Country Music Songwriters Alexis Wilkins, Chris Wallin, and Gary Chapman: Leave Politics Outside the Writing Rooms

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed singer-songwriters Alexis Wilkins, Chris Wallin, and Gary Chapman in studio to talk about working with liberal songwriters and keeping politics out of the writing rooms.

Leahy: In studio, Alexis Wilkins, Chris Wallin, and Gary Chapman. Y’all are songwriters and performers, and so we’ve been talking about the main theme is the confluence of constitutional conservative populism and authentic country music. And of course, our new sponsor, Baste Records.

Chapman: Baste Records.

Leahy: Why do I say that wrong?

Chapman: Because you’re trying to be French. I don’t know.

Leahy: Gary, I thank you for that correction.

Chapman: It is Baste Records. Chris is going will you get this? Will you get this right?

Wallin: The Irish guy trying to be French. (Laughter)

Leahy: Boy, have they got my number. Baste Records. B-A-S-T-E.

Chapman: You need to get used to that if you’re going to invite a bunch of songwriters in to talk you’re going to get that kind of crap all the time.

Leahy: And you know what? It’s well deserved. And let’s talk about this. When you do the songwriting, you’ve been talking about how it’s important that you establish trust. And at some point, I think what happens, and maybe you meet somebody and you work together and Alexis, it turns out to be a good hang, right?

Boy, that’s an interesting word. So it’s a good hang. And then I think at some point you begin to realize, maybe I’m wrong, but tell me if this is right. You begin to realize that you have some common values with the songwriters that are a good hang, and those tend to be constitutional conservative values. Your thoughts and elaborate on that, please Gary.

Chapman: Just for the record, I do have tons of way liberal friends that we can hang. But we have decided to shut up about politics.

Wallin: Exactly.

Leahy: Because it doesn’t end well.

Chapman: No. And just again, to set the record straight, it’s rarely the conservative that comes in roaring about what they think or believe.

Wallin: Amen.

Chapman: We respond quickly and aggressively, but we don’t come in.

Leahy: So let me set the stage here. And I guess you guys use songwriters, you’ll know, somebody who’s a songwriter, performer, and you think, I’d kind of like to try and write a song with that person. Do you make an appointment to meet at the songwriter hangout place? (Laughter)

Chapman: We used to. Especially these two streets that used to mean something. There were two or three hangs that at the end of the day, like when I was writing for free, good grief many decades ago. There were two or three places. At the end of the day, they’re all going to be there. And you make those connections there.

Leahy: Do you say, hey, over to my house and we’ll write? Come over to we’ve got this songwriting office. Where do you go? Let’s say if you’re going to introduce somebody and you want to write a song and you’ve never met them, how does that happen?

Chapman: It’s going to happen a thousand different ways. It’s normally at one of your houses. If they’re assigned to a big publisher and they’ve got a great comfy place you certainly go and take that. Yeah.

Wallin: They have writing rooms, Sony and Warner, and all of them have writing rooms.

Chapman: And BMI. They’ve got writing rooms.

Leahy: Let me put this scenario together. Alexis Wilkins, Chris Wallin, and Gary Chapman. All songwriters. And you’ve probably done this. And so you go into, let’s say, the songwriting room with a songwriter who you’ve never met before. And sometimes I’m told, if they are left-wing, let’s say the session begins with, I can’t believe people vote for that so and so, so and so. Has this happened to you, Alexis?

Wilkins: Yes. There’s definitely more commenting on policy right out of the gates in writing sessions.

Leahy: Does that start out the minute they say that, is the good hang gone?

Wallin: A lot of times it is, because you might have an idea that you’re really vibing with, and it just kills the vibe.

Chapman: It’s gone.

Wallin: It’s just gone. And I’d like to tell a little story if I can.

Leahy: A songwriter telling a story?

Chapman: Imagine that.

Leahy: Never happens. Crazy. Go ahead, Chris.

Wallin: It’s weird, and this is years ago, Gary and I were playing I think it was with Aaron Barker. We were playing at this establishment downtown. It was a corporate gig. And I got there early, which I’m an early guy. I was early here.

Leahy: You were early here?

Chapman: He’s an early guy.

Wallin: I’m an early guy.

Leahy: Scheduled for 6:45. You showed up for 6:30.

Wallin: Yes. I was early, and I was waiting for everybody to show up. And there were these people in this corner of the backstage. They worked there, and they were talking. Somebody was about to get married. And just a little background. My dad had just passed away about three months before that.

My dad was a staunch Republican and a preacher. I grew up a very godly man. I’m sitting there about to do this show, and they’re talking about how somebody’s getting married. Which is fine. And everybody was kind of laughing. It was me, two other people in this group of three, and I’ll try to make this fast. They were talking.

They said, didn’t you get a, whatever the guy’s name was, didn’t you get a license where you’re ordained on the Internet? He goes, you could marry us. And he just laughed. And he goes he said, yeah, I just did that to, his words, to piss off the Baptist and the Republicans. (Chapman chuckles)

Chapman: Not a good hang.

Leahy: The hang crashes right there.

Wallin: And the first thing that came to my mind was my dad.

Chapman: Of course, it was.

Wallin: And it wasn’t my gig, so I didn’t want to mess up the gig by going over there and getting redneck. But after the gig, I said, I’m going to go talk to this guy and tell him. And so we did the gig, and the whole time we were playing, that was on my mind.

Chapman: Wow.

Wilkins: Whoah.

Wallin: And after the gig, I tried to find that guy, and I couldn’t find him. He had gone, I would have never done that in mixed company. There’s no way that I would have ever said that. He didn’t know what anybody in there thought. But because he was a liberal…

Leahy: So let’s talk about that. And Gary, we were talking a little bit off air here about how some songwriters, way back when, I think, were very conservative, but they felt pressured to move politically. Are you seeing that?

Chapman: Yes, to some degree. Not across the board. It’s an individual choice, just like salvation. Everybody makes their own choices. And over the years, I have noticed that some of the people that I know who they were then are not the same.

Wallin: I agree.

Chapman: And it’s is an interesting thing, and it is just the nature of the beast, quite frankly. You’re either going to believe what you believe, like Alexis was talking about, she survived Belmont because, and I love people at Belmont, just for the record.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.



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