10 Questions With Mel Tillis
Mel Tillis is a true Renaissance man - a songwriter, recording artist, film and television actor, painter and humanitarian. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, his career has spanned more than six decades.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | Staff
Mel Tillis is a true Renaissance man - a songwriter, recording artist, film and television actor, painter and humanitarian. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, his career has spanned more than six decades. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, was named BMI’s songwriter of the decade twice, and CMA’s Entertainer of the Year. He has written over 1,000 songs, which at last count had been recorded by 600 major artists. As a recording artist, he has released more than 60 albums, garnering nine number one singles and 36 top-ten hits. Mel has appeared in numerous feature films including the classics “Every Which Way But Loose” with Clint Eastwood, “Cannonball Run I and II,” and “Smokey and the Bandit II” with Burt Reynolds.
In February 2012, Mel was presented the National Medal of Art by President Barack Obama at the White House. When he received the award he grinned, “I've had a blessed career, and that has been acknowledged in many ways over the years. I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call, because I didn't know there were any more awards left to win. I'm very thankful and what an honor!"
Mel took time out of his busy touring schedule to talk with the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame about his songwriting.
1. What does it mean to you to be a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame?
Mel Tillis(MT): I feel extremely honored to be in such good company.
2. How did you get started writing songs?
MT: In 1956, Wesley Rose told me on my first trip to Nashville that I needed to try and write songs if I expected to make it in Nashville. He told me I sang well, but the stuttering may hold you back. So I gave it a try!
3. How did you get your first song recorded?
MT: I was just out of the Air Force and was working as a fireman for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. I went to see Ray Price at a venue in Tampa and through a friend of Ray’s, I got to meet the singer. I sang, “I’m Tired” to him, and he liked it well enough to take it back to Nashville.
4. Where does the inspiration come for your songs?
MT: Wherever my mind takes me.
5. How do you tell a good song from a great one?
MT: There’s no formula for good vs. great. Depends on the listener. For me, it’s whether I like it or not.
6. What’s one lesson you’ve learned about songwriting that you can pass on to future songwriters?
MT: How enjoyable it is to create a little jewel and be honored by the fans, the media and your peers.
7. Are there any songs that you wish you had written?
MT: Yes, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” What a great song. Congratulations to the writers, Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley.
8. Where were you when you heard your first song on the radio?
MT: While still living in Florida and working as a fireman on the railroad, I would listen to Eddy Hill on WSM most every night while waiting to go to sleep. He played my first song recorded by Webb Pierce, “I’m Tired.” (#2 on Billboard)
9. Given everything it has taken to be a successful songwriter, would you do it all over again?
MT: In a heartbeat.
10. What advice do you have for up and coming songwriters?
MT: Burl Ive’s once told me, “If you want to be a songwriter or novelist, take time to sit down and write one hour a day. At the end of the year from the day you started, you would have 360 days of experience. How true.
For more on Mel Tillis, visit his website: www.meltillis.com