Skip Ewing’s “Road Dog” — “… was inspired by Shotgun, the other dogs we’ve loved, and the actual dog hair and smudges on the windows of the truck.”
What inspired you to become a singer songwriter?
I was told I asked for a guitar when I was about 4 years old. I don’t remember that, but I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t play guitar. I got to have a few lessons, but mostly I just tried to figure things out. It was a natural part of the journey for me to sing, and equally natural for me to begin writing my own songs as a way of expressing myself and connecting with the people who heard me perform.
That continues to this day. I work to offer something meaningful — even when it’s uptempo and fun — to those who choose to listen. I treasure the fact that my music reaches people, sometimes millions of people all over the world. I want to offer those listeners something of quality, musically, and poetically every time. If my performance, lyrics, melodies or recordings resonate with someone, if it reflects their life or the lives of others they know and it matters to them, that’s incredible. It can be an entire journey, in 3 or 4 minutes. Someone genuinely listens, and we’re there together. I suppose that’s at least part of what I mean by meaningfully connecting. I believe all poetry has music and all music has poetry. I would call myself a poet in my approach to lyrics, certainly not formulaic.
I am always grateful when I know people have trusted what I have to say enough to really listen to the lyrics and music I write. Listening is a skill that we’re slowly (perhaps rapidly) losing. I do write for people who listen. I believe they still listen when they trust the source.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I’ve played, sung, and written songs for successful artists in many genres, including myself: jazz, blues, country, pop, classical, bluegrass. I’ve truly been influenced by a huge number of artists and writers. If I must pare down to just a couple, I’d have to say James Taylor and Merle Haggard were perhaps the two most influential in my choices. I never set out to be a country artist or songwriter, I simply followed my heart, the music, and the opportunities afforded me.
Native of Redlands, CA. Lived in South Carolina and Colorado before moving to Music City in 1984. Traveled to Wyoming every year since the early 2000’s. Developing a passion for horses and finding a gift for working with them, “I devoted myself to horsemanship. I learn so much from them about who I am and how I could better myself. … It was another part of my spiritual journey. Meditation was a big part of it, and horses became a big part of it.” What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?
Politics — in *many* ways. Have I overcome them? Definitely not. Will I overcome them? All I know is I’m here working my tail off to reach my listeners. They will be the reason I and we overcome them. Skip Ewing & Horsepower 307 are making a name for themselves. The new music is opening doorways to new opportunities. I believe in what it’s about, and I believe in the people who come to listen.
Grammy, Tony, CMA and ACM Award nominee. 11 №1 songwriting credits, including Randy Travis’ “If I Didn’t Have You,” Kenny Chesney’s “You Had Me From Hello,” and Clint Black’s “Something We Do.” What is your creative process like when you write new music?
When I think of anything I do as an artist, I think about who is listening. I write, sing, and play music for them, not for me. Although I love the feeling and opportunity to express my own heart and spirit, I am always cognizant of the hearts and spirits watching and listening. Where we are similar as humans, what reaches my heart, moves or inspires me personally, as well as (and perhaps most importantly), what I believe will move others. Those elements are at the root of my creative process. Songwriting itself is akin to painting for me. That’s a topic for another discussion, but it starts with a similarly blank canvas and, at least for me, beckons the same depth of poeticism and artistry.
“Road Dog,” written from the perspective of our furry friends. What inspired the song?
Linda and I named our dog “Shotgun” for the seat he likes to occupy. He weighs about 90 pounds and even at 4 years old he still thinks he’s a puppy. He’s definitely a handful! Our four-leggers are all part of the family, and we take Shotgun with us in the truck whenever we’re able. In fact, dogs, cats, and horses are so much a part of our lives that there’s not a pocket we have that doesn’t have hay in it. At our house, as much as we try to keep it clean, dog hair ends up being both a condiment and a fashion statement. Lol
That’s the way it is for most of the folks we know out here in Wyoming, and many of our friends all over the U.S. Heck, all over the world for that matter. “Road Dog” came from a fun bluegrass guitar riff idea I’d had for a bit, and the lyric was inspired by Shotgun, the other dogs we’ve loved, and the actual dog hair and smudges on the windows of the truck.
Forthcoming album, Road To California. What can fans look forward to hearing on the new release?
It feels like Road To California is a natural step in artistry without leaving the Wyoming album or the country genre behind — lyrical depth, musical integrity, eloquence, humor, revelation, dynamism, poeticism, and surprise.
“In my writing, I endeavor to reach across the imaginary lines between us to find common ground. Where are we the same? Where do the lines of our understanding about life and love intersect and overlap?” What are your goals as a country music singer songwriter?
To reach the heart of my listeners. That’s really the goal. They are who I hope to reach, to connect where we’re all similar, where our human experiences overlap. My gratitude is beyond measure that I get to do what I do.
What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?
I don’t know if I’m qualified to offer advice to aspiring songwriters in today’s tapestry as it relates to getting “discovered” or “recorded.” For the most part now, I write songs for Skip Ewing the artist to sing. When it comes to actual lyrics and composition, I prefer asking questions to advice or critiques. Let’s take the latest song you’ve written for example. I would ask, “Have you said what you wanted to say just the way you wanted to say it both lyrically and musically? If the answer is no, you’ve still got work to do. If the answer is yes, then it’s right. You’ve done your job. Anything past that is opinion, and there will always be someone who doesn’t like your song.
I’m also a huge proponent of the question, “Why?” For any feedback you get from something, negative or positive. Ask, “Why?” Why do you feel it doesn’t work for your artist? or Why do you feel it isn’t right for radio? If they offer you an answer, respect it and thank them for it! No matter how positive or negative it is. Then dig in, be vulnerable enough to see where you can grow, and use that information in whatever way strengthens your writing. That’s not to say that all the answers are valid or applicable. Positive and negative can both be imposters. But that’s part of our journey, to strive to understand what works and what doesn’t and constantly endeavor to become more skillful.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of music?
A bunch! Tai Chi and meditation are both important daily elements in my life, as is time outdoors and with our animals. I left Nashville to study horsemanship, and that was my life for a good while. Horses are still a huge love. Cooking is also a passion. Quite frankly, my passion for music, horses, and cooking all stem from the same aspiration. I’ve distilled the way I try to live down to one sentence. “To the best of your understanding, do the most loving thing.” At the risk of sounding a bit spiritual, music, horses, and cooking are ultimately all about love. Our experiences with them literally become part of who we are.