Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a singer, guitar player, songwriter, record producer or publisher in the country music scene? In this episode of Thinkin’ and Drinkin’, Bart talks with Derek George. Derek is a jack of all trades in this business. He has toured on the road with Pearl River as a singer and guitar player, written several hits for artists such as Bryan White, Randy Houser, Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant, Blake Shelton, and Tim McGraw. Derek has produced records and owned his own publishing company. He gives great insight into songwriting and how the industry is changing.
Meet Derek George
In the 1990s, George was a member of the band Pearl River. After Pearl River lost its recording contract, George and some of the other band members were recruited for Bryan White's road band. At the time, White was a T-shirt vendor for the band and a roommate of George's who had just been beginning his singing career. George also co-wrote and sang backing vocals for several songs on White's first three albums, including the number 1 single "So Much for Pretending".
In 1996, George and White, along with Bryan Austin and Jeffrey Steele, appeared on the song "Brickyard Boogie" on Steve Wariner's No More Mr. Nice Guy. This song was nominated for the Best Country Instrumental at the 1997 Grammy Awards.
George, White, and John Tirro also wrote Diamond Rio's 1997 single "Imagine That". While still a member of White's band in 2001, George signed with Windswept Publishing.
Between 2009 and 2010, George was a member of the band Williams Riley. In 2013, George produced Randy Houser's How Country Feels and Joe Nichols' Crickets. via Wikipedia
What Bart has to say
I first met Derek when we wrote for the same publisher, Windswept. No matter who else was in the room, he was always the best guitar player. I thought he'd be great for the podcast because he can make anyone laugh and has tons of great stories. He has a rare gift of putting everyone in the room at ease and I'm thankful to call him a friend.
In this episode, you’ll hear
How Derek George got his start touring with Pearl River
Derek’s transition into producing and songwriting which leads him to start his own production company.
Growing up Derek's mom would play The Doors & Tom Jones, this is where he discovered his love for music at an early age. Listening to the first record he bought, Kiss Destroyer, he heard the electric guitar and instantly knew that was the sound he wanted to make. After bugging his parents for several years his dad found him a guitar and an old cheap custom amp. This is how he would learn to play the guitar. Starting out in garage bands, they played cover tunes like Crazy Train by Ozzy and few Poison songs but for the most part, they would come up with their own riffs and write their own songs, mostly instrumentals. The first song he wrote was called Wet Paint. After making his way through several different cover bands he began to get interested in the singer/songwriter side of music and started going to Ole Miss and Mississippi State where he would cover bands like the Indigo Girls and Violent Femmes playing for the fraternities and sororities. This led him home to the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi. While playing around in different cabins at the fair he ended up in a cabin next to Marty Gamblin, who ran Glen Campbell Music in Nashville and was instrumental in breaking Alan Jackson. Playing next to Marty’s cabin led to Derek getting the opportunity to work with Marty and eventually becoming apart of Pearl River. After getting out of a relationship and needing a place to stay Derek began rooming with Bryan White. Bryan and Derek began writing a lot of songs together, after having trouble making money in Pearl River and writing a hit with Bryan, a few guys decided to leave Pearl River and those that remained became the band for Bryan White. All of this eventually led to Derek producing two of Bryan’s records. At the time, Kyle Lehning was Bryan’s producer and knew that Derek and Bryan were writing the majority of the songs. Kyle let Derek know one day that he and Bryan needed to be ready to produce some of Bryan’s next record. Derek began to realize he had more of a passion for writing songs and producing records than being an artist so he started making the transition into production. In this episode, Bart and Derek chat about the difference in producing records in the ‘90s and early 2000s versus what it is like producing records now. They also talk about the differences in songwriting and how songs have transitioned into being more about the melody than the lyrics, more rhythmic and less storytelling. Bart and Derek discuss guitars and amps; what they have, what they enjoy and some of the new things they find helpful while playing. As a producer, Derek has had success with Bryan White, Joe Nichols, Chase Bryant, and Randy Houser. Derek has written great cuts for Darius Rucker, Brantly Gilbert, Randy Houser, Blake Shelton, and Tim McGraw, looking back Derek has written around 100 hit songs in the last 25 years. Tune in to Thinkin’ and Drinkin’ to hear some of Derek’s main influences and how he met Jerry Reed. Derek talks about starting Wide Open Music Group which was a publishing company and how he ultimately learned that he wasn’t an efficient publisher. Hear Derek’s answers to Bart’s lightning round where he asks Derek a series of questions and without thinking about them Derek gives him an answer. Derek also gives a peek into where he is now and what he is working on. If you have enjoyed this episode give us a follow on social media and leave a review on iTunes. Your support of our show means the world.
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