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He writes the songs: Kent Blazy shares Garth Brooks story before Church Studio performance

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Songwriters tell stories for a living, so go ahead and assume they have stories worth sharing.

On Thursday, Dec. 8, Kent Blazy, crafter of seven No. 1

songs, will come to Tulsa to be the focal point of a Church Studio legacy songwriter concert.

To get the ball rolling, here’s a Blazy story that co-stars Garth Brooks:

“Back in the late ‘80s, the music business was kind of slowing down, so I started a demo studio,” he said.

“When you have a demo studio, you do demos for yourself and for other songwriters that want to make the song sound more like a record than just an acoustic guitar and a vocal. And then, if you have a demo studio and you sing like me, you really need good singers. I started getting a stable of singers like Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie and Randy Travis. All those people sang demos for me and for other songwriters.

“I met Garth because he was cleaning churches and selling boots, and he thought he could make more money being a demo singer, so he brought me over a cassette of six of his songs and he played me his songs. I loved his voice, and I said ‘I would be glad to use you on some demos.’

“When he was leaving that day, he said, ‘Well, I write a little bit, too.’ I’m thinking, ‘OK, this kid is cleaning churches and selling boots. I guess I’ll write with him.’

“The first song that we wrote was ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes.’ We pitched that around town for a year. We pitched him around town for a year. Nobody was interested in the song or in him. They said ‘No DJ is going to play somebody named Garth. That sounds like you are gargling on the radio.’

“One night he got called to come play one song at the Bluebird Cafe. Another artist who was supposed to be there canceled. So Garth sang ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes,’ and somebody from Capitol Records who was in the audience to hear another artist said ‘Hey, maybe we missed something. Why don’t you come back in?’

“Garth came back in and he got a record deal. ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ was his second single and his first No. 1. You talk about magic. You meet a guy cleaning churches and selling boots and he becomes Garth Brooks, you know?”

Give Blazy credit for seeing something in Brooks that others didn’t, at least initially.

“I was working with so many amazing singers at the time,” Blazy said. “None of them could get a record deal. And then they all went on to be big stars. It was just amazing to me, the talent level that I was working with that couldn’t get a record deal at that time.”

Blazy was able to keep pre-fame Brooks from feeling defeated by telling him “Look, these other people can’t get a record deal, either.”

“That kind of kept me going, too,” Blazy said. “Things turned around a couple of years later. It’s like a magical story to me. I feel sometimes like I was around a situation kind of like the people who were around the Beatles when they were playing in those little clubs in Germany and nothing was happening. Two years later, they are the biggest thing in the world. That’s kind of what it felt like with Garth. All of a sudden we were on a rocket ride.”

Next stop: Tulsa.

Blazy’s Church Studio appearance will include music and storytelling.

“What I do most of the time is I tell the stories behind any song that I am playing, because they all have stories, and then I sing the song,” he said.

“That way people get a glimpse into what it took to get that song to where it was. People really seem to like it. What I do now with my band, when I do shows with them, is I kind of tell the stories behind the songs and then the whole band comes in like it would be one of my records or whatever. That’s a lot of fun, too. It gives them a totally different perspective on what the song can sound like rather than just an acoustic guitar after you tell the story.

Among other topics that came up during a phone chat with Blazy:

There’s no secret formula for writing a hit song. If there was a secret formula, every song would be a hit.

“Exactly,” Blazy said. “Now supposedly they have artificial intelligence that can do that for you. I think that’s kind of interesting.”

Continuing, Blazy said, “There are songs I have that I think are hits that nobody has ever been interested in, and then there are other songs that aren’t necessarily my favorite that became hit songs for people. There is no rhyme or reason to how it all works. It just showed me that a great song can be passed over for a year or two years.”

Or eight years?

Blazy said “The House That Built Me” was pitched around for eight years and no one showed interest. Then — boom — it became Miranda Lambert’s first chart-topper.

“Peoples’ ideas of what is a hit song, one day you can see them and they have had a fight with their wife and they don’t like anything, and the next time they are in a good mood and they like something you bring them,” Blazy said. “It’s a crapshoot every day.”

Does Blazy sit down for hours at a time to write songs or, instead, does he let songs come to him? He will take a song any way it wants to come, but he is a believer in the “10,000 hours thing.”

“It’s fun writing with co-writers and sharing ideas and seeing what you can come up with,” he said.

“But if I’m writing by myself, what I usually do is I like writing from a title, so I keep books and books and books of ideas. If I’m looking for something to write, I’ll just pull out those books and see what is looking like it wants to be written that day.”

Blazy recorded three records during the pandemic because his options were go crazy or keep writing songs. His game plan then: He would start out with a song title, but he wouldn’t work on the song that same day.

“I would just write (the title) at the top of a page, and then I would kind of walk around and think about it, and then, if any lines came to me, I would write them down,” he said.

“Once the page was full, I would look at it and say ‘Is there a song here? Can I move things around and make it turn into a song?’ I would kind of hear the music that would go with it, so that’s how I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is a lot of fun and it’s not the pressure of ‘Oh, I’ve got to sit down and write a song.’

“You just let it organically evolve into what it wants to be. Some of them want to be born and some of them don’t want to be born yet. You move on to the next one. It’s an interesting process, but it’s a fun process.”

If an idea for a song or a bit of a song comes to you, immediately preserve it or risk losing it forever.

“That’s the good thing about voice memos these days is you can capture more things than you used to be able to,” Blazy said.

“For years and years, I kept little notepads — three by fives — by my bed, in my office, in my car, in the TV room, just anywhere. And if anybody said anything or it hit me, I would write it down. And then when those little books got filled, I would transfer them to a big book, like a big book for every year. So every year I’ve got a book full of ideas that, when I feel I am stuck, I just pull out those books and find something that wants to be written.”

There’s a “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry Seinfeld wrote down a comedy bit that came to him while in bed and, the next day, he couldn’t decipher his own handwriting.

“I have had that happen,” Blazy said. “I have had it happen where I write it down in the middle of the night and can’t read it.”

Giving the brain a break sometimes benefits writers. Blazy said taking a drive or mowing the grass can be a good thing for someone in his profession. “Anything that kind of turns off your inner critic is kind of when things will start coming out.”


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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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