In addition to scoring his own Top 10 singles with “I Don’t Have Far to Fall,” “Burnin’ a Hole in My Heart,” and “It’s You Again,” singer/songwriter Skip Ewing has penned hits for a who’s who of country stars.
Skip’s songwriting catalog includes several chart-topping tunes, including Randy Travis’ “If I Didn’t Have You,” Collin Raye’s “Love, Me,” Bryan White’s “Someone Else’s Star,” Kenny Chesney’s “You Had Me From Hello,” and Diamond Rio’s “I Believe.” In addition, Skip’s songs have been cut by Clint Black, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Keith Urban, and more.
On November 12, Skip released his new holiday album, Skip Ewing – Christmas. The new album features seven originals tracks, including “Whenever a Child Is Born,” “Mister Snowman,” and “Christmas Carol,” among others. While Skip had a hand penning each track, a couple of the tunes may sound familiar, including “Just a Kid,” which Kenny Chesney recorded on his 2003 holiday album.
Outsider caught up to Skip to find out the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter.
1. ‘Secret O’ Life’ – James Taylor
Skip Ewing: In many cases, I can’t say it was a single song that had a particular impact on me. But there were albums that moved and inspired me greatly. James Taylor’s 1977 album, JT, was one of the few I had when I was a kid. And I listened to it over and over. I couldn’t have told you why at the time, but it felt real, truthful, and honest, as well as lyrically and melodically powerful and diverse. I was completely drawn in, and “Secret O’ Life” was my favorite song.
2. ‘Stardust’ – Willie Nelson (written by Hoagy Carmichael)
Skip Ewing: This song and album opened my eyes to what I felt were classically beautiful melodies without being technically classical. I was young and hadn’t listened to any of the original recordings of those songs. Willie’s phrasing, the musical changes and choices, and the unquestionable lyrical excellence and poetry have been something inspirational for me ever since.
3. ‘She Thinks I Still Care’ – Merle Haggard (written by Dickey Lee & Steve Duffy)
Skip Ewing: It is almost impossible for me to choose a single Merle song that moved me the most, and even though he didn’t write it (I didn’t know that at the time), the writing style inspired me. It opened my eyes artistically to realize that the listener could “read through” the emotional state of the singer and recognize dramatic irony through lyric.
4. ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ – Paul Simon
Skip Ewing: I remember being quite young, sitting in the backseat and hearing this record start. In that instance, it fully dawned on me that there were musicians (the actual people) playing on the record that brought all of the musical elements to life. In that instance, [drummer] Steve Gadd became a musical hero to me. It also showed me how pivotal a single element could be in a recording and in a composition.
5. ‘That’s All’ – Genesis
Skip Ewing: I absolutely loved this record the moment I heard it, and thought the piano was musically and percussively brilliant. As simple as the changes were, it completely held me. When asked about songwriting for country, the lyric is often the element we’re asked to focus on most. But this record furthered my awareness and search for musical elements and musical approaches. The acoustic intro to “Aime” by Pure Prairie League, Clapton’s guitar on “Lay Down Sally,” the setup to “Come Together” by The Beatles and “Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles—it’s a very long list!