Craig Wiseman shares insights from his songwriting career and sings some of his biggest hits—including 2004 Tim McGraw chart-topper “Live Like You Were Dying” and award-winning Brooks & Dunn single “Believe”—during a Poets and Prophets program at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Held December 15, 2007, the program begins with Mississippi native Wiseman performing a medley of his songs: “Summertime,” a Kenny Chesney #1; “Something’s Gotta Give,” a hit for LeAnn Rimes; and “Love Me If You Can,” a hit for Toby Keith. He explains how he approached the writing of the latter song, and how it made its way to Keith’s office.
A defining moment of Wiseman’s youth came at age eleven with the death of his father, a pilot who went missing. Wiseman started writing down his thoughts shortly afterward, trying to cope with the loss. He learned to play drums in high school and took private percussion lessons in college, taking up guitar, he says, because his brother brought one home. In time, playing cover songs at church camp helped Wiseman learn the chords used in many popular songs.
“I realized I could play a million songs if I knew these three or four chords,” he says. “Within a couple of days, I also realized I could write a million songs with these same chords.”
After starting to write songs for his road band, Wiseman was offered a contract. He rode to Nashville with his mother, who was pursuing a doctorate at Vanderbilt University, to seek advice from an industry lawyer. When the lawyer told him he could make a living by writing songs, Wiseman returned to Mississippi and gave his notice to his band.
Wiseman moved to Nashville in 1985 and worked primarily as a drummer for several years. Roy Orbison delivered Wiseman’s first major cut: “The Only One,” on the 1989 album “Mystery Girl.” But it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Wiseman’s career took off, when he started getting cuts by Diamond Rio, Tracy Lawrence, Tim McGraw, and Lee Roy Parnell. Wiseman talks about the connection that comes with artists who regularly record his songs, particularly Chesney and McGraw.
After listening a portion of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” Wiseman explains how the song came to be, and how it inspired a book and a movie script. He also speaks about the inspiration behind the Brooks & Dunn hit “Believe,” which he wrote with Ronnie Dunn.
Shifting to a different side of his career, Wiseman speaks about co-starring in “Hit Men of Music Row,” a reality series on GAC: Great American Country network. He also discusses his motivation for starting and managing his own independent publishing company, Big Loud Shirt. The program winds down with questions from the audience, including one about writer’s block, along with performances from Wiseman and a reading of a poignant Christmas poem he wrote.
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