Exclusive DB Congress Interview with the songwriters of Dierks Bentley's fourth single from his "Home" CD, 'Tip It On Back.' (Ross Copperman, Tully Kennedy and Jon Nite)
Dierks Bentley is taking a big leap into uncharted territory with 'Tip It On Back.' The laid-back, let-it-all-go song marks Bentley's first ever single released without his name on the composition credits. That's good news for the trio of writers--a bassist on tour with a major country artist, a full time writer/producer, and a former cover band member who used to cover DB songs! When they all gather in a room to write they say it's magical and they all gel musically.
Recently there have been a ton of beer songs and drinking songs. What do you think sets Tip It On Back (TIOB) apart? (Carrie Srebro, NC)
: To me, this song is about the nights that we let ourselves live and have fun and forget the things we can't change. It doesn't gloss over reality. It is one snapshot of how we felt on one day looking around us at the world. I think everybody's snapshot would be slightly different, but at times everybody needs to blow off steam in whatever way they blow off steam.
: Well, honestly I don’t think TIOB is a drinking song. I think it’s more of a…kind of a grander picture than that. It’s all about whatever it takes to get your mind off what’s not right. I think TIOB is a way of saying for just one night, you know, just forget your problems and have a good time but we definitely did not set out to write a drinking song. It’s more about just letting things go.
: I think this a sexy drinking song. It covers a lot more ground than a typical beer/drinking song.
When writing any song, do you have a specific artist in mind or do you just write the song? For example, could a female artist have recorded TIOB in your opinion? (Clint Bond, KS). Did you have someone in mind to record TIOB when you started writing TIOB? (Kathy Butler, IN)
: Today, Ross, Tully, and I we wrote an incredible song with an artist in mind. We are fans of Lady Antebellum, so we wrote a song for Lady A. That's rare. Usually we just follow the song and purposefully don't aim at any one person. When we started [writing TIOB], I think we were just shooting for an amazing song. When we got done, all I knew was that I wanted to listen to the demo on repeat.
: You know what? I don’t know. The three of who wrote it were men so I think we wrote it from a man’s perspective. I guess anything’s possible. Miranda writes such good stuff who know what she could do. Did we have someone in mind? No. When we wrote this song not in a million years did we think Dierks would cut it. We were trying to write a great song and I think from past experience when you set out to write a song with an artist in mind it never really seems to happen. I think especially with an artist like Dierks. Dierks is such a great writer, you can’t really set out to write a song for Dierks. I think you need to write the best song you can that you like and hope that Dierks likes it, too.
: Generally I like to just write the song and let it find an artist.
If Dierks did not pick this song up, who would you have liked to see get it? (David Mattingly, KY)
JON: I think he's one of the only artists that could have pulled it off. We had one day from when the demo was out until we knew Dierks wanted it. At the time Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, and Tim Mcgraw all were in the middle of their projects, but fate put it where it was supposed to be.
TULLY: You know what, it’s so hard to see anyone else doing this song now after hearing him sing it now. If Dierks hadn’t taken it, and I’m so thankful he did, maybe Jason (Aldean) would’ve done it, but Dierks got a hold of it and I can’t imagine another voice on it. It feels like one that he wrote and when you’re an artist the trick to doing outside songs is to sell it like you wrote it. And if you didn’t know any better you’d swear Dierks wrote it, and that’s the real fun part about it.
ROSS: This song was made for Dierks.
Did anyone else have it on hold?
TULLY: Everything works out for a reason. We wrote that song on a Wednesday and I think Wednesday night after we wrote it I think it went on hold for Tim McGraw. And we were like well cool, but we never get too excited about that kind of stuff and then Tim had it for a couple weeks I guess, and then it came off hold. And then the guy who plugs my songs for me at my company took it over to Capitol Records and played it for Autumn House, I could be wrong, but I believe is how that happened, and Autumn played it for Dierks. We owe a lot to Autumn. She’s just been really good to me as a writer and just as a friend in general. Just the way it worked out it was so meant to be because this song wasn’t around for very long and it really ended up in the right hands. And like I said, to have someone like Dierks do this, who I’ve known since 2003…I never would’ve thought in a million years I’d have a cut on one of his records, and never dreamed in ten million years he’d put it out as a single. To say I’m excited is an understatement! It was one of the last songs they cut for the album. It’s just been really, really fun. We were just happy to have a cut on his record.
JON: I think he's right. They had it on hold for Tim for a blink of an eye first. I'd forgotten that!
When did you find out the song was going to be recorded by Dierks for the album and what were your feelings at the time? (Harriett Watkins, NC)
JON: We found out last November he cut it, and my face literally hurt from this massive smile I couldn't peel off for most all of that week.
TULLY: I believe it was…we wrote that song last October, and I think…I was on the road with Jason (Aldean) when I got a call from my publisher, Julie Newman, and she said that Dierks loved it and wanted to cut it and that was last October/November. So I was very, very, very excited!
ROSS: Found out early this year and was incredibly honored to be a part of "Home."
Did any specific personal experience bring about the idea for this song or did it start off as something more general? (Angela Mueller, TN)
JON: I occasionally crack open a recreational beverage on the back deck of my house after the crazy days. My wife was getting ready for surgery and our world was in all kinds of chaos, so the song idea was just swimming around in front of me. I tossed it out to see if the guys liked it after hearing the music Ross and Tully were coming up with in the studio.
TULLY: As we started writing, we weren’t thinking about anything in particular, it was kind of where the country was. I remember watching the news a lot and a lot of it was foreclosures, things for sale, and small businesses going out of business, and the opening line is “I see Main Street closing, miles of for sale signs,” which is exactly what we see.
ROSS: This song was inspired by the economic and political state of our country.
"I see Main Street closing,
miles of for sale signs."
Every time I hear this song, I feel a sadness instead of go out and party vibe. What’s the back story behind the lyrics and the melody? (Tara Toro, PA)
JON: When I hear it, I feel kind of free. There are parts of life right now in my world that are not easy. Every once in a while it's nice to just have one night to not worry.
TULLY: When you start writing a song I think it’s always best to write about something that is true, you know? I grew up in a really tiny town in up-state New York where no one really had a lot of money, you know? And Jon Nite and Ross Copperman are the same way. John is from a small town in Texas. And you kind of pull things…I remember being a young guy and just trying for one night just to forget about your debt, forget about your things aren’t right, and your broken down car or your whatever. Just have a good time, and in those hours, you can generally forget about that stuff and deal with them when you wake up the next day. Everybody has days like that when something’s just not right. We surely didn’t mean to make anyone depressed. It was just letting it go and just saying ‘screw it’ for a couple hours, and just not worry about anything. And like I said, we didn’t set out to write anything in particular, it just sort of came out that way.
ROSS: This song isn't meant to be sad. It's meant to be more of a celebration of your hard work week on a Friday night.
“I feel the sweet release
of a Friday night.”
How long was the writing process for TIOB? (Alicia Rose, WI)
JON: It was extremely fast--maybe 2 hours to write and a few more to record the demo.
ROSS: This song came together in a day.
TULLY: We wrote the song…and we started writing about 11 o’clock…and the song and the demo were done by 3:30. It’s nice when it happens easy, and that one really happened easy for us.
What were you doing when the concept and idea came along? What came first the melody or the lyrics? (David Evans, WA)
JON: We were all struggling trying to make a living doing music which is extremely difficult. Ross and Tully had new babies and sleepless nights and new baby bills to pay. I think we all wanted to write something where we could let go of some stress. The melody was first. The idea fit the music so I guess it was second, and the lyrics came in bronze.
ROSS: This was a special song in that melody and lyric pretty much came together.
TULLY: It started out with no words…it just started out with some chords…playing kind of music that we like, and the words…all of us…it just sort of poured out. I remember on this particular song, me and Ross had an idea of a groove that we wanted to write to, like a tempo, and then I started with a few chords, and then Ross started humming a melody and then Jon Nite just starts singing this little thing and he just goes ‘tip it on back,” and I was like whoa—that’s awesome! And it just kind of came out and when we write together—the three of us—it’s just like some sort of really magical thing that just sort of happens, its kind of special. And not every song that we write gets cut, but it’s just a good time when we do.
How do you decide the order of your names for songwriting credit on liner notes? For example, Dierks usually lists his name last. (Ronna Clark, FL)
: I was just happy they didn't forget anybody! (Haha). The label worked all the small print out for us.
: It's generally alphabetical.
: It’s alphabetical by last names. [Dierks probably lists his name last, even though it may not be alphabetical,] because he’s extremely humble. I’ve always loved Dierks and have always appreciated him for the way he is. Through this process he has been so cool to me. He texted me when he first cut the song and said 'hey man thanks for the song, I love the song'…and then he told me it might be a single. And then they put ‘5150’ out instead. He called me on the phone and said, "man I wish I had better news for ya, but we’re gonna go with ‘5150.’" And you know what, there’s not another artist on the planet that would do that. He didn’t have to call me. I got a text from him a couple weeks ago saying, "hey man I think Tip It On Back’s gonna happen." Dierks is just a special artist for his fans and if there’s any doubt about the kind of person he is I can vouch that he is a first class individual, above music and everything—he’s just a first class person—music aside.
When did you write TIOB, and how much time elapsed between the time you wrote the song and Dierks deciding to record it? (Sherrie Shamon, FL)
: We wrote it a few weeks before Dierks recorded it.
: We wrote the song earlier this year and Dierks cut it about a month later.
I love the song and the mood of it is amazing. It’s one of my favorites on 'Home.' But I hear it as a song saying that drinking can be a temporary fix for some of life's problems. But for many, drinking is the root of many of life's problems. It’s hard for me to connect to a song that talks about something that ruined 25 years of my life. I say all of this so you may understand why I would ask this question: Would you ever consider writing a song about sobriety? About the positives of "remembering" not "forgetting" everything you do? (David Mattingly, KY)
“I don’t want to lose this feeling,
I don’t want to close my eyes,
I don’t want to remember
what I’m here to forget tonight.”
: I have written many songs on both sides of this question. I have friends and family who live on both sides of this question. I hope that the spirit of this song comes across in the way we mean it. There are a lot of things out there that we can't control. I wanted this song to be about a temporary escape from those things. To me when I was writing this song, I was thinking about dancing with my wife in a crowded room with an awesome band playing. It's not about forgetting who you are to me. It's about forgetting things that are out of your control.
: I've actually written several songs about sobriety. This song isn't meant to say that drinking is a quick fix. It's just intended to mean that a long relaxing evening with a cold beverage can help ease your troubles.
: As a songwriter…you know, Eric Church’s ‘Smoke A Little Smoke,’ I don’t think he’s saying go out and buy cigarettes. I think it’s all in the spirit of a song in what you want to say at that point. If you’re gonna talk about driving a car really fast, it doesn’t mean you go out and speed. It’s entertainment. We’re not saying go drink, we’re saying do whatever it takes to get your mind off something that’s not right. If that means having a beer, then have a beer. If that means drinking a gallon of Mt. Dew, then drink Mt. Dew. No one’s saying, hey, go get hammered. The spirit of the song is saying, throw away the rule book and do what makes you feel good, and if that’s what it is for a couple hours then run this town dry. We’d be all kind of in trouble if we couldn’t write about having a drink once in a while. We write songs to have people sing them—that’s the fun of it.
“for a couple of hours
we can run this town
‘til it runs dry.”
What were the political and economic motivations behind the idea for the song? (Amy Shepheard, DE)
: We were just absorbing reality and lacing it with music and a few rhymes. There is a Kroger shopping center a few blocks from my old house. A bunch of years ago, every storefront was full. Today there are lease signs on half the windows. I live in a small town outside of Nashville, so it was all about seeing and making mental notes of life. I'm originally from Texas, and the dry weather the last few years has left the farms and ranches near my hometown in bad shape, so that was one of the things that popped up when thinking about the first verse, too.
: The recession was a big motivation in writing this song. We just felt like this could be a fun song to lift spirits.
: No political motivations as all, no economic motivations, it was much more simple than that. It’s saying if you’ve got a problem and look up and down these small towns, say you’re having trouble with money or whatever, it was just really letting go for a couple hours. Your problems aren’t gonna go away, but maybe for a couple hours you can be innocent and young again, before it was so complicated.
How do feel about Dierks treatment or interpretation of the song? (Mona Purdy, OK)
: Dierks made a fantastic album. He invited the writers to come listen to the entire thing after he finished it. I was absolutely enthralled with the cut he did on our song. He made the vocal his own, and the track had all sorts of interesting dobro and guitar parts. They kept the grit and emotion we felt when writing it. I’m unbelievably happy with Dierks and Brett's record on it.
: He absolutely NAILED it.
: I can’t imagine it being better. Dierks and his producer Brett Beavers…I’m blown away by it. They did a great job. They used a couple ideas we had from the demo and then they took their own ideas and kind of mixed them together—they couldn’t have done it any better. I just love it.
Did Dierks contact you all first about recording this song or did you contact him? (Lee Ann Miller, KY)
: I think he got hold of our publishers after he heard the song through his label.
: Our song plugger pitched the song to Dierks and he decided to cut it.
I'm curious about the process, as well: Does the publishing house present the artist with songs? Do songwriters present them? (Carrie Srebro, NC)
: I send them to artists I know if they ask for songs. My publisher is constantly sending songs that would work for artists.
: The publishing company presents the songs to the artists and hopefully they like it enough to record it.
How much more special is the release of TIOB as a single for you as the writers, since this is the first one Dierks has released that he didn't co-write? (Harriett Watkins, NC)
: It's an honor. I used to play in a cover band and we covered "Lot of Leaving Left to Do," "Come a Little Closer," "Every Mile a Memory," and five or six Dierks songs. Those songs are the pinnacle of great writing. It's crazy to even think of having him single our song knowing the caliber of songs he has and continues to write.
: It was such an honor first of all. I’ve known Dierks for a long time and to have him cut a song that I wrote is amazing. Dierks is such a great writer it’s gonna take a different kind of song for him to say, wow you know what? I like that song and I don’t have one like that so I think I wanna do it!
: It's incredibly flattering that this is the first song Dierks has released that he did not write.
What’s your advice for songwriters in Nashville trying to get a publishing deal with either a small or large publisher? (Randy Alan Shaffer, PA)
: You gotta love writing more than anything else that you can do, because it is realistically nearly impossible to make a living at it. But if you do, find a way to be in Nashville, LA, or New York. To make it you have to get to one. Be present to win. Then, learn how to play an instrument well, and learn to record great sounding demos in your home studio. Then, I'd go to someplace like Nashville Songwriter's Association and be a sponge and soak up every opportunity they have. They can open doors to publishers when the material is ready. Then, just write undeniable hit songs until they have to sign you. It's that easy….or hard depending on how you look at it.
: Work harder than the next guy.
: You gotta keep writing. It’s as simple as that. Most songs--almost all will never be heard. You just gotta keep doing it. It’s very frustrating that most songs you write will never get cut, but it can’t get cut if you don’t write it.
Tully, how did you find time to write with Ross and Jon given that you are on one of the biggest tours right now as Jason Aldean’s bassist? (Ronna Clark, FL)
: Yeah, its hectic you know, I’ve been with Jason for like 13 years and produce Thompson Square as well, so there’s not a lot down time.
Ross, being a recording artist yourself, how tempted were/are you to record TIOB for one of your own albums? (Ronna)
: I'm currently investing all my time into writing and producing.
Jon, you’re a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville. Is that where you met Ross and Tully? (Ronna)
: Ross and I met and wrote a song called "Glass" several years ago. Tully is part of the production team that found "Glass" and cut it for Thompson Square. I worked with the New Voice crew and we wrote some incredible songs, and I asked Tully to jump in with Ross and I because I had this gut feeling that they would gel musically. They did.
Ross and Jon, you are both co-writers on Thompson Square’s current single, “Glass,” “One of the Boys” (Jana Kramer) and “Save Water, Drink Beer” (Chris Young’s "Neon"). What else have you any of you written together? (Ronna)
: Yep, Thompson Square has "Glass" on your local stations, so you can request it now! We also wrote a single with JT Hodges called "Goodbyes Made You Mine" that was all over satellite radio earlier this year. We have had stuff recorded by Mallory Hope, and a handful of other new artists. We have a little chest full of songs that I seriously cannot wait for the world to hear that have just been recorded or are being recorded.
: We've actually written a lot of songs together and hopefully more will be finding their way onto country records very soon.
: TIOB might have been the second song the three us wrote together. We wrote together one time and we got a really cool song—never got cut—but it was just a really cool song. And we got the chance to get together again and that’s when we wrote 'Tip It On Back.' We’ve been writing ever since, once or twice a month, whatever we can do. My schedule’s pretty hairy right now. We’ve had a lot of holds, artists that love the songs, but Dierks is our first big cut. You know Dierks is a big cut for anyone, and especially for us. You can’t wish for anything better than that. Dierks is just a great artist which is what you want as a fan. Any time he puts a record out you know it’s gonna be good.
Dierks just scored his third consecutive #1 song from "Home." How are you going to celebrate when "Tip It On Back" hits #1? (Carrie)
: This would be one of the biggest blessings in my life or my family's life. I'm pretty sure, I would have a recreational back porch event with some tipping and shenanigans. This would be the first #1 for all three writers. Any help you guys can give, we would absolutely appreciate it.
: We would be honored if this song makes it to #1. It would be a very special thing for us, and I'm sure we'll tip a few back with Dierks if it happens.
: If we we’re lucky enough to get a #1, it’s going to be so surreal. I can’t even let myself think about it. If we do, we’ll just kind of tip it on back.
Just be sure to remember your DB Congress friends so we can tip it on back with you at that celebration!
Let's go DB Congress! Hit the campaign trail and request, post, vote, thank DJs for playing 'Tip It On Back.' Let's get these boys their first number one and Dierks his eleventh!