Bob DiPiero reveals the spark of inspiration that led him to write “American Made,” “Blue Clear Sky,” and other hits during this interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, held on February 5, 2014, as part of the Poets and Prophets series. He also explains how giving guitar lessons introduced him to country music song structure.
DiPiero grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and moved to Nashville in 1978. He talks here about being in a rock & roll band called Thunderfoot and placing songs early in his career with Reba McEntire (“I Can See Forever in Your Eyes”) and the Oak Ridge Boys (“American Made”). He remembers giving guitar lessons to a retired client who would bring in classic country songs to learn, and as DiPiero began to dissect each song’s structure, he became intrigued by country music songwriting.
“I’ve always been a student of language,” he tells the Museum’s Michael Gray. “Rock & roll used a certain language with certain words, and phonetically they had pushy words and much more aggressive words. And with country, just being in Nashville, I started hearing the language that was being used. It was real direct! . . . But most of all, it was these stories. There were story songs that just blew me away.”
After discussing his childhood in Ohio and his ongoing fascination with guitar, DiPiero talks about playing at the Bluebird Café, his side project Billy Hill, and his friendship with songwriters Johnny MacRae, John Jarrard, and Jeffrey Steele.
DiPiero also speaks about his publishing deal with Combine Music as well as his involvement with the successful independent publishing company that he named Little Big Town Music Group. After explaining how a line in the film “Forrest Gump” inspired him to write “Blue Clear Sky,” he performs that song (a #1 hit for George Strait in 1996), then encores with “Gone.”
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