You can’t throw a rock in Nashville without hitting a songwriter, but every once in a while you find a writer who’s destined for greatness. Nashville.com was lucky enough to run across Morristown native, Morry Trent, who’s been on a roll this year and he’s one of those writers. Trent is as passionate about the business of songwriting as he is songwriting itself and wants to educate the public on illegal downloading.
Nash: How did you become a songwriter?
Morry: When I was 17 and had been playing guitar for about 9 months, my Dad saw that I was going to stick with it and gave me a left-handed Gibson guitar. After the first month, a song just came to me. I didn’t consider myself a songwriter until I joined a bar band in my hometown. In addition to cover tunes, we worked up some of my original songs. When people started requesting those songs, I felt like I was an official songwriter. The guys in the band were always open to having some original material and that is all it took for me to become hooked on writing.
Nash: Tell us about your first cut.
Morry: When I worked at Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) here in Nashville, I met a guy named Wayne Perry. He wrote “Not a Moment Too Soon” and “What Part of No Don’t You Understand.” He and I only wrote two songs together and one of them got cut on a little indy thing by Daron Norwood. Daron was doing an outreach program in the schools in the Southeast to speak out against alcohol, drugs and violence in the schools. Wayne and I had written a song called shooting stars shortly after the Colombine shooting tragedy in Colorado. It was a first for me and it was obviously for a very great cause. The name of the outreach program was called “Keep it Straight.”
Nash: What were you doing the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
Morry: I was headed to a writer friend’s birthday celebration. As I turned onto South Street here in Nashville, I heard “The Famous Lefty Flynn’s” come on Satellite Radio. I just pulled over on the side of the road and savored every minute of it.
Nash: What is your favorite instrument to write on?
Morry: I always write on guitar. It is the only instrument I play so it’s a natural thing. Some days when I co-write, if the other writer has the melody, I stay out of his/her way until I hear a chord change that the the other writer isn’t hearing and I pick it up and try something I’m hearing in my head.
Nash: Do you have any tips for beginning songwriters?
Morry: Yes, the first thing I suggest is to go back and study the greats in any style of music you want to write. Know the history, read their lyrics and listen and learn. Have fun with it but write at every opportunity. When I started getting disciplined about writing songs, my writing got better by leaps and bounds.
Nash: What’s the difference in writing a country song and a Bluegrass song?
Morry: Melodically, these days country music is more flexible and lyrically, bluegrass music is broader. There is not much difference on how I approach them. I just try to come out with the best song I can get on any given day. I let the finished song dictate what it turns out to be stylistically. I keep an open mind.
Nash: Who are some of your songwriting influences?
Morry: There are a slew of them but Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards influenced me from the rock perspective. Hank , Sr., Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell, Jerry Jeff Walker and Dylan all were probably my biggest influences.
Nash: What is your favorite song that you’ve written, cut or uncut?
Morry: Probably a song I wrote by myself called “The Streets of Tupelo.” It hasn’t been cut yet but I know it will be. It’s just got this haunting signature lick in it and it’s a love song that has a lot of emotion in it. People seem to connect with it. Johnny Reid, who is a monster of a singer, did the demo on it and he just nailed it.
Nash: How is downloading affecting songwriters and the music business?
Morry: As of this writing, it is having a very negative effect. Professional songwriters don’t have a problem with their songs being downloaded but, according to statistics I heard from the Secretary of Commerce when he spoke at Belmont University a few months ago, 19 out of 20 song downloads are illegal. There are tons of illegal free downloading sites and the songs aren’t being licensed. The site operators sell ads and memberships but the copyright owner in most cases isn’t getting paid for the song he legally owns. It is like profiting from hot merchandise. We need a lot more education for the consumers and strict criminal laws worldwide to convict the site operators. Otherwise, nobody can afford to be a songwriter. Most of us struggle to make ends meet. For just a minute, imagine the world without the songs that we all grew up with. There would be a huge void there. I love the internet too but, without a handle on free downloading, it is killing a true art form.
Morry also suggested everyone watch what Kid Rock had to say about illegal downloading below.