I met Sheryl on her 26th birthday and instantly knew that she was a star. She was the first artist that I signed and developed in 1989 for Warner Chappell Music. The great thing about my time with Sheryl is that we had all the time in the world to experiment and discover just who she was as an artist. Through friendship, our trust allowed Sheryl to explore her own unique path, which paid off: Her debut album, The Tuesday Night Music Club, earned her eight Grammys. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our relationship started years before I ever signed her to a publishing deal. With Katy, my favorite thing was to have her over to the office, order lunch in, crawl up on my couch, and brainstorm about what she wanted to do. I was a good sounding board for her. I gave Katy the time and space to figure out who she really was and, more importantly, what she really wanted to do. The sky was the limit and she had the power to make it happen—nobody else. Recording artist, businesswoman, philanthropist, and actress.
In 2001, at the height of 'N Sync and Britney Spears, a young Michelle Branch sat in my office and played songs while accompanying herself on guitar. She wanted to follow the path of Sheryl Crow, marching to the beat of her own drum. She was in the right place. Holding true to her motto, Michelle followed my lead into country music with a very successful debut album through her side project The Wreckers, where she produced a number one hit, “Leave The Pieces”.
I signed Julian after only hearing the “beats” he was making—he wasn't even writing songs! However, he was from a pedigree family in the music business and I knew the level of education, inspiration and coaching he had received growing up. Unsurprisingly, he was a great student and soaked up what I had to teach him. Today, he's a very well-respected and renowned producer/writer for such acts as One Direction (two albums), Fifth Harmony (Executive Producer), Leona Lewis and Hilary Duff.
I signed Joy just as she was looking to make a transition from being a Christian recording artist. We spent two years exploring who she was and what she wanted. In the end, she produced two amazing projects. Her solo career, based on songs that reflect the emotional struggle of creating a life and career while balancing a relationship, resulted in hundreds of TV, film and commercial placements, along with her Grammy Award-winning duo The Civil Wars.
She had me hooked when I heard her yodel. I happened to be in San Diego and saw one of Jewel's first “coffee shop/living in her van” performances and immediately signed her to Warner Chappell Music with Atlantic Records simultaneously. In between albums, Jewel attended one of my first summer camps that I produced in Nashville. She wrote with great writers including Jude Cole, Darrell Simmons, Marv Green, and Jeff Stevens. After that camp, her 2001 album This Way released and sold over 1.5 million copies. Her single “Serve the Ego" was written that summer with Cesare Lemos and Itaal Shuur. Camp gave Jewel her first #1 club hit.
I signed David to his first publishing deal in 2005 at Warner Chappell in between the births of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. He grew up in this business knowing how to integrate social media as if it had been around for ages. He has used it to his advantage and has become one of YouTube's most subscribed content creators. He continues to make records and tours the world while still writing for TV and commercials.
FOR KING & COUNTRY
I signed Joel and Luke Smallbone in 2008 to the joint venture I had with award-winning producer/writer Shaun Shankel. As the siblings of Rebecca St. James, these brothers walked in with incredible education and experience, but their drive to succeed was undeniable. We spent four years developing these two men into a duo, now known as For King and Country. Their song "Light It Up" is used in the newest 7 Up commercial.
What fun I had discovering a young unknown and building a career for her. Raelynn was 16 when we met. Within six months, I had her auditioning and competing for The Voice second season, thus beginning her journey. While doing the show, I had her traveling to Nashville and her Texas hometown to hone her songwriting craft and rehearse a band. I endlessly guided her on what she was about to embark on and how to handle it all. She will be releasing her debut album summer 2014 on Big Machine Records/Universal.
Allee and I spent three years together. One of my last requests of her was to write a lyric to a new TV show theme song, at a time when music on television wasn't a priority. She pronounced that she was done writing “linear songs’ while working on a computer and didn't want to waste time writing for TV! I finally convinced her to write what would eventually be “I’ll Be There For You" for the legendary series Friends.
I invited John to my legendary Summer Writing Camp in Lake Arrowhead in between his never-realized solo career and Big and Rich. The intention for my camps is to create a community and teach communication. I purposely invite all different types, styles and genres to promote unique talent and show them how to integrate it within each other. I teamed John up with writers like Nikki Sixx, Julian Bunetta, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Kevin Kadish. I gave him a visual for a world that could hold space for all styles of music, aiding him to create Big and Rich.
Franne and I bonded on a flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles after meeting on a BMI panel at Prince’s studios. She wrote for me for 18 years, garnering numerous awards for her singles with The Pussycat Dolls ("Stickwitu"), Randy Travis’s "A Man Ain't Made of Stone", The Kinleys' "Somebody's Out There Watching" from the Touched by an Angel soundtrack and Selena’s "Dreaming of You", to name just a few. Of all my writers, Franne also loved the role of publisher and could sell her songs better than anyone else.
I had been a fan of Wayne’s long before I finally met him and before he had his Song of the Year Grammy Award for “Change The World.” When I found out his publishing was available, I flew to Nashville and, after a three-hour dinner, would not let him leave until he signed with me. We worked together for 11 years and during that time he wrote and produced hits for Little Big Town, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Amy Grant, Martina McBride, Wynonna Judd, Trisha Yearwood and Bonnie Raitt.
John Shanks is one of the most influential producers, songwriters, and accomplished guitar players in the business. I signed John when he was writing and producing Michelle Branch’s debut album, whom I had also signed. This partnership helped them each land their first number one hit. One of the first collaborations I set him up with was Keith Urban. The first song they wrote, “Somebody Like You,” became #1 for eight weeks on the Billboard charts and was named Billboard's “biggest country hit of the decade.” Six-time Grammy nominee, 2005 Grammy Producer of the Year, over 60 millions records sold, 45 #1 singles, 102 top five singles, 91 #1 albums and 198 top five albums.