Since coming to Nashville in the early 1980s, Dave Gibson has been a respected songwriter and musician. His songs have been cut by some of country music’s greatest, including Tanya Tucker, Alabama, Montgomery Gentry and Joe Diffie. His business skills began to shine as he and his wife, Daisy Dern, worked to create their own music label and publishing company, Savannah Music Group, which they named after their daughter, Savannah. The company now also includes singer-songwriters Nolan Neal, The Mulch Brothers, Kevin Grant and Jack Williams. Dave is able to use his talent and expertise in the industry to help other artists fulfill their dreams.
Nash: How did you become a songwriter?
Dave: I started writing songs, probably in my twenties. A guy asked me to write a melody for a poem he had, and I did, and I really liked the process. Then I wrote my first song by myself, this was a while ago, back in the seventies (laughs). When I ended up moving here in 1982 I brought the song with me and I met a guy named Tony Brown. He loved the song. It had actually already been cut by Reba McEntire. It was the first song I had ever written by myself so I was very fortunate. Then Tony cut it of me, trying to get me a record deal with that song and another one I had written. I was just very, very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
Nash: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written?
Dave: “Ships That Don’t Come In.” That’s probably my most favorite song. I co-wrote it with Paul Nelson. That was, I guess, 1988 or 1989 that we wrote that. It was a No. 1 song for Joe Diffie.
Nash: Who are some of your songwriting influences?
Dave: Um, Kris Kristofferson was a big influence. Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Paul Simon, James Taylor. I like real rootsy kind of writers, you know, people who are really great lyricists and also melody writers.
Nash: What’s your favorite instrument to write on?
Dave: Guitar, that’s what I like to write on mainly, but I’ve written a couple songs on the piano that I’ve gotten cut.
Nash: Where do you usually get the inspirations for your songs?
Dave: Ya know, there’s no rule. Sometimes personal things. Sometimes things that people say, I call it speaking in titles. Some people just say things that are different so you just kind of pick up on that and stow it away.
Nash: Do you prefer writing by yourself or with someone else?
Dave: I like both. If I can come up with a song by myself, that’s great, but I love co-writing, too. I never co-wrote til I moved to Nashville and it’s been a great experience for me. You always learn something from your co-writers.
Nash: What made you decide to develop your own label and publishing company?
Dave: I just felt like it was time for me to do that. I’ve been in all parts of the music business. I’d had my own publishing company but I never had a situation where I signed writers. I have my own office and also an independent record label that we’re gearing up. And to be on the other side of the fence, ya know, the business side of it, it was like ‘Okay, do I really want to do this?’ But it’s been great. It’s been a real experience (laughs).
Nash: When you first started Savannah Music Group, what expectations did you have for it?
Dave: I wanted to be able to develop writer-artists. Mainly the writers that we’ve signed have been writer-artists. I’ve got a project on two guys called the Mulch Brothers that write for us, cut an EP on them. That was the goal, to be able to write for the projects. Everything is so “inside” now in Nashville. It’s hard to get songs cut unless you’re writing with a producer, an artist, a manager or whatever.
Nash: Do you have any advice for beginning songwriters?
Dave: Go home (laughs). No, I’m kidding. Network and go to shows. Listen to great writers. Listen to all the songs that you hear on the radio then analyze the songs and figure out how these writers are writing them. Read a lot. Networking is really, really important though.