Get to Know: The Changing Business & Craft of Nashville Songwriting Presented by Song Assembly


Last week, we introduced Steve Leslie, one of our speakers for Music Expo Nashville. Steve will be leading a session on his own called The Craft of Writing a Country Song, which you can read about here. He’ll also be leading this panel to discuss hot button issues; writing with the artist, publishers as A&R, track guys and union demos, how technology affects the craft and Country radio singles and the album cut. The panel will consist of professional songwriters from the glory days of the 1990’s and the new young guns. So let us introduce…


Bonnie Baker

Bonnie Baker started piano lessons at age five and her love of music was born. She studied creative writing and literature, earning a Bachelors degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She moved to Nashville in 1992 and signed a publishing deal in 1997 with a small independent publishing company, McSpadden Smith Music Publishing. Her first cut was Ordinary Life recorded by Chad Brock for Warner Bros., Nashville in 1999. Bonnie has been a staff-songwriter for Hamstein Music, Universal Music Publishing, and Warner Chappell Music. In June 2008, Baker launched Devan Publishing. Her passion is living a creative life, and after 23 years of writing she feels like she is just now getting started. Her hobbies include music and reading great books. Not much has changed since age five.

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Mark Nesler

Another in the long line of great Texas writer/artists, Mark Nesler writes honest, heartfelt country songs in the spirit of all the country music greats, with a definite focus on today’s contemporary sound.

Artists that have benefited from his songwriting talent are George Strait and Tim McGraw in particular. McGraw had a six week #1 single with “Just to See You Smile” and two #1 singles with George Strait: “Go On” and “Living And Living Well.” Nesler also co-wrote Darryl Worley’s #1 hit, “I Miss My Friend.”  


Mark Irwin

Mark Irwin co-wrote Alan Jackson’s first number one hit “Here In The Real World”, two time CMA Song of the Year nominee and winner of the Music City News’ Award for Song of the Year 1990. As well as having songs on Alan Jackson’s recent CD “DRIVE” and Garth Brooks’ “THE LOST SESSIONS”, Mark co-wrote the singles, “Bama Breeze” for Jimmy Buffet and That’s How They Do It In Dixie” for Hank Williams Jr.

Recently, Mark co-wrote the Tyler Farr number one single “Redneck Crazy” and the Tim McGraw number one hit song “Highway Don’t Care”, featuring Taylor Swift on guest vocals and Keith Urban on guitar. Mark also co-wrote Tim McGraw’s recent single “Looking For That Girl”, Blake Shelton’s number one hit single, “Neon Light” and Chris Janson’s “Power of Positive Drinking”

Mark also had songs recorded by Randy Travis, Martina McBride, George Jones, Faith Hill, Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett, Bomshel, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jessie James, Tracey Lawrence, Sammy Kershaw, Chely Wright, Patty Loveless, Highway 101, The Whites, Chris LeDoux, Bucky Covington, Glen Campbell, Neal McCoy and The Dirt Drifters, among others. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow also recorded one of Mark’s songs for her movie “Country Strong”

Currently Mark has the song “Bet You Still Think About Me” on Blake Shelton’s CD “If I’m Honest” and “Sleeping in the Stars” on the newly released Tim McGraw/Faith Hill CD ‘The Rest Of Our Life”

Keith Stegall

A Grammy award winning producer and writer of multiple number one hits including "I Hate Everything" by George Strait, "Don't Rock The Jukebox" by Alan Jackson and "I Do (Cherish You)" by 98 Degrees, Keith Stegall is one Nashville's most celebrated men behind the scenes. As Alan Jackson's longtime producer, the pairing has sold over 60 million records. With the Zac Brown Band, Stegall produced the group's first three albums, resulting in the group's first nine singles to reach number one on the country charts. Stegall is currently President of Dreamlined Entertainment Group, a Nashville-based production, publishing and record company specializing is songwriter/artist development.


Stephony Smith

Stephony Smith is a Grammy-nominated songwriter with numerous awards and credits under her belt. She has won several BMI Songwriter of the Year awards and was named Billboard’s Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year. Stephony is credited on the first country song in twenty years to stay at #1 for six weeks. The track? “It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Stephony has over 140 album cuts including: Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney, Alison Porter, Wynonna, Barbra Striesand, The Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, Reba Mcentire, and more. 

You can catch this panel at Music Expo Nashville on September 22nd at SAE Institute Nashville! Early bird tickets are available until August 31st so snag yours now!

Shae BeaudoinComment