Top country songwriter Wyatt Durrette and singer/songwriter Mel Washington have been friends and collaborators for the past few years. They’ve written songs together for Washington’s artist recordings, and to place songs with other artists. However, their collaboration recently reached a new level of importance, when they decided to get together to discuss the current political and social climate in America, and what they could do to convey a positive message.
In the midst of this COVID-oriented period, they met in person (keeping socially distant) and had a lengthy discussion, to understand each other’s point of view and to learn from each other. They met following the murder of George Floyd and the worldwide protests. After having a thoughtful, insightful dialogue, they decided to write a new song called “Love Wins.” which is powerful anthem that has a very positive message and theme.
“Love Wins” was written and recorded in Charleston, South Carolina, where both songwriters live. The song was written very organically, with the song capsulizing the positive thoughts from their discussion. With this song, their goal is to help make a positive change, and to encourage better understanding of this political and social crisis. The duo has recently released this song, and they’ve filmed a video to support it.
For over a decade, Durrette has been regarded as one of country music’s top hit songwriters. Recently, he co-wrote two number one hits for Luke Combs: “Beautiful Crazy” (which was named CMA Song of the Year), and “Even Though I’m Leaving.”
Durrette is also known for writing many hits with Zac Brown Band. He first met Zac Brown about two decades ago, before either had music success. They struck up a friendship and began writing many songs together. Durrette co-wrote Brown’s breakthrough hit “Chicken Fried,” which became the first of about a dozen hits they wrote together. Their other #1 hits include “Toes,” “Highway 20 Ride,” “As She’s Walking Away,” “Colder Weather,” “Knee Deep,” “Keep Me In Mind,” “Goodbye in Her Eyes,” “Sweet Annie” and “Homegrown.”
Here’s the video of Wyatt Durrette & Mel Washington’s song,
Washington is an accomplished singer/songwriter & guitarist who was a member of the rock band, All Get Out. He has a strong, soulful voice, and he’s been performing for almost two decades. Washington is currently writing & recording a new album that will be called, Feast or Famine.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Wyatt Durrette and Mel Washington. They discuss how they came together to start a dialogue, which let to their writing “Love Wins.” When asked, Durrette also talked about the hit songs he’s written for Luke Combs and Zac Brown Band.
DK: I like your new song, “Love Wins.” How did the two of you decide to get together and write this song?
Wyatt Durrette: Mel (Washington) and I’ve been writing together for about two years, and we’ve become good buddies. The idea started when the George Floyd incident happened, and [I was thinking], “What’s going on? Why does this keep happening? [I had] all the emotions…scared, confused, mad…not knowing how to fix anything. The idea for the chorus of “Love Wins.” came to me, and immediately I wanted two things personally, as a man, a husband and a human. I knew that I needed to do more and understand more and ask more questions, and be part of a conversation, to get to a place where we get us all to the table and have a conversation, and maybe using (the theme of) love to get us there.
Then Mel and I sat down and we talked for about two hours. I think we kind of wrote the song inside that conversation. I’ve always respected Mel as a writer, and that he’s a thoughtful, thinking man.
Mel Washington: Yes, the song kind of wrote itself in the conversation. We were intentional to make the song a conversation in the hope that it would inspire other conversations. And while the song wrote itself, I feel like we were very intentional to make sure that it was a conversation, that we weren’t just making statements. We were talking to each other and trying to understand one another better.
DK: “Love Wins.” has a very positive message. When the two of you sat down to write this song, was it important to keep it a very positive theme?
Durrette: It was very important…that was our biggest goal. A part of our conversation was that everything’s so heightened and everybody’s mad and scared, and everybody’s yelling and nothing’s getting done. The idea was to make sure we stayed above that fray, so that nothing could make it about anything else but what it’s about. It was just about love, and let’s figure out how to deal with all the other things. But let’s use love as our weapon, to get to the table and have a conversation.
Here’s the video of Luke Combs’ hit “Beautiful Crazy,” which
was co-written by Wyatt Durrette.
Washington: We were conscious of the fact that our media outlets, our social streams are all filled with divisive verbiage and language. It’s “us” versus “them.” What has happened is that both sides have decided to incite fear up over whatever is going to happen. So when it comes to these issues, when it comes to the issue of racism or police brutality in America, you know, it’s easy to pick a side, and to echo that. As Wyatt was saying, I think it was very important to us, not to make the song political or the choosing of sides. Wherever you are, come to the table and try to understand better, whoever you are, whatever side you’re on.
DK: The George Floyd incident inspired the two of you to get together and write this song. And now this week there’s another crisis, with the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. What are your thoughts on this new crisis?
Durrette: Man, I’m sorry…I personally think that it just makes the song even more timely. The George Floyd incident happened and there were protests and marches, and in most cities in America, that (eventually) subsided. But now, it’s fresh for everybody again. It’s now more important than it’s ever been, to encourage these conversations with people, that are conversations, not arguments, that come from a place of wanting to understand.
Washington: It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, man. Let’s be honest…sometimes I feel those emotions, of being angry or afraid. But I’m convinced that love wins. When people talk about it, I want to try to help other folks understand why [people think the way they do]. It was also important to us to include the line, “This ends right now,” and be emphatic about it. And say, if we are tired of seeing this in our news streams, what are we going to do? Are we going to do our part, or are we just going to shake our heads and hope it doesn’t happen again?
DK: You said you wrote “Love Wins.” after the George Floyd incident, which was during the quarantine. So when you were writing this song, did the two of you write it on Zoom, or did you get in the same room to write it?
Washington: We got together in person and we wrote it outdoors, with social distance (they both laugh). I think it was important for us to look each other in the eyes when we wrote it.
Here’s the video of Luke Combs’ hit “Even Though I’m Leaving,”
which was co-written by Wyatt Durrette.
Durrette: Yeah, that wasn’t a song that could ever be written without being together. [We needed] to get it right.
DK: Wyatt, I wanted to ask you about some of the hit songs you’ve written. You recently wrote two big hits with Luke Combs: “Beautiful Crazy” and “Even Though I’m Leaving.” First, how did you get together with Luke?
Durrette: Lynn Oliver, who is the head of the label & publishing company that Luke is on, had worked with Zac Brown for a long time. Lynn was my first BMI rep back in the day, and we’ve been great friends since. Then when she started working with Luke, she was like, “Hey, you guys need to write together.” So that’s how I met Luke.
The first song we wrote together was “Even Though I’m Leaving.” That was a very deep song to be the first song to write with somebody. Luke and I and Ray Fulcher wrote it. That day, I was kind of missing my son, and I was like, “I’d like to write a father & son song today.” I was thinking of using the word “leaving” in a song. Then Luke had the title, “Even Though I’m Leaving, I ain’t going nowhere.” And I was like, “Oh okay, that’s it for sure.” That song was really special to me. Having an older father, and a son who’s just going to college, [the lyric] really resonated with me. It was one of those songs…we were looking at each other halfway through it, and we had glazed-over eyes, a little teared up. It was like, “Whoa, this is something.” We’re really proud of that song.
The biggest thing for me about “Even Though I’m Leaving”, and the same thing with “Love Wins,” is that music is, [except for] love in my opinion, the biggest connector in this world. It has the ability to heal, and the ability to make somebody feel not alone in their moments of despair. There were people reacting to [“Even Though I’m Leaving”] and calling me, and saying how it helped them in some ways. It’s the same with “Love Wins.” That’s why I fell in love with music, because of its power to do that, and I’m really humbled to be able to do it.
DK: Another big hit that you wrote with Luke Combs is “Beautiful Crazy.” How did you and Luke write this song?
Durrette: With “Beautiful Crazy,” I just had the words Beautiful Crazy and a couple other words. But I knew what I wanted it to be about, that when you fall in love with somebody, you fall in love with all the stuff…the annoying stuff, too. That was the idea. At the time, Luke was falling for his now wife Nicole, so he knew what I was talking about. And (co-writer) Rob Williford knew as well. We wrote that one, and it was just one of those that fell out. But we knew we had something, for sure.
DK: Wyatt, you’re also known for writing many hits with Zac Brown. How did you connect with Zac, and become a great writing team?
Durrette: Well I’ve written my entire life, since I was young, because my father loved country music and I fell in love with storytelling. But [writing] was always just an outlet…I never really thought anything would happen with it.
I was a running a place called Dixie Tavern in Atlanta, and Zac got booked to play there every Tuesday night. And immediately you could tell, this guy is different. Then one night I got up and sang with him, and it was like, “Hey, I write. Do you wanna write?” Then we wrote three songs the first night we sat down together. We got each other immediately, and it grew from there. I guess I was 24 at the time.
DK: Of the hits that you’ve had with Zac Brown Band, are there a couple songs that are your favorites?
Durrette: “Highway 20 Ride” is still one of my favorite songs that I’ve written, because of its content and what it’s about…you know, being about my son. I wrote most of that on Interstate 20, but that didn’t sing well, so I had to to say Highway. And I’m really proud of “Colder Weather” and “Sweet Annie”, the way they turned out as the finished product and sonically. “Sweet Annie” and “Chicken Fried” [took a long time to write]. I had pieces of the songs, but it didn’t come together for a long time. Some songs are like that…it’s not always about writing a good song in an hour in a room. In my opinion, if you’re trying to do it right, you just have to be patient and wait for it.