Hill is a professional songwriter who has been in the business for more than 30 years. His songs have been recorded by noted artists such as Alabama ("Born Country"), Ray Charles ("The Pages of My Mind"), Anne Murray ("Over You"), George Strait ("Fool Hearted Memory") and a slew of other esteemed performers.
His songs resulted in 575 recordings that earned 10 ASCAP Awards and 77 RIAA certified Gold and Platinum awards. Eight of his songs peaked at #1 in the U.S. and Canadian music charts, including "Fool Hearted Memory" and "Postcard From Pasadena."
Looking back, did you ever think you would become an accomplished songwriter?
My goal when moving to Nashville was to just get a song recorded. I just wanted to write songs that would interest artists in recording them. It took me a while to even realize I had become an accomplished songwriter. I jokingly tell people...if you're here long enough, something happens. I guess there is some truth to that, but its not like hard work always equals success. You have to have a knack for this.
Tell us about the people and songs that influenced you most.
My early influences were all over the map so to speak. My mother had more refined tastes than my father. She liked musicals, ballet, and big pop singers of her day. My Dad was more country, and down to earth, so my early influences were everything from Swan Lake to Johnny Cash. My Dad also introduced me to the music of many songwriters like Roger Miller, and Merle Haggard. I was influenced a lot by Cash, Haggard, and Miller, but the song that influenced me the most was "Sunday Morning Coming Down" by Kris Kristofferson.
Among your songs, which one is the closest to your heart? Why?
"Fool Hearted Memory" which was recorded by George Strait is the closest to my heart because it was George Strait's first #1 as an artist and my first #1 as a songwriter.
How do you go about writing songs? Give us a glimpse of your songwriting process.
I most always work from a title. If I don't have a title to start with, I'm a little lost. I guess that shows how important lyrics are to me. I have started songs with a groove or a melody and just pull the title from the sky, but I prefer to come up with the lyric concept first. I will then either write that idea on my own, or share it in a co-writing session with someone. Basically in the co-writing process, we sit down and toss around ideas until something sticks. Co-writing is a fast process for me. I get extremely focused, and the bi-product of that is that the song usually gets created before the end of the day. The song may require more tweaking, but basically it will be done that day, and sometimes before lunch!
How would you best describe your songs and your music?
I have never referred to myself as a "country songwriter," but rather just a "songwriter." I'd like to think that many of my songs fit several genres, but because I am here in Nashville, the business of "country music" is easy to access. So, most of my career, I've probably been described as a "country songwriter."
What advice would you give aspiring singers, songwriters and those who want to make it in the music industry?
Find your market, visit that market, treat it like a business and get some qualified feedback on your songs. I often say, if you are going to sell boats, you have to be near some water.
Your songs have been recorded by Alabama, Ray Charles, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, George Strait, Randy Travis and many other great artists. Who among today’s songwriters or performers would you most like to work with?
There are many I love, and wish I could write with or give songs to. Probably Tim McGraw would be high on my list of people I have yet to have contact with. I also like Alison Krauss very much.
I’ve listened to and enjoyed your new album Stay A While. The song “Blame It On Kristofferson” really stood out for me. Tell us more about the significance of this song and your new album.
My father sat me down and played that song for me when I was just starting out. I loved it. My song is a tribute to that experience. More than anything, I just wanted Kris to know how much the song changed my life. I loved the way Kris' lyrics rolled along in long sentences, sort of like talking.
What projects are you currently involved with?
I have always kept my hand in producing acts. I especially love finding an act and developing it. I have a couple of those acts I am working with.
What other goals do you wish to accomplish as a singer/songwriter and producer?
My goals are quite humble really. I just want to continue doing what I love, writing songs, and making a living at it.
Byron Hill is set to perform at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee on April 11, 2009. To learn more about him and his new album, visit his official Web site.