Rodney Clawson has had a hand in writing an astonishing 24 number one songs.
The Texas farmer-turned songwriter does not take for granted any of the great success he has had as a songwriter.
Whether it has been an artists’ first hit, or adding George Strait’s highest charting debut single in his career to his resumé, Clawson has achieved a great deal of success that has left his mark on the country music industry.
Now, 18 years after earning his first publishing deal, Clawson took some time to talk about some of his hits and the stories behind them.
JL: When did you know you wanted to write songs for a living?
RC: I guess a lot of writers come to Nashville to make a living at songwriting, but that’s not how it happened for me. I was a farmer in Texas and started writing songs. Over the course of time, I had some success at it. After I had a few hits and my dad retired from farming, I decided to move to Nashville and do it full time.
JL: What kind of emotions did you have the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio? Do you remember which song it was? Do you still get excited when you hear them today?
RC: “Sweet Southern Comfort” was the first song of mine I heard on the radio. I was very excited- driving a Tractor in the Texas panhandle. After having around 40 hits on country radio, it still doesn’t get old.
JL: You co-wrote “I Saw God Today,” which was George Strait’s highest chart debut in his career. How satisfying is it for you to have something like that on your resume, especially considering all the success George has had in his career?
RC: Being from Texas, it was a huge deal to get a Strait cut; something I thought would never happen. I didn’t think I wrote the kind of sings Strait cuts. But I guess I did once.
JL: How did the idea for “I Saw God Today” come forth in the songwriting session? Did you know that you were on to a big hit immediately?
RC: My co-writer Monty Criswell had the idea; something an old friend from back home used to always say. It was a different enough song that it wasn’t an obvious hit to me. It’s hard to get those kinds of songs cut.
JL: “Did It for The Girl,” co-written with Lynn Hutton and Greg Bates (the artist), has been said to have been so successful because it is simple, but very relatable to a wide audience. Can you discuss how that song came from that session?
RC: Lynn had that idea, and it was pretty simple. It was one of those songs that came out pretty quickly. And Greg is such a great country singer; it sounded like a hit when it was done. Greg didn’t have a record deal at the time, so Easton Corbin wanted to cut it. Then Greg got a record deal and took the song back for himself.
JL: “Did It for The Girl” was Greg Bates’ first charting single at the time, and traveled all the way to number 5. How cool is it for you to see that happen to an artist for the first time?
RC: I’ve had a couple artists’ first hit: Greg Bates and Frankie Ballard. It feels really good to help launch a career.
JL: “Amarillo Sky” made its rounds a bit, being recorded twice before Jason Aldean recorded and released it. How did the song end up with Aldean and what do you think allowed his version to connect with people the way it did?
RC: McBride and the Ride singled it first, but it didn’t do much. Then Aldean cut it. He was a new young artist. I guess it connected with all the people out in the heartland because it came from a real place. John Rich and I were both from the Amarillo area. His granddad was a farmer at Pampa, Texas, and my family farmed around Gruver, TX. We both pulled from those farming roots to make the song as true to life as possible.
JL: “Sweet Southern Comfort” was one of your first big hits. How surreal was it for you as a young songwriter to see your song climbing the charts like this one did?
RC: It was my first hit. I never thought it would happen, so when it did… it’s just a God thing. The odds of having one hit are astronomical.
JL: “Lost in this Moment” has become a pretty popular wedding song over the years. How satisfying is it for you to be a part of so many special days in people’s lives?
RC: It’s pretty cool. I actually sang it at a couple weddings before it was ever a hit.
JL: You have had a solid amount of hits co-written with John Rich, can you describe the chemistry you feel with Rich during writing sessions?
RC: Like I said before, John and I grew up in the same small part of the world, so we’re on the same page when it comes to the way we see and think about a lot of things. He’s also one of the most musically talented and most intelligent people I’ve ever met; that doesn’t hurt either.
JL: You have accomplished so much in your career, is there anything you haven’t done or had happen to you that is a “bucket list” type of thing for your career?
RC: Not really. I’ve had more success in this business than I ever expected or ever could have dreamed. I feel truly blessed to be able to do this for a living with the people I do it with.
*Feature image courtesy of Big Loud Publishing