I began writing songs in my senior year of high school. While others were mulling over their algebra, I was struggling with lyrics and melodies. My music is a blend of different styles: country, rock, blues & pop. The lyrics are often personal, drawn from my own experiences. I enjoy working with females because it is a challenge to write from the female perspective and fun to go into the studio with pretty girls. Much of my material can be described as "rockabilly for women." There is a Shania Twain influence, and I try to create girly images. Visuals are important in songwriting, and I dress mine in upbeat melodies.
I felt driven to write and record. Maybe I had to pursue music to validate myself, to prove I could do it. I had the idea of going to Nashville at 19, but it took me a decade to get there because of college and the army. Once in Nashville, I befriended a music major with a studio in his back yard. We recorded song after song and produced an album. Expressing myself in this way was a catharsis.
I have had many influences. 1950s rock and roll started it. From the moment I heard Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," I had to have that record. An Elvis influence pervades my catalog, evident in songs like "Hard Earned Love." and "I'm The One." In the 1960s, it was The Beatles. In the 1970s, it was Swedish ABBA. I wrote a book about ABBA and traveled to Stockholm.
Top 40 was a big deal. I would come home from school and lay on the bed with my radio. I bought records: 45s and LPs. I became interested in musicals like Gypsy and West Side Story.
I wrote what I wanted to hear. If other people liked it, okay. I gave vent to my emotions. Sometimes it started with an idea. Sometimes it started with strumming the guitar and playing chords. A melody came and, suddenly I had a hook around which I could write a song. Sometimes it came easy. Sometimes it came hard. 1997-2003 was a Renaissance! I wrote 200 songs and spent time in the studio. I worked with singers and musicians in Louisville and Nashville. Things slowed when my son entered college because I was helping him.
A good production is essential, one that stresses the vocal. People want to hear the singers, and they want to understand the words. Instrumental tracks should support the vocals. Bass and drums are the foundation. The other tracks ride on top. Lead guitars and keyboards should stay true to the melodies while improvising just enough. The record is the thing!
Someone told me I was going to make it in old age. I want to pass along my best tunes, those that inspire constructive behavior. I think of my Christmas song and my wedding song: "I Promise." One bride-to-be chose "I Promise" from 400 songs.
There is no particular audience. I do what is in me. I suppose my audience is people who appreciate good songs and the work that goes into them.
I doing this a time when people with more talent have given up. I am still moving in the direction of giving the world great music. I put mp3s on my website. People around the world hear them. Johnny T put his vocal on "Save The Planet," my environmental song. I am not afraid to expose my material, and that has helped me get cuts.
1963-1972 - The Early Years
I have written 3000 songs counting the lyrics. It started as I was turning 18. I began hearing songs that did not exist, and that made me a songwriter. There was an old, beat-up guitar at my grandmother's house. Chords were easy to make, and I quickly learned to fit them into patterns. I could transpose from one key to another. The problem was, I had no rhythm. That came later! The neck on that old guitar was awful, and its strings dug into my fingertips. The pain in my fingers woke me in the night. Calluses formed! My first songs were about my girl friend and I drifting apart. That is true for most writers. Self-pity is a factor! Most songwriters are introverts, and bipolarism and the creative process are related. Creating original music can isolate a person. He finds himself cut off from society, misunderstood and misunderstanding. That is how it was! My mother bought me an electric guitar, a Gibson. I was no guitarist! I banged out chords and screamed, sweat pouring from me on hot summer days. My first songs were imitations of what I heard on radio. Coherent efforts were "Welcome Mat" and "Long Live Rock and Roll." The culmination of that first period was the gospel songs I wrote after coming out of the army. My religious phase was tumultuous! As America rejected the Vietnam War, I began reading books of a spiritual nature. I delved into the writings of Aldous Huxley and hung out with "Jesus freaks." We went to a Pentecostal church, where the congregation danced in the aisles. We spoke in tongues! I threw away all my possessions except for my clothes, Bible & guitar. I went off the deep end and was admitted to the mental ward of the Veterans Hospital. My gospel songs grew from the turmoil, "Jesus Paid My Debt" being the best. I recorded it with Kymberly Bryson 36 years after I wrote it. No problem because it sounded a hundred years old when it was new! Old time religion!
1973-1985 - Comeback
I rose from the ashes! I began going to the Dipperwell, the restaurant where my mother worked. The Dipperwell was run by my mother's cousin, Thelma Lee, and she introduced me to a drummer in a local band. He helped me record "Long Live Rock and Roll" in a Louisville studio. I did the vocal. We took it to Nashville and pressed 1000 45s. I mailed them to radio stations, publishers & record companies around the country. Doing a record was like a resurrection! Good songs followed, the strongest of which was "Phoenix," based on the bird of Greek mythology. I was that bird, and I soon found myself in Nashville recording in a makeshift studio in my friend's back yard. I had a 4-channel Teac, and he had a Dokorder. We put the decks together, and our collaboration led to an album with students at Castle Heights Military Academy, where I worked. We called it "Rising from the Ashes," and my renditions of "Belle Meade Blues" and "Leaving" were on it. These were comeback songs! Tim Morrison sang "Somebody's Taken Your Place" and Lori Powell did "Losing Makes You Stronger." Of course, it was a disaster! Recording with Amy Plummer that summer, "Sailing Out" came out nice. Those first female songs were really male. I simply changed the pronouns. As things played out, I pressed the final cuts for Jim Colyer Records. My son's mother did "Somebody To Love," and I backed it with "I Am The Greatest" Silence! I realized the futility of making my own records. Years passed before I recorded again.
1989-1996 - The Rewrite
After becoming a parent, I questioned music and my involvement in it. I had a son to take care of and had squandered my resources. My songs were second generation imitations of what I heard on radio. Few held up, and even those were mediocre. They reflected my life at a particular level. Entering middle age with a kid gave me a different perspective, and I retreated to my parents' basement following a divorce. Nothing sounded good, and I spent my time writing a book about Sweden's ABBA. The rewrite began unconsciously. I wrote the lyrics for "Agnetha" and "Stockholm Lady" over old melodies. "When I Was A Boy" evolved lyrics related to my own boyhood. I wrote a jukebox musical called "Phoenix Rising," 30 songs bound together by a story with characters and dialog. It dealt with an American soldier named Frank Logan who had a daughter in Sweden he had never seen. Frank was about to father a second child with a young British singer. The plot reflected my infatuation with young women. I discarded "Phoenix Rising," knowing it was unstageable. The rewrite continued as fragments sprouted verses and bridges.
1997-2002 - Explosion
I thought "Save The Planet" could be an international hit and advertised for a vocalist in a Louisville music magazine. It triggered a chain of events I could not have foreseen. A girl in a video store told me her cousin wanted to be a country singer. I gave her my number, and Ron Coogle called me searching for songs for his daughter. I went to their house with one called "You Keep Me Satisfied." We took it to Doc Dockery's studio in Indiana and did a demo. Rachel performed the song on a TV show for songwriters. Doc introduced me to Pam Ingold. Pam and I recorded 8 songs together, including "Only In A Way" & "Bad Information." Suddenly, I was back in Nashville writing songs on Music Row. I bought Doc's Takamine as songs poured out of me. Many were female. I wrote "Always The First Time" for Donna Carter and "I Saw A Woman" for the Gentry Cousins. My best work was coming in my 50s during the Shania era. These girl songs were different from earlier ones. There was female psychology in them. I was writing like I was a woman! By now, women sang the way men used to. They were strong and independent, and they liked my tough lyrics and rockin' beat. I recorded with Kenny Royster at Direct Image in Nashville. I did "I Promise," sub-titling it "Wedding Song," and I began to think it wise to identify myself with entrenched institutions. "Feel So Country" is filled with patriotism and flag-waving! I wrote the lyrics for "Merry Christmas" over that track and promoted it in December. Good Christmas songs are hard to write because all the good ones preceded the rock era. I played my songs for ascap writer reps and published them on the Internet. I started jimcolyer.com.
I have recorded 40 women going back to the 1970s. Originally, I was singing everything myself. Then, I started working with real singers, male and female. I did not care for the females of the Elvis and Beatles era. It was in the 70s after women became more assertive that I began paying attention. ABBA did it! I may have listened to Agnetha and Frida as much as any person alive. When Shania Twain appeared in the 1990s, my writing had reached a point where I wrote female without thinking about it. That would have bothered me had I been younger. By now, I thought it cool to write from the female point of view. I enjoyed talking to women about music and going into the studio with them. I do not recall the girl's name who recorded "How Did You Do That?," but the song has been praised by other writers.
Writing needs to flow naturally. It cannot be based on artificial hooks or ideas someone carries in a notebook. The best method is to write when you feel like it. Do not write for publishers, and do not write something you think people are going to buy. Write from yourself! Those songs will last!
Having written over 3000 songs in 7 decades, it behooves me to critique my catalog. I am in my 70s. From this point, I am content to reject self-pity songs for those that communicate positive emotions. I want to be identified with songs that inspire people, especially young people. My Christmas song does that. So do my Shania-type lyrics that encourage young girls. There was a time when all I wanted to do was get songs out. Now, I am sensitive to the effect lyrics have on listeners. We are affected by the books we read, the movies we watch & the music we listen to.
2020-2030 - Making It
The time came to quit losing money because of music. My catalog must generate income. Music is a luxury, not a necessity. It is egocentric, the songwriter's favorite word being "I." John Lennon could stretch the word "I" over several seconds. From my own list of 200 titles, 70 began with the word "I." Musicians care about themselves and their families. They want money, and after they get it, they are gone. Each generation produces its own music and rarely relates to that of previous generations. Music is like language, tied to the sexual mores of the people making it. Everybody writes, and they plug their own material. It is money and ego! Radio hits are recorded using state-of-the-art technology, and production cannot be overstated. Listeners respond first and foremost to sound. Songs are intellectual things. A bad song with a good production can be a hit. A good song with a bad production cannot. The ideal situation is to have both a good song and a good production. I publish on the web! If people like my tunes, they can use their own resources to record them. I am conscientious about what I pitch.
A group called One Night Stand put "I Looked Twice!" on their CD. There was a release party at the Nashville Palace, March 28, 2009, and my son went with me.
LaDonna Kay in Kentucky did "Feel So Country" and put it on youtube. Katrina Lynn in Pennsylvania performed "Feel So Country" live for youtube.
Kim Parent in Nashville was the first to record "God Given Talent."
I did a CD with Kymberly Bryson. It got airplay across Europe. Kymberly's voice suits my songs.
Josh Oldaker in West Virginia put "Jesus Paid My Debt" on his CD. He pressed 4000 copies and paid me 9.1 cents per copy as required by federal law.
Victoria Eman in The Netherlands put "Live My Dreams," "All Roads Lead To You," "I Promise," "Love Me Just A Little" & The Truth" on her albums. She recorded her own tracks for "Live My Dreams."
I met Annie Bushmeyer in a karaoke bar. I showed her "Born To Sing." We went to the ascap studio and did some work tapes. Then came the crossroads. It was either quit or take her to Direct Image. We laid tracks on September 30, 2014. It was a wild ride! Kenny had raised his rates, and the approaching winter was to be a hard one. The redeeming factor was that Kenny's musicians had shed all pretense of country. They offered a mix of rock & blues with Annie's vocals topping it off! By February, 2015, we had completed 6 songs: "Live My Dreams," "Born To Sing," "All Roads Lead To You," "I Looked Twice!," "Hard Earned Love," & "Love Me Just A Little." I sent them to Internet radio, and Johnny T pressed CDs.
Heather Michele covered "Born To Sing."
Paul Churchfield did the vocals for "Honky Tonk Hollywood," "Blues Baby" & "Fever Pitch."
It began when Donna Ray recorded "Old Time Country Song." Years later, I ran into her in a karaoke bar in Nashville. She signed me on as one of her writers. Donna is with the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. She and Necay Howard hooked me up with several singers at Echota.
1 Deby Kelley is in California. She is the assistant CEO at Echota Records. We agreed to record. Deby did "Live My Dreams," "I Promise," "Heartbreaker," "God Given Talent." "All Roads Lead To You" & "Jesus Paid My Debt." I feature her on my home page with links to ReverbNation.
2 Ashley Rachell did "I Looked Twice!" and "Live My Dreams."
3 Angel McDonald recorded "Hard Earned Love." She is on Droodle
4 Bruce Smith put his vocal on "Name, Number & Message."
5 Tammy Jo Dabbs of Echota Records put her vocals on l3 tracks: "All Roads Lead To You," "God Given Talent," "Feel So Country," "A Man Is A Man," "Love Me Just A Little," "Undeniable" "Guilty," "Up & Running!" "Spread My Wings & Fly," "Born To Sing," "Put Me On The Spot!, "Hard Earned Love" & "The Truth. She is in North Carolina.
6 I recorded with the students at Castle Heights. Lori Powell did "Losing Makes You Stronger." Tim Morrison did "Phoenix," "Somebody's Taken Your Place" & "Too Late For Love."
7 Amy Plummer after Castle Heights did "So Much Better," "Sailing Out" & "My Final Stand."
8 Karen Colyer did "Somebody To Love," "Anytime," "One By One," "I'm Going Down," "Things Fall Apart" & Jesus Paid My Debt."
9 The Gentry Cousins from Indiana did "I Saw A Woman," "Songs About Angels" & "Common Man."
2016-2020, I put tracks on youtube, using family pictures and pictures of famous women. I link them to facebook and twitter. I need a publisher.