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Hey guys, as 2012 is coming to a close, I hope that this stretch of road has been kind to you. This year, as have been the last 10, I am continually blessed to be able to tell stories & make music as my job. And it seems like every year opens more doors for people to engage new artists & enjoy the music that they love; which, on this end of it, is incredibly exciting. Figuring out ways for the creators of music to get financially compensated (so they can keep on making music & not have to find something else to do to pay rent) continues to be tricky, but the fact that the art that we create in our basements can reach so many corners of the world is amazing. I just saw this morning that a song my friend Christina Perri & I wrote last summer in my living room has been viewed on YouTube over 57 million times! That really is nuts to me.
This year, personally, has also been a real blessing. My wife & I had our third little girl, and our house is completely overrun with castles, dolls, & princess dresses. The artists that I work with have come to expect having to clear a path through the madness to get from the front door to the studio. I’ve done a lot more producing this year than in years past (from Avril Lavigne to Christina Perri to Tyler Hilton etc..), and it’s been great to start an idea from nothing & be able to carry it all the way to the finish line. I can’t wait for you to hear the stuff that Avril & Chad Kroeger & I have been working on all year, and i’ve loved hearing what people think of the Christmas EP Christina & I did over the summer.
I got to see Jason Mraz & Christina play the Hollywood Bowl a couple of months ago, and to hear them both sing songs that we made together on that stage was something I’ll never forget. Also Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away album has already sold 1M copies this year! I have rarely come across a more kind, talented, & hardworking artist as Carrie; she’s great.
Recently Tristan Prettyman came out with an album called Cedar + Gold that I could not be more in love with. Tristan & I met about 18 months ago and she & Steve Miller & I (and Zac Malloy on 1) wrote 4 songs that I am so proud of. C+D is such a raw, open, beautiful album (thanks to Tristan & Greg Wells in the studio) and it’s probably been the thing i’ve listened to the most all year. Love that girl and love that album (this is the time where you stop reading this, go to iTunes, listen to the previews for the first few songs & then realize that I’m not just trying to sell you something, that this really is a beautiful record, & that we are better friends because of it).
As a quick note, I will also say – Holy smokes, I never would have guessed that A Thousand Years would have meant so much (even though I really do love that song & CP sounds amazing) to the Twilight franchise & it has been incredible to see it have a second life this year with Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. This week it just passed the 2M mark for downloads. So crazy.
Finally, there are a couple of things I’ve been working on with Sleepwalker Records. A few years ago (years, mind you) I had this idea to put a collection of covers together (which isn’t really my bag since I’m known more as a writer than an artist). The criteria was to take songs that I love from a certain era & recreate them in a completely different context. Some of the first songs I remember hearing that really moved me were songs from rock bands in the mid 90′s. Smells Like Teen Spirit, Creep, Black Hole Sun – these songs made me FEEL something more than just tell me something. So in between helping other artists chase down their muse (and making babies), I have been quietly chipping away at this project. The series will be called Passengers & this first EP is called Weapons. I am really proud of it; it’s coming out next Tuesday & can’t wait for you to hear it. And yes, ever since I released Vol. 1 of The December Sessions I’ve been thinking about Vol. 2. Can’t wait to get started next week.
Thank you all for your kind words & patience and a special thanks to Andrew Messenger for making this website continue to be awesome. Talk to you all soon (unless the Mayans were right).
Hey guys, wanted to check in with everyone. Hope your year has been going well so far. I must say, I’ve been in good spirits recently what with the music I’ve been a part of making, the music that’s been released in the last month that I was a part of making, & the current state of the industry itself. From last to first, like them or not, I love that bands like Fun., Gotye, & Foster the People have been ruling the Top 40 radio charts. And watching Adele clean up at the Grammys & continue to sell something like 8 million albums a week (I think 21 is close to 1 billion albums sold worldwide…don’t listen to me) is awesome. Why, you say? Because as Top 40 has become so homogenous in the last 5 years, having such different sounding songs & artists do so well is a good sign for all of us.
As far as music that has come out – I spent a lot of last fall writing with & recording Tyler Hilton’s solo album with Tyler & Steve Miller. We had such a great time creating these songs & I am in love with his album. From start to finish, I think it’s great; and knowing Tyler, I think Forget the Storm is such a perfect picture of Tyler as an artist. Also, in December I started what I hope to be a yearly album called The December Sessions. I wrote a blog earlier describing it; but in a nutshell, once a year I want to put out an acoustic set of songs I’ve co-written that haven’t been released yet. I’m really happy with how this first volume turned out, and the feedback from everyone has been really inspiring. I love what Joey Phelps has done with the artwork on the album, and since it doesn’t come with the download on iTunes, we’re going to put a downloadable PDF on this site soon (lyrics, credits, artwork, etc.).
Also this week Jason Mraz is putting out his new album Love Is A Four Letter Word, and we wrote a song together on it called The Woman I Love. He is amazing. And May 1, Carrie Underwood’s new album Blown Away comes out. The song See You Again is one that she & Hillary Lindsey & I wrote and I love it. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of these 2 songs (and albums) coming up. There’s also a bunch of great stuff coming up (Avril Lavigne, Tristan Prettyman, Haley Reinhart, etc.) that I’ll tell you more about soon, but suffice to say this has been a very inspiring few months.
Thanks again for being with me on this journey. I honestly still continue to be floored that I get to make music with such amazing people & actually get paid to do it. You guys rock.
tell her tunnels end in light,
A couple of years ago I came to the end of a chapter in my career: I was in the middle of being released from my 3rd major label record deal (the last 2 of which were a complete bust), yet I was writing more music than ever before with what seemed to be increasingly fewer places for those songs to go. The current model for most “professional” songwriters is that we write & co-write anywhere from 40 to 200 songs a year (I usually write around 80), find some means to record most if not all of these songs (I produce about 2/3rds of the songs I write while other producers I work with record the others, which usually takes about twice as long as the writing process), & then submit these songs to managers & record labels for different projects.
In the last 10 years, record sales have dramatically decreased (less than half of what it used to be, even with the advent of digital downloading). This has led to a couple of things: 1) record labels don’t put out as many albums as they used to, 2) because of the long tail of e-business, platinum albums are almost extinct – in 2000 there were sixty three albums that went platinum (selling 1,000,000 copies in the US), in 2011 there were seven, 3) because of the desire to be more involved with the creative process (and supplement a loss in record sales through publishing), the majority of artists that used to be open to cutting outside songs (songs that they didn’t have a hand in writing) are now co-writing most if not every song on their album. These & other factors simply mean that to make a living as a songwriter, there are far fewer opportunities than there have been in the past to get the music we write & love to an audience.
I have been very blessed by the opportunities that i’ve had as a writer, but only about 20% of the songs I write a year ever get released. With the exception of only a handful of writers, the vast majority of us get less than 25% of the songs we write cut. I’m not complaining from a business sense – being able to make music for a living and having any of it be heard by people outside of my living room is amazing. But from a creative standpoint, that’s a lot of stories & songs that I care deeply about that will never see the light of day. Now I don’t think that every song I write is amazing; let’s say that the bottom 20% are not worth ever being heard again. And the “top” 20% (I’m often surprised by which songs make it on the album or which songs are successful at radio – they are just as often as not songs that I wouldn’t have picked over others) is already out there; but that leaves this middle 60%. It was these 40+ songs a year that were keeping me up at night. Surely there’s got to be some way outside of the current model that these songs can be heard. And it was out of this dilemma that Sleepwalker Records was formed.
In the past 18 months we’ve put out (including The December Sessions, Vol. 1, which will be released in early 2012) 4 full length albums, and this project is at the heart of what Sleepwalker Records is all about: every year I plan on making an acoustic album in December of 8 songs that for whatever reason haven’t been heard. I hope you like them, because I love these songs & love where they’ve come from. An affirming side note – while I was putting the songs together I emailed all the co-writers to see if they were ok with me releasing the songs (part of the hangup with this idea is that record labels tend to think once a song is released in any form to the public, it can’t be recorded by their artists), to the last one all of them were very excited about the songs being heard & couldn’t wait to hear how the album turned out. So I’m not alone in this. More details soon, but I just wanted to give you guys a heads up on what’s coming.
David Hodges accompanies Christina Perri on her new hit “A Thousand Years,” from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn soundtrack.
“A Thousand Years,” written by Hodges, was released November 8, 2011 and is available on iTunes.
It’s been great hearing everyone’s comments about purchasing More Than This. I feel like a real weight has been lifted now that people are able to hold the CD in their hands; it reminds me why I love what I do.
I’ve posted a challenge on Twitter & it seems like quite a few people are taking me up on it. So here it is, the Shattered Challenge: download Shattered (the last song on the album), plug in your headphones (no, your laptop speakers don’t count), close your eyes, & if the next 5 minutes aren’t worth your $1, then I’ll pay you back. Seriously, email your address to the contact email on this site & I’ll pay you a dollar back (unfortunately I can’t give you your 5 minutes back too).
So far everyone’s gotten their money’s worth, & most have gone on to buy the rest of the album. For those who don’t know of this band or album or song in particular, take the challenge – what have you got to lose. For those who have believed in this album for years, I’d love your help in getting the word out for the Shattered Challenge.
I was made for more than this,
For some of you, this story is old news; but for those who don’t know, let me tell you why this album means so much to me. From December of 1999 to December of 2002, I was in a band called Evanescence. When I first joined that band, we were just 3 kids (Amy was still in high school) with a tiny apartment & a crappy PC in Little Rock, AR, making music that we loved. By the time I left the band 3 years later, we had signed a record deal (I had never heard of anyone from Arkansas having a record deal), had lived in LA for couple of years, & had just finished an album that would go on to win multiple Grammys & sell 16+ million copies all over the world. Suffice to say, that album & that experience cast a long shadow over any work I would do for the rest of my life, but in particular over whatever musical journey I would take next.
So after leaving the band & leaving LA, I moved back to Little Rock to figure out what the next move would be. I didn’t know it at the time, but literally within the first month of being home, I started writing More Than This (the last song on the album, Shattered, was the first song I wrote for it). I had been so used to writing in the vein of Evanescence & thinking about melodies with Amy’s voice in mind, that the idea of doing anything different took some getting used to. But songwriting has always been my catharsis, my therapy; and the songs that started spilling out of me in that first year began to organically form into a project called Trading Yesterday.
The name of the band came from the idea that I would not rest of the achievements of or be paralyzed by the scars of the past; that I may be fully alive, fully present to what this moment has for me. Especially in light of seeing a piece of art that I made become so successful but also to not fully share in the praise & accolades that naturally came to my old bandmates from it, this new language was a constant reminder to not become lazy or jealous as I began to chase this new muse. And so as I continued to write just to write (which was a novel idea after being signed to a record label), I found a similar thread musically & lyrically in what I was writing. If Fallen was our Jagged Little Pill, More Than This was my Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. It was about coming to terms with things, growing up, learning to let go, & realizing that while the road isn’t going to be perfect or easy, it will be worth it.
Like Evanescence, a collection of early recordings for some of the record ended up getting the attention of record labels (for Ev it was Origin, for TY it was called The Beauty & the Tragedy), & a month after playing our first show, Trading Yesterday was signed to Epic Records. Along the way, two friends of mine joined the band – Mark Colbert (a great drummer & mix engineer) & Steven McMorran (who played bass & ended up writing on some of the songs on the album); and the three of us packed up everything & moved out to California in the summer of 2004. We were in the studio by September (with Dave Fortman producing at NRG – same producer & studio that I had made Fallen with two years earlier), & everything seemed to be falling into place. Tracking was finished before the holidays, mixing in January, photos in February, & the album was slated to be released in May 2005.
And then all of a sudden, everything stopped moving forward. Phone calls to the label weren’t returned, any communication we heard from the label became very vague, & within a couple of months our A&R guy was fired. In September of 2005 I happen to be at a Sigur Ros concert in New York; halfway through the show I looked behind me & saw Donnie Ienner (the chairman of Sony at the time). He & I had briefly met over a year before when we signed our deal with Epic; he was cordial enough at the time, but I was convinced that he wouldn’t remember just another kid in a band signed to one of the labels he was overseeing from a handshake the year before. By this point though, I was so tired of not getting answers from the label that I didn’t care. So after the show I walked up to Mr. Ienner with a whole speech prepared, but before I could say a word he saw me & said, “David Hodges, how are you doing? It’s been a while. When are we putting out this Trading Yesterday record of yours?”
I was floored. Not only did he recognize me, he remembered the band & everything. Trying not to act surprised, I said, “Good to see you Mr. Ienner; I was actually about to ask you the same thing.” We both laughed (probably for different reasons), and he replied, “Well, call my office in the morning & we’ll straighten this thing out.” I said I would, we shook hands again, & parted ways. I remember that night being so relieved: not because I was assured everything would be back on track, but because I knew that within 12 hours I would at least have something concrete. So I called his office the next morning (it took 10 minutes to finally get to his desk; and when I did, the receptionist almost laughed when I said that Mr. Ienner had asked me to call him), & when Donnie got on the phone he said, “David, I’ve been digging around for the last hour, & I’ve got bad news. You should try to get out of your deal; you’ve got no one fighting for you at Epic right now, and your album is buried.” Stunned, I sat there quietly for a minute, & finally said, “I wish you had better news for me, but I appreciate you checking it out & being honest with me.” “It’s the least I can do,” he said, “and it’s a shame too – I really liked the album you made.”
And then Donnie Ienner told me something I’ll never forget; he said, “You know, these days good music just isn’t enough.” And I think that sentence sums up at least the business side of this album: I firmly believe that More Than This is an album full of good music. Some may even say great music; but what it didn’t have (& what so many great songs & albums & bands don’t have) is some X factor that pushed the project through, some extra piece (that has little to nothing to do with the actual music) that kept the momentum going. I later found out that Epic had signed a band that sounded similar to Trading Yesterday around the same time; their album was released just after ours was supposed to be. The difference is, their manager also happened to be the son of one of the heads at the label. Now this band made a great record (I’m actually a really big fan of theirs), but I can’t help but think if we had had some extra juice somewhere what would have happened to More Than This.
Instead, everything unfolded as it did: we ended up paying out of pocket for some new recordings that fall in hopes to breathe some new life into a project, but despite out efforts, More Than This got lost in the big machine. Trading Yesterday disbanded not long after that, & since then we’ve all gone our separate ways. For the last 6 years I’ve continued to petition Epic for the album to be allowed to see the light of day, & now it finally has. For those of you who have been feasting on the scraps of this album, I am so proud to finally give you More Than This how it was always intended to be. And for those who are about to hear it for the first time, I am so glad that this day is here & that you are sharing this moment with us.
All is lost, but hope remains,
today’s been a big day. Picking up David Cook’s “This Loud Morning” at the record store (yes, they still exist-ish) and listening to the album from top to bottom was a great ending to what has been an 18 month journey. David and i started writing the first week of January 2010 for this album, & 10 songs, 100 ping pong games, and a handful of epiphanies later here we are. 4 of the songs ended up on his album, 1 on the Arrows to Athens album (yes, you will here it soon), & at least 1 more that i feel sure you’ll hear some day. as for the other songs, they weren’t great (hey, they can’t all be winners), but we definitely had a good time writing them. i remember in May 2010 listening to the demo of Circadian (we had written Rapid Eye Movement 2 months earlier & felt like it needed to find it’s other half) & knowing we had made something special. i’m really proud of those songs.
and then hearing Javier Colon sing Stitch by Stitch on The Voice tonight was icing on the cake. i wrote that song with 2 good friends and super talented writers Lindy Robbins & Dave Bassett. the process to get that song to the show tonight was crazy intense, but watching it go from “hey, this song could really work for Javier” to “and now performing his first single” literally in a matter of days was quite a rollercoaster. we got to spend a little bit of time with Javier along the way, but i’m really looking forward to making music with him in the coming weeks & months.
besides that, there’s been a lot happening recently. nothing’s set in stone yet, but i just finished a couple of songs with Brent from Shinedown that were pretty epic, Tristan Prettyman & Steve Miller & i continue to write stuff that makes me hit repeat, Hedley is in the studio now cutting a song that we wrote that we really dig, The Cab is finishing up an album and the guys & Smiller & i snuck one more song in at the end that is dope, and i wrote what i think would be considered my first blues song with a girl named Jayme Dee (and Smiller) the other day – she’s a new artist on Universal Republic that is quite cool and can seriously sing. oh, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear a song i cowrote on Lauren Alaina’s new album. the last few months have been full of too many stories to tell and songs to mention, but i’ve got to write with some great old friends and some amazing new ones as well.
more news soon,
I’ve been spending most of the last few months keeping up with you guys through Twitter, but I thought I’d start updating on here more regularly so I could fill you in on what’s going on in more than 140 characters. This blog will let you know what i’ve been up to in the songwriting world in the last 12 months or so, and I’ll write another blog updating Avox, Arrows, & other stuff later:
2010 was a lot of writing for projects releasing in 2011, so while not a lot of music came out last year, some of the best songs I’ve ever been a part of writing were created in 2010. One song that did come out last year was the last track on Lee DeWyze’s album (“A Song About Love”) – we wrote and recorded the whole song in about 6 hours, so what you’re hearing really is the creation of the song as it’s unfolding.
Also last year, Carrie Underwood released the end credits song for The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (“There’s a Place for Us”). Writing with Carrie again, screening the film, and being part of an international movie and timeless story like Narnia was pretty amazing. And then we were nominated for a Golden Globe for the song, which was incredible. Let me just say, the Hollywood Foreign Press knows how to throw a party.
In February, a rock band called Rev Theory released their album Justice. I worked with Rich, Julien, & Matt a lot last year and we wrote 3 songs together for the album (“The Fire”, “Guilty By Design”, & “Enemy Within”) and I also did addition production on half of the album. It was a great change of pace to just make loud, aggressive, unapologetic rock music with Rev. Love those guys, love that album.
This week has been amazing because Christina Perri’s album lovestrong came out on Tuesday (May 10). So far it’s stayed in the top 5 on iTunes & the reception for the album has been amazing. Christina & I started writing last fall, and the first song we wrote together (“Arms”) is now the single (after “Jar of Hearts”, which really blew up and put her on the map over the last 12 months)! I love how all the songs we wrote together (“Arms”, “Distance”, “The Lonely”, “Miles”, & “Interlude” – an instrumental piece that we did while tracking the record), as well as the rest of the album, turned out. I also join CP & her band to perform on Jimmy Kimmel (airs May 18) & Ellen (airs today, May 13), which was great. I really can’t say enough about CP as an artist & a person – so talented & gracious & honest & kind…I hope you guys love her album as much as I do.
Also next month David Cook’s new album This Loud Morning comes out next month (June 28), and he and I wrote a lot of songs on that album together. More details to come as we get closer to the release of his record.
That’s all the stuff that is concrete, but recently I’ve been writing with Jason Derulo for his sophomore album (such a cool guy & killer singer – we’ve written some great stuff that I can’t wait for you to hear), working with Carrie Underwood for her next album (ever since the Narnia sessions, I feel like we keep writing better stuff each time we’re working together), & got to meet and write a couple of songs that I can’t stop listening to with Tristan Prettyman (you can check out “Say Anything” on her blog: http://icecreamisbetterwithafork.tumblr.com/post/4997760134/and-since-my-crazy-is-still-in-full-force-say).
Thanks guys for all your supportive words over the years; they are constant reminders why telling stories & writing songs are important. If this recap shows anything, I think it’s that genres are becoming less important to me. The relationships I’ve gotten to build with these artists (and others) over the past 18 months have really been woven into the art that we’ve made together…and I think (or hope) that that gives the songs we’ve written more weight than just a good melody or a clever lyric. As my buddy Jamie Tworkowski (I’m name-dropping a lot, aren’t I?) always says, “Stories matter.” I think I’m starting to believe him.