Earlier this week, I sat down and had an Interview via email with songwriter Trey Willeford. I am honored that Trey was happy to do this Interview and responded so quickly with his busy schedule. Below you can read the FULL Interview:
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: Well, I was born and raised in East Texas, went to a small school where everybody knew everybody. My first love was baseball, I was a pitcher. I played ball year round and actually played the three major sports Football, Basketball and Baseball, so I was an athlete. I went to college on a baseball scholarship and hurt my shoulder pitching which ended that career. In 1990, I moved away from my hometown to a smaller town where I became a police officer, met my amazingly wonderful wife Mandy. We married in 1991, have two of the greatest boys a family could ask for. This June will be 22 years we’ve been married and I have to say she is my best friend. She’s my rock.
Q: How long have you been a songwriter?
A: When I was a senior in high school, we had to write a 10 page journal each week. It could be about anything we wanted so on Fridays I would turn in 10 pages of poems. My English teacher was cousin to Sissy Spacek, and she called me the last of the great romantic poets…lol. I found that words seemed to come very easy for me. I wrote my first song in my second year of college. After I hurt my shoulder, I rehabed a year and a friend talked me into going to Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas where I joined a fraternity. My roommate could sing and play guitar and I played and one day sat down and wrote a song. My roommates dad knew someone who knew Randy Travis and loved the song and wanted to take us to Nashville but i was a young college kid who had no idea what he wanted to do with his life so I turned down the offer. So to answer the question, (you’ll find in this interview that I like to talk so I may get long winded….lol) I’d say about 27 years.
Q: Who or what was your inspiration to become a songwriter?
A: I’ll never forget when I was 9 or 10 years old, I met Nanci Griffith. She was very good friends with my Uncle in Austin, Texas and they hung out a lot together. I watched her play and sing a song that she had written while sitting on my grandmothers floor and I knew then that I wanted to do that. I began playing guitar, but like I said earlier, I was an athlete so music came second. So I guess you’d say she was my first inspiration, my greatest inspiration is my wife Mandy.
Q: Do you do a lot of co-writing, or would you say you write most of your music alone?
A: I mostly co-write. I find that two heads or three heads or even four are better than one, and also its a learning experience for me. I learn something new every time I co-write. But there are those occasional times where I have a thought and the words flow and I come up with something that I’m super happy with and I keep it to myself.
Q: If you could choose 2 songwriters to co-write a song with, who would they be and why?
A: Just 2? Wow this is probably the hardest question. Jason Matthews would be the first for sure. Jason writes what is real. Real things that I, and probably every person can relate to. An example would be Luke Bryans “Muckalee Creek Water“…..We had a place back in Timpson where I lived that we went to that, that song reminds me of every time I hear it. Then there’s Trace Adkins hit “Tough People do“. We all go through hard times and Mandy and I have had our share and so that song just really hits the nail on the head and so many people can relate to it. Jason wrote both of those and that’s how I try to write in a way that people can relate to the lyrics of the song. I really think we have similar styles, so after the star struck feeling that I’d sure get, I think Jason and I could really write some hits. A second would be very hard to pick, there are so many. I love Colt Fords style, I have one right now that I think Chase Rice would be a perfect co-writer on, Cole Taylor, Cody Smith of Highway 55, Miranda Lambert would be so cool to write with, Blake Shelton, there’s just so many that I think I could really gel with.
Q: When co-writing a song, what would you say the best way is to do this if that writer doesn’t live in your area?
A: I’ve written over 50 songs with a writer in Michigan. We have never met, just emailed and talked on the phone. I’d say Email. Skype is a good tool although I haven’t used it yet, any way two folks can communicate and be on the same page with each other is good in my opinion.
Q: Do you write just the lyrics to a song, or do you put the music behind it as well?
A: I write both. I have to say that lyrics come far more easily to me than melodies do. I can hear a melody while I’m writing but translating it from my mind to my fingers on the guitar takes a little more time. There are those special moments when everything comes together and just flows so smoothly but again, those are special moments.
Q: Is there anyone in particular that you are working with at the current time? If so, who?
A: I have several that I write with. Terry Becks, the one I mentioned earlier that I’ve written 50 + with, Kristin Fontaine is a great writer, Brett Wall, Summer Longbons, Maria Danielle, and Brandon and Cora Reynolds to name a few. I have several projects that I’ve sent ideas to that I’m waiting on replies but those are my main ones I work with regularly. Theres prolly several that I’ve forgotten to mention and if so, I apologize.
Q: When you write a song, would you say that you change the lyrics numerous times before getting them exactly the way you want them?
A: Most of the time yes. I always write a rough draft first then put it away then go back and look at it again. My best song I tried to rewrite it several times but it always went back to the original. Most of the time if I go back to it several times and I feel it could be stronger but it just ain’t coming to me, that’s when I send it for a co-write. I have had many ideas that I have had to just put in paragraph form what I want to say and send to a co-writer because it just won’t come to me. Other times, I sit on it until it comes to me. I have one song that is very special to me that took 15 years to write. I wrote first verse in about 3 minutes but the rest took 15 years. So yes and no I guess would be the answer to that….
Q: Through research, I have found that a lot of songwriters use a “technique” to write. Do you have a specific technique when writing?
A: No, I write how I feel, what I’m feeling at the time. I usually write the lyrics first and then rewrite to try to fit the melody that’s in my mind. I want the song to flow very smoothly so it takes time to do the rewrites if it’s necessary.
Q: Are you a member of ASCAP or any other company of that sort?
A: I joined BMI, Broadcast Music Inc., in 1994 I believe.
Q: If you answered yes to the previous question, how long have you been a member?
A: 19 years? Maybe if my math is right.
*TCB: Yes, your math is right 🙂
Q: If you encountered someone interested in songwriting, and they asked you for advice, what advice would you give them to make a successful career?
A: Write whats in your heart, don’t get fancy, I like conversational songs and story songs so I would probably say tell the story on paper like you would tell a 2nd grader if you were speaking to a second grade class. Learn how songs are constructed, listen to your favorite songs and hear what the artist/writer was trying to say and learn. You will never stop learning and be open-minded to criticism. Write it down,whether it’s a word, a line, a verse, a thought, write it down. I keep a pen and pad by my bed, on my kitchen table, at work, in my pocket as well as my iPhone notepad gets plenty of use. And most of all, learn PATIENCE!
Q: Are there any online websites where our viewers can hear some of your previous work?
A: No, not at this time. Rick Dean with Dean of Music Publishing has published several of my tunes and he once told me that artists, producer, etc. want new music. If they are out there for the public to hear then they are not new anymore. That makes a lot of sense and I respect what Mr. Dean says, so I have refrained from putting them anywhere.
Q: Out of all of the songs that you have written, what song would you say is your favorite and why?
A: When I got married, I had a German Shepherd dog that was the most amazing animal I’ve ever seen. I taught my boys at a very young age that dogs were mans best friend. When my oldest boy was 3 years old, Cody was killed. When I buried him, my 3-year-old was out there with me and looked up and said Daddy, Cody was our friend, and I just lost it, the tears started flowing. Now I was raised that men don’t cry and up til that time that’s what I believed. When Travis said that I couldn’t hold back anymore and I hugged him so tight that night, he was the 3-year-old adult and I was the boy….I immediately went into the house and wrote the first verse to EVEN DADDIES CRY…..As I said before, it took about 15 years to finish it and I remember the first time I played it in public, the place was silent, you could hear a pin drop. It was a very moving experience. So that song has a ton of sentimental value to me. If I had a choice of any song and only one to be cut in my lifetime, that would be it.
Q: How long did it take you and Harold Garoutte to write “Parkinson’s“?
A: I saw Harold talking to someone on Twitter one day and he mentioned that he had started writing it. My father in law passed away from the disease so I told him if he needed a cowriter I’d love to help with it. He sent me what he had and it was one of those that the lyrics just flowed. I’m not sure how long it took, but it was no time. Harold told me that when he read it, it made him tear up. He’s a great person. I told him it was his song and that it was my contribution to the cause and not to list me as a writer. He did anyway…..I’ll never forget that gesture from him. I’m very proud that I was able to do so little. I enjoy doing things like that. There’s a young girl on Twitter that has Leukemia I believe. Her name is Becca Jayden. She posted a picture of a bruise one time on her page that she had gotten from the chemo and it really touched me. I wrote a song for her called “TOUGH CHIC“. It also makes reference to Kellie Pickler’s friend that she shaved her head because of the cancer that her friend was going through. So those kind songs like that usually don’t take very long to write.
Q: Approximately how many hours a week would you say you spend writing songs?
A: Not as many as I’d like to. My family comes first, then my 40 hour week job, I really can’t put a number on hours. If I had the opportunity, it would be my full-time job though.
Q: Is there anything that you would like to share with our viewers, that we may not have covered above?
A: I think you covered who I am pretty thoroughly. I’m here. I’m me. Lets write!
Thank you for wanting to do an article on me, I’m very humbled. I hope that someday I can make my friends proud that they know me and I can help them achieve their goals and dreams.
What a wonderful Interview! I enjoyed every word of it. Trey, your responses were real, meaningful, and reflects on what kind of guy you really are. I am very honored to have had the chance to do this Interview and write this article. I am excited to take this journey with you by keeping in touch and keeping this Interview/Article up to date with new information, etc. when they become available.
Thank You for taking time out of your daily life to sit down and allow me to write this. That means a lot. And I hope your fan base sky rockets!
You can find Trey on Twitter by clicking here: Trey Willeford