Like Prine and Earle, he's been able to make his music the way he wants to in part because, as he puts it, "every now and then I'll write something that people consider to be worth cutting."
Indeed, Knight's first deal was a songwriting one, and while he hasn't had a lot of cuts yet, the ones he's gotten have raised his profile considerably. The cut of "Highway Junkie" on "A Pretty Good Guy" is, he laughs, the fourth time it's been recorded.
"Dan Baird cut it with the Yayhoos, then Gary Allan cut it on the ‘Black Dog' soundtrack, but Randy Travis recorded it first, back in ‘96. We did a demo on it, and the next day, Pat McMurry – she plugged my songs over at my publisher, Bluewater – took it to the studio where Randy Travis was cutting, and they really liked it."
John Anderson, too, has recorded one of Knight's songs – "It Ain't Easy Being Me," from Knight's first album, appears on Anderson's latest – but his biggest success to date has come with a number one hit this summer for fellow Kentuckians Montgomery Gentry, the inescapable "She Couldn't Change Me," penned with veteran writer Gary Nicholson.
"I write pretty much when something strikes me, unless I'm co-writing," he notes. "Then, you've got an appointment, and you go to (do) it. Sometimes you don't know where the song's going to come from or whether you're even going to write one, and you want to turn around and go home. And then you get in there, and you give it a little effort, and it just kind of pops out.
"Co-writing is a pretty good thing anyway. I don't know why, but it has been for me. You'll say a line, and the other guy'll say something like it. Then you'll say something like what he just said, and you end up with a better line sometimes."
Still, though he's had some commercial success, Knight's not chasing after it – nor, when it comes to that, after a performing career, either. "I really wanted to just write, you know," he says. "It was always kind of in the back of my mind to perform, to get a record deal, because I was told that I could do it. A lot of my songs are not that commercial or whatever, so I was told by (publisher) Frank Liddell that I should probably try to get a record deal, and I was encouraged to do that."
"Then, when I got a publishing deal, I was encouraged to just write my own stuff. It just kind of grew out of that. I got better at writing and started getting a few cuts, and to me, there's some commerciality to what I do, probably more so than a lot of other good songwriters. As I've gone along and done it, every now and then I'll write something that people consider to be worth cutting. But I mostly write for myself."
Knight will be taking his songs out on the road this fall, and he's looking forward to it. "I've got people who have played with me in the past, and we ‘re trying to work out schedules and all that kind of thing right now. The first leg of this tour, at least, I'll have a band – a four piece including me. We'll see how it goes after that, whether I go solo or with a guitar player for a while, but the goal is to just get to where I can draw enough people to keep a band on the road.
"It's just kind of a process. I come down to Nashville to start writing and kept working at it, and things just started happening."