Interviewing “country” songwriters for this series is a constant reminder that music is universal. And musical influences are vast—and unexpected. Case in point: Chase McGill.
Chase is the tunesmith behind chart-topping hits “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” (Justin Moore), “Break Up in the End” (Cole Swindell), “Lose It” (Kane Brown), and “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” (Luke Bryan). Chase also penned my favorite Little Big Town song, “When Someone Stops Loving You,” among many others.
Outsider caught up to Chase to find out the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter—and his songwriting influences are boundary-less.
1. ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ – Hymn
Chase McGill: I grew up going to church at First Baptist Church in Columbus, Mississippi. One day, our preacher was out, so our music minister, Bobby Sanderson, performed this song, then did a full sermon unpacking the meaning of the lyric. And man, there was a lot to unpack. That song, through the years, has made me realize that, with a great melody, you can truly ask a lot of your listener, lyrically. While I’m not putting “Ebenezer” or “fetter” in my songs—though not out of the question, I guess—I do like putting stuff in there that might make someone say, “What the heck is that?” Then, look it up, and like the song even more. And Jesus is cool.
2. ‘Red Dirt Road’ – Brooks & Dunn
Chase McGill: Some of the best times and memories of my youth were at our farm/hunting land. I started driving—legally—just before this song came out. And I learned to drive on Carson Road headed to that farm “out past where the blacktop ends.” Every time I hear this song, it’s summer. I’m in my dad’s 1995 red Stepside Z-71, and there’s a dust cloud behind me. I love how songs can do that. There’s definitely life at both ends of that red dirt road, even though there was just a river at one end of ours.
3. ‘Forgot About Dre’ – Dr. Dre Feat. Eminem
Chase McGill: I know this one comes out of nowhere, but it plays a huge part in the way I write. I love unique phrasing and rhymes, and this is a master class on the subject. Start at verse three and count “up to me” rhymes through the line “’cause I’m from the streets of Compton.” Yep . . . 10 exact rhymes (triple syllable rhymes at that). Now pick back up at “I ain’t havin’ that” and count “havin’ that” rhymes through the line “cuddled in the cabbage patch.” Yep, 10 more exact rhymes that fall in the exact phrasing and almost the same syllable count as when the phrase happened with “up to me” rhymes. Like I said, it’s a master class. And P.S., I know he used “up to me” three times, but he used it in a different meaning each time. Definitely intentional.
4. ‘Pardon Me’ – Incubus
Chase McGill: I played football in high school ’cause I’m 6-foot-5-inches, 220 pounds—probably weighed a little less then [laughing]—and graduated with only 42 people. Being that big in a school that small, one doesn’t just not play football. But I did skip a day of spring training with our coach’s son and go see Incubus in Birmingham, Alabama. I worked my way through the pit and stood right in front of Mike Einziger’s [guitar player] pedal board. When he went into the intro of “Pardon Me,” I knew I had to play music for a living in some form. We got back to the field house around 1 a.m. and the coach was waiting. He put us in full pads and made us run sprints until we were sick. Then run again. Worth it.
5. ‘The River’ – Garth Brooks
Chase McGill: This is the first song I remember exactly where I was when I heard it the first time. My dad ran several nightclubs and honky tonks in Mississippi and Alabama when I was little. He used to get comps from the record labels back in the days when line dancing was exploding. On Saturday night, he’d bring a box of them home. Every Sunday after church we went to my Aunt Linda’s house, and my parents and aunts and uncles played volleyball while I dug through the tapes. I remember sitting on Aunt Linda’s porch steps, digging in the mud with a stick, when that intro came through the headphones of my tape player. I guess it’s the first song I really remember loving. And I was obsessed with country music after that. I hope one of my songs has that effect on some kid one day.