Tell me a little about your approach to songwriting.
House:Well, I either have a musical idea or a musical hook, and I follow that. I used to co-write a lot, but I don't co-write as much as I once did. I write about half by myself and about half I co-write. The thing about co-writing is that sometimes you get dragged into a hit. Nashville is such a funny cyclical town. The first five songs that Gary Burr - he and I co-wrote LeAnn Rimes' On the Side of Angels - became hits, and we thought, "This is easy." But then the hits stopped coming for us. Like I said, when I first started writing, I didn't know why I was writing and that, or how, I could get these songs recorded. You know, I'm a painter, too, and I think every songwriter should paint. It teaches you that you can cover things up and fix things. You can redo it, just like you can re-write a song; I revisit my songs a lot.
Who are some of your songwriting influences?
House:Way too many to mention, but here are a few: Hal David, Cole Porter, Hugh Prestwood, Daryl Hall, Michael MacDonald, Barry Gibb.
Who was your most challenging interview?
House:There are two kinds of people who show up, and I've interviewed both kinds, though I don't think I'll name names. One kind of artist comes in and just sits there and it's like pulling teeth to get him or her to talk. I had one artist come in one time - a pretty big name you'd recognize - who just answered my questions with a simple yes or no, and sometimes with a nod of the head; I mean, this is radio, and the audience couldn't hear his nods. At a break, I said, "Look, you don't have to do this, you know." He got more talkative after the break.
The other kind of artist always shows up on time and answers your questions thoughtfully or with a sense of humor; they're great. I've found that the more famous the artist is, the more you can count on him or her to show up on time and to be open. I've found that artists who might just be getting started are not as considerate and conscientious; I think it's because they think that's how stars are supposed to act.
What lessons or insights would you like readers to take from your book?
House:Not to take things too seriously, especially with songwriting. A lot of these younger songwriters sit around all day working on their music and treat the entire process with such gravity. I say, "Don't be so damn serious." Have fun with it. You have to learn to sort of roll with it. What I've learned is that if you're a professional, you'll just show up, whether you're being interviewed or giving an interview or if you're a songwriter.
What's next for you?
House:I'm in discussion about writing a syndicated column; I always liked what Lewis Grizzard, and I'd like to do something like his columns. I have two books that I've started - one novel and one non-fiction -and I'm thinking about those and working some on those now. I just finished doing an intensive PR swing for this book, and I'm glad that's finished; it was pretty exhausting.