With a career spanning nearly three decades, Phil Vassar has not only written hit songs for some of country music's biggest stars, but he also has a successful solo career. In this video, Didiayer Snyder sits down with him to learn about his creative process.
Check out more of Phil's music here:
Didiayer - My husband is a singer-songwriter, and I oftentimes see him in what I call the ditch. The trench of songwriting. And you're in it. How do you get out of it, and then look back and go, yes, it's a finished piece?
Phil - You know, when I came to town, I didn't even really write. I'd written a couple of songs, and I think, yeah, I can do this. And then I came to town, and I saw all these guys at songwriter nights, or whatever it might have been at the time, but good grief, they blew me away. I was like, I don't think I could ever do that. I don't think I'll ever be that good. So, I really sort of immersed myself in the songwriting, and I always equated it to building a cabinet. It's like a craft. The first cabinet, your shelves are all crooked, but by the time you get into the fifth year of doing enough cabinets, you really get it right. And I think song writing's the same. I just worked and worked and worked, and wrote a lot of really bad songs, and all of a sudden, one day, I went, wait a minute, this is pretty good. And I think it was just about writing what I knew. I started writing songs with a lot of words, and very conversational songs, and that's what I was good at.
Didiayer - You wrote a song after one of your friends had passed away, Robert. The Last Day of My Life. Tell me about how that song has impacted your life.
Phil - Robert was one of my mentors, and a great, great songwriter. I think one of the best that ever came through this town. He just was tortured, a tortured guy. And a lot of writers are. They're prone to melancholy. A lot of artistic folks are. He made a lot of demons, but he fought them and battled them hard, but he would always ... Writing with him was a real privilege because it was just ... He had a way of making you work harder. Because it's easy to write a song, but it's really hard to write a great song. And I think he was one of those guys that inspired me to make sure I didn't just settle for a line or something. He would always call it, yeah, that song rhymes. That's another way of saying it sucked. You can make anything rhyme, but it's just a ... Finding a real emotion, and dragging something out of your heart and soul. And I think that song for me, was Robert. I kinda had this idea, it was really a happy, last day of my life, and then it was like, it hit me. That's not what it needs to be. It needs to be a real song about how fragile life is, and in the blink of an eye, it's over. And how special it is.
Didiayer Voiceover - So there you have it, folks. You've got to be able to talk about it before you can write about it. So it should come as no surprise that Phil's writing has even landed him as ASCAP's songwriter of the year. So you know I had to ask....