Nashville songwriting star JT Harding reveals his rocky climb to chart-topping success
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Ask hit songwriter JT Harding—born in Detroit and now a resident of Nashville—to share his insight on why country music is so important to Americans, and you’ll practically get a poem.
Harding is a successful songwriting star from humble beginnings. He shared key life lessons in a new interview just as his new book went on sale.
“Whether it’s a good day or a bad day at work, a heartbreak or a romantic first kiss, when a country song plays on the radio, people say, ‘This song is about me “because the lyrics are so easy to understand,” Harding told Fox News Digital in an interview ahead of the release of his book, “Party Like a Rockstar.”
“Nashville is the living, breathing American dream at work.”
Harding has written hits for Keith Urban (“Somewhere in My Car”), Kenny Chesney (“Bar at the End of the World”), Blake Shelton (“Sangria”), Uncle Kracker (“Smile”) and many others. others.
Fox News Channel’s Dana Perino told Fox News Digital that “JT Harding [new] book made me laugh, cry, then laugh again. It’s the perfect memoir for readers of all ages. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Party like a rockstar, indeed!”
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Read on for some eye-opening details about JT Harding.
Digital Fox News: Your love for country music leaps from virtually every page of your book. Why is country music so important in America, in your opinion?
J.T. Harding: The motto of country music has always been “Three chords and the truth” – three simple guitar chords and the lyrics behind them are the truth. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day at work, a heartbreak or a romantic first kiss, when a country song plays on the radio, people say, “That song talk about me” because the lyrics are so easy to tell.
Harding (continued): It’s not just country music. Certainly, the songs of Bruce Springsteen and Prince make me feel that way. But country music has always been based on story lyrics that are three-minute movies!
I grew up in Detroit. Camping for me is a hotel and a hair dryer. I was not near a farm. I did not ride on tractors. But when I heard the song “Marina del Rey” by George Strait, I had to park my car on the side of the road and sit there listening because it was so relatable. I fell in love with country music at that time.
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Nashville is nicknamed “the city of music” and the reason it’s such a big city is because it’s full of dreamers, people who want to write songs, who want to be discovered.
It is also a community. Everyone supports each other. It’s a small town that’s a big city.
Harding (continued): People come here to make things happen — and do things. Nashville is the living, breathing American dream at work.
Digital Fox News: What are some of the life lessons you have learned during your career?
Harding: My heart was broken more than McDonald’s ice cream machine because of the music business. But what I’ve learned is to take a deep breath, pull yourself together, and persevere.
Keep working, keep being nice to people, and don’t be bitter.
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As far as songwriting, I thought when I got to Nashville, if I could just write a song with someone who was already a hit, then that would make me a hit too. That’s not how it happens. You cannot go to the front of the line. Find your own tribe and rise together.
Digital Fox News: If you had to do it over again, would you do something different in your career?
Harding: If I had to do it again, I would tell myself to relax and trust myself more. There is magic in the climb. All the twists and turns and roadblocks I had to navigate are the most fun to tackle now, in hindsight.
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Digital Fox News: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about some of your music heroes and icons along the way?
Harding: The most surprising thing I’ve learned about my heroes is how calm, confident, and talented they are. I’ve never been in a room with someone famous who wasn’t incredibly focused on what they wanted to accomplish – and that’s inspiring. One does not become a superstar by chance, I am convinced of that.
“I want to be as nice to people as possible because God has been incredibly nice to me.”
Digital Fox News: When it comes to your upbringing in Detroit, you say you felt like you were “taken by the hand of God and given to the best parents ever.” Tell us more about it.
Harding: Growing up, I mainly went to church at Christmas and Easter. My dad even teased me once when I said, “Are we going to Christmas church?” I didn’t know any better.
I believe the universe was created by something big, something loving, something forgiving. I think people are allowed to call it whatever they want in their own heart.
Harding (continued): When I hit a snag, or a disappointment, I remember that the day I was born and adopted, I landed in the hands of the greatest parents anyone has ever known.
I truly believe that God made it happen. So I lean on it, and it gives me strength. It reminds me to have faith and be as kind to people as possible because God has been incredibly kind to me.
Digital Fox News: Your parents inspired your work ethic, you say. Can you share more?
Harding: My parents and all the other parents I knew in Michigan worked very hard. I could hear my dad in the basement rehearsing a sales pitch for a meeting he was having.
My mom was a tax man – for the first four months of every year she had her head down doing all the paperwork for her clients like she was on a mission.
Harding (continued): On weekends, we cleaned the house and mowed the lawn. I’m allergic to all that kind of work, but it taught me that things don’t just happen. You must realize them.
So when I started bands, we rehearsed like an army when I started writing songs.
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If I knew my name would be on it, I wanted to make sure it was something I would be proud of every time. My dad told me you could do anything you wanted to do in this life, just do it your best.
Digital Fox News: You also say you “just had to go”. Why?
Harding: I didn’t know anyone in the business or how to write songs that made the hair on someone’s neck stand on end.
Harding (continued): I didn’t have any sort of card other than the Van Halen interviews. My book is the book I wish someone had written when I dreamed of being in the music business.
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My Story is a wild and funny roller coaster ride full of colorful characters. I’m so excited to share this with everyone and anyone who has a dream and is figuring out how to pursue it.