Hit singer/songwriter Kent Blazy, who penned the first chart-topper for country superstar Garth Brooks and many other hits, has been elected into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The newly-elected Class of 2020 (which also includes Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Brett James and Spooner Oldham) will be inducted in a special joint ceremony in November 2021, that will honor the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 inductees.
In addition to co-writing Brooks’ first hit “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” Blazy’s writing partnership with Brooks yielded several more hits for Brooks, including the Top 5 singles “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up),” “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” “It’s Midnight Cinderella” and “She’s Gonna Make It.” Also, Blazy co-wrote the Brooks & George Jones duet hit, “Beer Run.”
Besides his collaborations with Brooks, Blazy also co-wrote hits for Chris Young (“Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)”), Diamond Rio (“That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You”), Gary Morris (“Headed For A Heartache”), and American Idol finalist Danny Gokey (“My Best Days Are Ahead Of Me”).
Early in his career after he moved to Nashville, Blazy found out that he wasn’t going to be a successful singer there, but the Lexington, KY native had a knack for penning a song. He co-wrote a hit for Gary Morris and had cuts with the Forester Sisters, T. Graham Brown, Donna Fargo and Moe Bandy.
It was in 1987 that Blazy was introduced to an unsigned, new demo singer named Garth Brooks from Oklahoma, who other top songwriters turned down for a co-write. Blazy agreed to help out this unknown talent, and the two wrote the first idea Brooks brought to him, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”
With a collaboration and friendship that has now spanned three decades, Blazy continues to write with Brooks, and the two men penned their new song, “Me Without You.” Brooks decided not to include it on his just-released album, Fun, but he gave his songwriting pal permission to use his recording of it for Blazy’s new album, Authentic, that’s available on www.kentblazy.com. Blazy also wrangled Jon Pardi’s bassist and drummer to play on his album of original songs.
Here’s a video of Kent Blazy performing the hit “If Tomorrow
Never Comes,” which he co-wrote with Garth Brooks.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Kent Blazy. He talks about writing with Brooks, and he tells the interesting story of how termites were an omen of a #1 song. He also explains why he doesn’t quite fit in with today’s younger country songwriters.
BC: It was recenlty announced that you will be inducted into the 2020 class for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. What was your reaction to that news?
Kent Blazy: I was stunned, mainly because Garth (Brooks) and Mark Ford and Sarah Cates (with the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame) had kind of tricked me into thinking I was doing something else on a call, and in the middle of it, Garth stopped it and said, “No, what this is really about is you’re the newest inductee in the Hall of Fame.” That was very exciting and very touching. I think he was hoping I would cry more than I did, but he cried for both of us. So, that’s good.
BC: You and Garth have had a long songwriting partnership. How did that start?
Blazy: I had always made my living playing and singing in bands, and I was usually the lead singer. I came to town with some of my demos. I would take them around and people would go, “I kind of like the song, but who the hell is singing that?” I realized there was this thing call demo singers in town where people who sang way better than me could sing your songs and make them sound better.
I was doing demos for other writers and for myself, so I had to get a stable of demo singers. At the time I had Billy Dean, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Joe Diffie, and Trisha Yearwood. When I met Garth, it was because he wanted to sing demos. He was cleaning churches and selling boots, and he thought he could make more money singing demos. (Garth’s manager) Bob Doyle brought him over to the house, and he played me a cassette. I said, “I’ll start using you on some demos…I really like what you do.” When they were leaving, Bob said, “Garth writes a little bit too.” I said, “Well, let’s write a song.”
We got together on the first day of February of ’88, and the first idea that he brought in was “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” He said, “I’ve run this by 25 writers, and nobody likes it.” I said, “Gee, thanks!” He said, “Don’t you want to hear what I’ve got?” He played me a little bit, and I sat there. He said, “What’s wrong with it?” I said, “Well, you’re killing someone off in like the first two lines of the song, and it’s like killing off the star of the movie in the first three minutes. There’s nowhere to go.” I told him what I’d do, and at the end of the day we had a song that we really liked. I was looking back on the original lyrics, and Garth said I spewed out the first verse, and I must have because he wrote the whole first verse down on this pad, and I swear he’s never written another lyric of any other song we’ve ever done. At the end of the day we went up to my little studio to record a guitar vocal of it.
Here’s a video of Garth Brooks performing his hit “Ain’t Goin’ Down
(‘Til The Sun Comes Up),” which was co-written by Kent Blazy.
BC: At that time in his career, you were accepting of him when others weren’t, like the songwriters who rejected his idea for “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”
Blazy: I found out later on I was the only songwriter who had had a Top 5 or 10 record that would write with him. I thought he was a good kid, and I thought he was talented. After coming in with this idea of “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and we wrote this song, I thought this kid is 25 going on 50. He’s really got an age about him that most 25-year-olds don’t, to be coming up with this idea and being able to pursue it. I just knew there was something special about him. (But) I never dreamed he’d be Garth Brooks! We pitched that song around town for a year, and everybody said he’ll never get a record deal with a name like Garth. But look at all the people I was working with that couldn’t get a record deal at the time—Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie, and Billy Dean. Out of all of them, I can’t say I would’ve dreamed Garth Brooks would be the next Beatles, but to me, that’s what it’s like. Through it all we’ve been friends. We’ve gone through a whole lot together, and it’s great to have that friendship.
BC: Another big hit that you had together was “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up).” How did that song develop?
Blazy: Garth called me up and said, “I want to write a song with machine gun lyrics.” I called (hit songwrier) Kim Williams, and neither of us knew what he meant by machine gun lyrics, but hey, it’s Garth. They came over to the house, and we wrote machine gun lyrics all day. We sat out on the backporch until we got sunburned and laughed and had a good time.
Garth said, “I need a drum machine on this.” I got out my drum machine. Garth and Kim were standing behind me, and one of them said, “Oh, my God!” I turned around, and there were termites coming out of the floor and the ceiling and the walls. I guess the drum machine pissed them off. I was upset about it, because this is my new house that says you don’t have any termites and here they are. Kim Williams said, “When Garth and I wrote “Papa Loved Mama,” there were cockroaches crawling all over my apartment, and it went number one, and this is going to be number one too.”
Here’s the video of Chris Young’s hit “Gettin’ You Home (The
Black Dress Song)”, which was co-written by Kent Blazy.
Garth told me he wanted to sing this song while he flew across the stadium in Dallas, Texas at that time. Six months later that’s what he did. Kind of wild!
BC: How would you describe Garth’s songwriting skills?
Blazy: This is not because he’s my friend or co-writer, but Garth is as great a writer as anybody I’ve ever written with. He’s a lyric writer. He’s a music writer. He’s an idea person. Usually, he’s like ten steps ahead of you in a writing appointment too. He knows what he wants to say. He’s just hoping you’re going to help him say it lyrically or musically.
BC: You also wrote Chris Young’s hit, “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song).” How did that come about?
Blazy: An A&R person (at RCA Records) asked, “Will you write with Chris Young? He’s had three singles out, and they haven’t done any good. If he doesn’t have a hit, he’s going to be gone.” I got together with (co-writers) Chris Young and Cory Batten, and there’s no pressure that day because it’s the first time [I’ve ever] written with Chris, and he’s an artist and if he doesn’t have a hit, he’s gone. It’s one of those days where nobody liked anybody else’s ideas.
I had remembered that one day when Cory and I were writing, he had his head in the refrigerator because I was fixing him lunch, and he sang this little snippet, “All I can think about is getting you home.” I said, “Cory, what is that?” He said, “I don’t know. I just made it up.” I said, “Wait a minute! Make it up in my phone.” That’s all I had was this little snippet. We started working on it. We got to the chorus of “Walking through the front door,” and nobody could come up with a rhyme for door that was clean. I said, “How about seeing her black dress hit the floor?” Cory said, “Well you’re just a dirty old man.” Chris said, “I’m 23. I couldn’t sing that.” We tried to come up with a better line.
I fixed them lunch. While they were eating lunch, Cory was looking around my room, and I had a song about “standin’ in the kitchen with nothin’ but her apron on” that had gone to number one (“Somewhere Other Than the Night”), and “Ain’t Goin’ Down” is kind of risqué. He said, “Chris…we need to go with his line.” We put that in it and finished the song. It ended up being Chris’s first number one out of something somebody was singing into a refrigerator (laughs).
Here’s the video of Gary Morris’ hit “Headed For a Heartache,”
which was co-written by Kent Blazy.
BC: These days (as a veteran songwriter), is it hard fitting in on Music Row? Has your songwriting had to change with the times?
Blazy: This is probably the same with every generation. It’s all about what’s young now. They don’t really care much of what happened before. I can’t really relate anymore to bonfires and going out and drinking whiskey and getting the girl who you don’t know to hop in your truck. If that’s what they’re aiming for, that kind of leaves me out. So that’s one of the reasons I’ve started writing by myself and putting out my own records. I don’t even know what Music Row is anymore compared to what it was when I came here.
BC: Do you consider yourself more of a lyricist or a melody person?
Blazy: I think it’s more of a combination, and it was just from growing up with the singer/songwriters that did everything. That’s why I like to write by myself because I can do the words and the music. If I’m writing with a younger person, what I bring to it more is the lyrics from having written lyrics for so long where I don’t think they have that grasp of how lyrics should be put together. Also, I consider myself an idea man. I’ll always bring in 10 or 12 ideas to a writing appointment. I keep books and notepads full of ideas. These days a lot of times I’ll just start from an idea if I’m writing by myself, and I won’t even work on the song that day. I’ll put the title of the idea up at the top of the page. Every day when I walk past it if I’ve thought of something, I’ll write it underneath there and I’ll have a page full of lyrics. I’ll go back and see if it makes sense to put a song together from that. I find that a very fun way to do it, where there’s not the pressure of…I’ve got to sit down and write a song. You’re writing a song all the time, but you’re not concentrating on writing that song. You’re letting it come as it comes.
BC: Thank you for making the time to talk with us. We’ll look forward to checking out your new album, Authentic.
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].