Ronnie Milsap’s “Country Cut” Contest: A Letter From One The 25 Finalists
When Michael Fritz learned his song “Fifty” made the Top 25 Finalists in Ronnie Milsap’s “Country Cut” Contest, he decided to check out the competition. He listened to the other songs and made an interesting discovery:
I’ve been writing songs forever but in December 2011 started making a concerted effort to pursue it more professionally. I affiliated with a PRO, joined NSAI, and made trips to Nashville for demos, meetings, and events. In the midst of those activities, last spring my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary was approaching and I thought to myself, “What gift can you give your parents on their fiftieth that they don’t already have and is worthy of the occasion?” I thought maybe I could write a song to mark the occasion and have it recorded in Nashville. The song “Fifty” came out of that effort. “Fifty” celebrates the virtues of a long-term relationship, told from the perspective of young people envisioning a long future together. Early on, I decided not to make the song biographical at the expense of appealing to a general audience. That is, I wanted the song to be pitchable to recording artists alongside any other songs in my catalog. As a result, the exact details of the song are not biographical, but the sentiment is one hundred percent true. Nevertheless, some choices were made to try to be as true as possible to details of my parents’ experience. For example, the image of “sunfish” (common in Minnesota where my parents live) was invoked instead of “catfish” (the default breed in country songs). Before finalizing that lyric, I did some research on the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency website to make sure “sunfish” was not just a Minnesota thing.
Before my flights home from Nashville, I’d kill time at Tootsie’s at the airport where I met singer/songwriter Adam Stone. I introduced myself one night and asked if he sang on demos (he did) and gave him my card. He sent me MP3 samples of his songs and other people’s songs on which he sang. For several weeks, I had Adam’s music in heavy rotation on my iPod, along with other demo singers who I was considering for my songs. When it came time to record “Fifty”, I knew that Adam was the right guy for the job. Nashville Demo Studio contacted Adam and signed him up for the session. The song was recorded in June and presented to my parents at their anniversary party in July. Then I found out about the Ronnie Milsap Country Cut Contest and thought about which song or songs from my catalog would be on target. After learning that Ronnie Milsap and has wife were married in 1965, three years short of 50 years, I entered “Fifty” into the contest.
When the list of 25 contest finalists was announced, I listened to all the songs and immediately recognized another song–“Shine” by Adam Stone. It was one of the songs that Adam had emailed me after we meet at Tootsie’s at the airport. It had even become such a favorite that on one of my trips back to Nashville I stopped at Tootsie’s and requested “Shine” before heading to the rental car desk. To hear it among the 25 finalists was a pleasant surprise. For two of Adam’s vocal performances to make it into the top 25, it seems that he has some secret sauce. That was my gut feel the first time I heard him at Tootsie’s and it seems that others agree.
Regardless of whose song ultimately gets the cut on Ronnie Milsap’s upcoming album–mine, Adam’s, or somebody else’s–Adam deserves the increased exposure he is getting from this contest. One of the recording engineers at Nashville Demo Studio was asked by someone in the studio how the new guy was who had come in to sing on “Fifty”. The reply was that he was really good–and as “country as cornbread”. My gut says that I’ve got to book a few more demos with Adam before he’s all locked up in a major-label recording contract!
- Michael Fritz