Song Spotlight is your all-access pass into the art of songwriting. We bring intimate live performances and fascinating musical insight straight from the artist to you, musician-to-musician.
In this episode, we sat down with Billboard No.1 hit-writers, David Garcia and Josh Miller. The guys took time out of their hectic producing and writing schedule to talk to us about what it’s like to write songs with pop music’s biggest and brightest, and how sometimes a song just happens to name itself, albeit with a little help from a loved one.
Watch their performance of ‘Meant to Be’ and read about what it takes to become a professional songwriter.
Musicnotes: We’d love to hear the story behind the song.
Josh Miller: We took a writing trip to Los Angeles, with Tyler Hubbard, from Florida Georgia Line. Seth England, Florida Georgia Line’s manager, had hit us up about potentially writing that night with Bebe Rexha, and we were all kinda like, “Yeah, we’ll write with whoever,” and then all of a sudden we get a text:
‘Hey I’m not sure if she [Bebe] knows we’re writing’, so she might have been under the impression that we were just hanging. Like, ‘hey go to the studio, meet FGL’ kinda thing.
Me, Tyler and his wife, Hayley are walking in and we’re thinking ‘well this will be interesting if she’s not sure we’re writing’, and then Hayley is like ‘well, if it’s meant to be’, so Hayley actually said meant to be, and me and Tyler looked at each other kind of like ‘alright, that could be a cool title’.
We get in there, and Bebe’s awesome. Garcia’s is a maniac on the production side and a great writer, so he just starts playing what you hear on the keyboard, and from there we just started writing the song.
David Garcia: What’s really cool about ‘Meant to Be’ is that you know it’s Bebe’s song, but you hear Tyler first, and everything that happened for the rest of the night was exactly what you hear on the song. We weren’t thinking about it, we just did what you heard, and we all thought it was a great song.
MN: The duet idea, did that happen organically?
JM: That’s what happened in the room, yeah. We wrote the hook, and we talked about, is this just a life song, is it a relationship song, is it x,y,z? Then Tyler starts doing his thing, just spitting out some verse, melodies, and lines, and that’s kinda what you hear at the beginning, and Bebe just started flipping, she loved what he was doing.
It was like, ‘Yes, do that!’ So, he jumps in and sings his part, and then we get her verse, and it just kinda all came together. It felt really good.
DG: It happened very quickly. I mean, literally, pianos going on, got that beat going, and then before you know it’s like ‘run in the booth, put that down’. It was one of those really great sessions, where you walk away and say ‘wow’. It felt really good.
MN: What’s it like working with them?
DG: If you know Bebe, she’s a phenomenal artist and has incredible instincts, same for Tyler, and BK. They’ve been really, really visionary in a lot of stuff that they’ve done, and they never cared about what people think, or what people are gonna say.
They just wanna put out great music, and it’s been really cool to see the power of a song, and see it connect with people.
JM: We hung out, and they’re two both amazing artists in their own rights, they both have their unique instinct, Tyler’s a great songwriter, too. You can just look at the charts right now, especially in the country world, and his name is on a lot of songs.
Those two superstars in one room, you never know what you’re gonna get, and fortunately for us we got to be a part of a song that turned into what it did, and thank god, we were talking about the other day, it took a lot of guts for Bebe and her team to release that on her project. That’s a very bold move.
MN: Let’s talk about songwriting. Is there a formula?
DG: I think if I’ve learned anything with songwriting it’s that you cannot have a play book or a rule book because that’s where you’ll get yourself in trouble.
You gotta just say, ‘Hey, it can happen like this, it can happen like that’. You kinda gotta get out of the way.
And when you’re in the room with artists that are great songwriters, it’s like, ‘hey, this is about you’, y’all are taking this song to your fans, so we want to support the artists vision, what they’re trying to get across, and what they feel, and if we can enhance that, that’s great.
JM: I think the biggest play in the playbook is just showing up, you never know what’s gonna happen. Show up with a good attitude.
“If it’s a good vibe, and everybody’s having fun, it harbors creativity.”
In order to have a song come out and hit the radio, and be successful, it’s gotta be special, so I think the biggest thing is just showing up and writing and seeing what happens, cause you never know.
MN: Let’s talk about your musical upbringings. When did the musical bug start?
DG: My mom started me at a pretty early age, forced me to take piano lessons. I ended up wanting to play drums, and I got a drum set one year for Christmas, and that started me down the rabbit hole of playing, and I learned guitar after that.
I grew up in church, gospel music was a really big influence on me early on, and R&B, but at the same, we were 90s kids, so rock and roll and grunge was the thing, too. It was one of the greatest periods in music because you were having rap, hip-hop, and RNB, kinda doing its thing. You had rock kinda doing a new thing than it did in the 80s. So if you were a kid then, you were listening to everything.
Then the song writing thing came. I was more interested in making records. I’d get the thing and look on the back and say, ‘Who did this? This sounds incredible’. And then I made my way through that whole next process and kind of landed in Nashville.
JM: I don’t really come from a musical background. Growing up, baseball was king. I always loved music, but I wasn’t working on it or thinking anything about that as a profession. I was gonna be a Major League Baseball player. That was the idea.
My first concert with my dad was Bob Seger, at The Pyramid in Memphis. My dad was into anything from Dwight Yoakam to Bob Seger, and in the halls at school, you’d hear Master P, Three Six Mafia, and R Kelly, Boyz II Men; I loved the soul aspect. You just put it all in a bag and blend it up, and that’s how I feel about my musical influence.
Once I got to school and baseball was a thing of the past, I ended up in a fraternity, and I remember one night, they made us pledges do like a ‘Pledge Idol’. Three guys were judges, and all of us had to sing, and it was mostly a joke, and everybody was pretty bad.
I sang a John Legend song and everybody was like, ‘Dang dude, you can really sing’. So me and some buddies would start doing covers and stuff like that.
When I started songwriting, I got a MacBook and discovered Garage Band. I had a buddy that I went to high school with and he would email me beats all the time. I would just sit there and write songs into my laptop singing into the little thing. I mean, really bad quality, but it was a creative outlet.
And from there, the passion and the fire grew. I moved to Nashville for business; I was in software sales for like 5 or 6 years, and I would write after work for therapy, with guys like Brandon Lay. I didn’t even know what a publisher was, or what songwriting was, I didn’t know this was like a real thing. And then it just all lead to here [today].
MN: If there was one thing you could share with the aspiring songwriter reading this, what would it be?
JM: The biggest thing is just working. This is fun, realize how blessed you are to get to do music, and this is what we do for a living. We hang out, and we just make stuff up, and every now and then you get lucky.
But from my background, I treat this like a job. It’s work. I’ll go home at night and I’ll work on ideas, cause you just never know. And you gotta be strategic with what you do, like when you get opportunities with certain people, you gotta take advantage of it, and show up, and be prepared. Treat it like a real job, and just grind, but also have fun. We’re blessed!
DG: I couldn’t agree more. It is an occupation that is consuming, and if you’re doing it right, it will consume you. It’ll kinda bleed into every area of your life.
One thing I learned a long time ago, talent will take you places, but it’s your work ethic, if you’re a hard worker, you can outpace that other person that’s just genuinely more talented.
I want to be the hardest worker in the room, and after a while, if you do something long enough, hard enough you’re just gonna get better. And if you work hard, and you always give it your best, good things will happen. It may take a little time, that’s okay, but keep at it.
Value people over everything else, over the songs, over money. We have great relationships and friends. We’re friends with a lot of our co-writers and that translates into the music.
That’s a wrap for this episode! Now, enjoy David and Josh’s performance of ‘Meant to Be’, brought to you by Musicnotes.
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