Nashville, Tennessee- You may have heard of the story Longwood Symphony Orchestra which is a symphony comprised exclusively of Boston physicians and health-care professionals. The link between music and medicine is well-documented. So when 117 Entertainment Group asked me to interview a traditional country crooner from Oklahoma named James Robert Webb who is a renowned radiologist, I was eager to hear his story.
Webb was raised in a small town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma called Kellyville. Even though he was very driven academically, he had a natural knack for music and he learned to play piano at a very young age. Webb realized he was able to learn information easily, so going to college and getting a medical degree was his ticket out of his poverty-stricken hometown.
“We didn’t have anybody [in our town] who modeled success,” he said.
Webb said he was an all-state piano player in high school, but never considered signing back then. He recalled being a freshman at Oklahoma Baptist where he was in a backup band for a talent show and a friend asked if he had ever considered moving to LA or Nashville to pursue music. Even though the future radiologist loved music, he still wanted to have a family, so he chose to complete his medical degree instead.
Webb states he was raised on country music. He often spent his summer vacation with his grandparents and on the drive over to see them, they would play Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap’s greatest hits on repeat. He explains, “My favorite musicians growing up were Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. Even though their music often had pop, hooky sing-along choruses, it was still very country. Country music usually has great songs about regular people that I can relate to.”
He first caught the Nashville songwriting bug in 2012. “For me, I started conscientiously thinking, ‘What is it about these songs that I have been listening to all these years that I love?’”
Webb was particularly obsessed with songwriters who could write hit after hit that crossed genres and race and socioeconomic status that everyone loved- such as songs by The Eagles, Don Henley, Garth Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Toby Keith and Willie Nelson.
“Even people like Queen and Abba and AC/DC have written/performed songs that speak to people. That’s what got me interested in songwriting,” the Oklahoma native said.
Webb was fortunate enough to get hooked up with Banner Music Publishing Company early on. Although he has written songs for others, he is currently writing mostly for himself and he aspires to be the best “Nashville craft writer” that he can be.
“If you want the songs to have wide-spread appeal, you need to follow the songcraft rules. It takes a while to learn those rules and even longer to know when you can and should break them,” he said.
Webb is currently in the process of “embracing my inner quirkiness” and letting people in on that.
The radiologist also states that since so many current country songs are set in a bar, outsiders [those who don’t listen to country music] may think they those who champion the genre are unemployed alcoholics. However, he states, “In my experience, country music fans are some of the greatest people in the world who love quality music and gravitate toward great songwriting.”
As a songwriter first, Webb looks to write songs with a little more substance to them. He explains, “I am drawn to songs that stand the test of time like those from Alan Shamblin, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and even Miranda Lambert. I like songs that make me think and most of my fans gravitate toward the lyrics that are smarter.”
“One of the first things Buddy Cannon told me (as an independent artist) was I can call all the best publishing houses and nobody is going to give me their best songs [which are saved for the superstars],” he said. “Therefore you have to become somebody who writes great songs or co-writes with people who are writing great songs.”
Webb has co-written every original song on his latest record, James Robert Webb. You can stream the song, “Think About It” now ahead of the album’s release. This song is perfect for the precarious time we are now currently living in.
With heartfelt lyrics in songs like “April/May,” and “Now We’re Getting Somewhere,” along with his outstanding cover of Don William’s “Tulsa Time,” James Robert Webb is an album you will want to download and own.
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