omg: What inspired you to move to Nashville and pursue music?
Sean: I graduated college with a BBA in Entrepreneurship and initially came down just to check out Nashville. I was going to try to find a job with a small business and check out the music scene around town. At this point, I’d written maybe three terrible songs total. On my way down, I luckily got a ticket to a Chris Stapleton round at the Bluebird Cafe. It was unbelievable spending my 7th day in town watching that round. I also stood in line behind Luke Combs- really nice dude by the way. Jordan Rager played the round before and was in the parking lot. My brother and I had watched him on Youtube for years, so I went and said hello. One of his friends Kori, who is still one of my close friends in Nashville walks up and says he’s playing Whiskey Jam on Monday. I headed to that show, but I messed up the time and was an hour early, so I went by Loser’s for a beer. There were two other people in the bar, and one of them was a songwriter named Gary Cantrell. I was starting conversations with everybody, so I talked with him, too. After talking for a bit, he asked me if I wanted to write the next night. I was like, “Sure, why not?” I had nothing better to do than job search! *laughs* We wrote in a studio that next night. I’d never written with someone before, so hanging out and coming up with a song was the coolest thing I’d ever done.
omg: When did you get into songwriting?
Sean: I was always obsessed with music when I was like in high school. Huge Keith Urban fan- I really got into country through him. Senior year of high school, I blew out my ACL in basketball, so I bought a guitar. I just learned covers for, like, three years, and it wasn’t until about four years ago that I wrote my first song. It just seemed like the next thing to do. They were the worst songs. *laughs* “Booze Cruise Baby” was the first song I wrote- it’s hilarious. Yeah, I just started writing, and I haven’t stopped yet.
omg: You’re a staff writer at Dan Hodges. What’s it like being a writer for a company?
Sean: It’s really cool. It’s my first deal, so I’m learning a lot about the inner workings, like how you get cuts and that whole process. They always say the work really starts when you get your first deal, and that really has been true for me. I’m writing more than I ever was before.
omg: How did you decide on a deal?
Sean: I really got to know Dan. We hung out with his family, and it’s a family business- his wife works with him. I really liked that about him. It was a gut feeling that it was going to be a good deal. I always trust my gut with people, and it worked in that case.
omg: Can you tell us about the process of co-writing? I’m sure as a staff writer, that’s something you do a lot of.
Sean: Yeah, I used to write by myself, but I honestly haven’t finished a song by myself since 2015. Every song now is co-written, because I just love the process. I write pretty much every genre. It’s always fun to write whatever the other person wants. Every idea is different, and you approach each song differently. Conversations go places you’d never think they could go, and you learn so much about life that way. I think that’s the great thing about co-writing. You learn something new every single time. It’s really cool.
omg: Can you tell us about SMASH:30?
Sean: Oh yeah, I met and started writing with John Miller- we still write every Thursday- just a few months into living in Nashville. We each met Hannah Allison, Ashley Scire and Clayton Severson shortly after. The music business is hard enough, and it’s no fun feeling alone, so after writing a bunch and hanging as friends, we clicked and decided to make ourselves a writing group. We came up with the name- “What time is it? Time to write a smash,” so SMASH:30. *laughs* We all have different strengths and styles, but we have a lot of fun together, no matter what we're doing. We play monthly shows, combine networks/resources, and wanted to build a community around what the five of us had. We've got a killer crew that hangs with us, and that community of talented and great friends has been the most special part for me.
omg: Walk us through a typical day for you.
Sean: I wake up, and I’ve got to have coffee for sure. *laughs* I’ve started building tracks, producing demos and stuff, so I sit down at my desk and look at that. I don’t have a schedule that stays the same, really. Some days I’m working on ideas, some days I’m working on my schedule or tracks. Usually I have a co-write or two a day, every week day.
omg: That’s a ton of writing! Do you ever deal with writer’s block?
Sean: Absolutely, there are definitely days where it’s a struggle. It’s funny, there are days when you can come up with every line, and then there are times when I leave thinking, “I didn’t do a single thing in that room.” You just have to keep rolling. I try to keep a list of ideas to avoid that, like anytime something hits me, I write it down. But you just have to keep on writing, and eventually something will work.
omg: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever written?
Sean: Wow, I wrote one this week I actually really love, but the one I’m going to pick is a song called “The Regulars.” It’s just about the regular crowd in the bar, and I wrote it with my good friend Jedidiah Freiheit about two years ago. I had the idea that it was going to be a total jam, but he was like “No, let’s write it just about the real regular people.” We just started coming up with these characters. I’m from a really small town, where the same crowd goes to the same bar and drinks the same stuff. It was really fun writing it that way. Like Patty’s in here four nights a week, and she’s divorced and her family’s in Minnesota, and there are some more characters like that. We just gave them a storyline and made them all connect.