Schmidt.
BC: What’s the story behind your hit with Blake Shelton, “God’s Country?”
Schmidt: “God’s Country” was the first write of the year for me, Hardy, and Devin (Dawson). It was coming off the holiday break, so everybody was just getting back into the flow. [Since we just got back from the holidays], I kind of expected it was going to be not that great. But I remember leaving the write thinking, “I think it’s alright. Whatever we’ve got, I think it’s pretty cool.” Then I took it home and started working on the track. As soon as I started building the track, I was like, “This is actually really badass.” Hardy said, “Don’t pitch it; I want to cut it.” We were like sure, alright. Then, actually somebody from Hardy’s camp pitched it to Blake Shelton. Apparently, Blake was on his tractor plowing his land when he was given that song. He put it on while he was plowing the land, and it was perfect timing because he was out on his land, which I’m sure he thinks is God’s country, and he heard this song, and it just clicked.
BC: Sometimes it’s about the timing.
Schmidt: I think about that often. If he had just gotten done playing a show, was tired, sweaty and got on his bus and listened to this song, would it have the same impact? I like to think it would, but it’s crazy to think how that plays in it.
BC: You’ve had a couple of hits for Jason Aldean, “You Make It Easy” and “Lights Come On.” Can you talk about how you co-wrote those songs?
Schmidt: We wrote “You Make it Easy” out on the road—it was me, Morgan Wallen and the FGL boys (Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley). I knew it was good, and I thought Morgan was going to cut it. I didn’t really hear anything about it, and then maybe like 4 or 5 months later, I’m at The Red Door Saloon. It’s a bar in Nashville that all of us songwriters hang out at, and I see Morgan there. He’s like, “How crazy about Jason Aldean.” I said, “What about him?” He said, “He’s cutting our song.” I said, “Well, which one? He said, “You Make it Easy.” Oh my God! Alright, here we go!
He tells me that it might be the first single. You hear these things and you think…I’m not going to get my hopes up, but that’s cool to hear.
Here’s the video of Mitchell Tenpenny’s hit “Drunk Me,” which
was co-written by Jordan Schmidt.
BC: How did your song “What Ifs” (Kane Brown & Lauren Alaina) develop?
Schmidt: Matt McGinn, Kane, and I were writing, and I had that track together, and that cool little chopped-up mandolin thing at the beginning. It kind of came together. That one was funny too. I was like, “Kane, it would be awesome if we brought a girl in to sing with you on this.” He goes, “I know this girl who’s a really good singer. I’ll see if she’s available.” He makes a phone call, and he’s like, “She’s on her way.” It was Lauren Alaina. She came in and crushed that vocal. This is a special one!
BC: You’ve also had a hand in writing songs for a variety of television shows. How does that compare to writing a country song?
Schmidt: They’re completely different worlds. The television stuff was more or less bands or artists I was working with, and my brother, Dane, had his own band. He happened upon one TV show…somehow they found his music. This was early in the Myspace days, and they used one of his songs in a show. We were up in Minnesota and never heard of this before, and then we see our song on a TV show. It was like, “Holy Shit! How did that just happen?” Then we got paid for it, too. Then Dane started diving into it and networking; he ended up getting a lot of songs synced.
The bands I was working with and producing, Dane was then taking and pitching to music supervisors. That’s how we first started making money in the music business. Now, they’re just two completely different areas of the music industry.
BC: How did you first meet the guys of Florida Georgia Line and come to work for Tree Vibez Music?
Schmidt: My buddy told me about [Brian Kelley of FGL], tweeting that they were looking for track guys for a new publishing company they wanted to start. My buddy said, “You’ve got to hit him up and just see.” I tweeted at him, and we started emailing and sending songs back and forth. I think they were very impressed with my work ethic if nothing else, because I didn’t sleep for about four years. They said, “We want to start this company, we want to sign you.”
BC: What lies ahead for you? Are you also interested in pursuing the artist side?
Schmidt: I’m not a performer. In addition to writing & producing, I would like to eventually start signing my own artists and help develop them.
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].