In The Writer’s Round: Aaron Scherz

Aaron Scherz

Aaron Scherz

Heartbreak proved to be a good career move for songwriter and producer Aaron Scherz, who recently scored his first No. 1 song with Dot Records duo Maddie & Tae’s gold-selling single “Girl In A Country Song.” “I decided to be a songwriter because a girl broke up with me in college,” Scherz says. “I thought, ‘I can write a song about this.’ So I bought a guitar and learned how to play. It was then that I discovered I really loved writing songs.”

Scherz made the move to Nashville in 1999. He balanced time spent crafting songs and playing clubs with work at a syndicated radio company, and later doing information technology work for offices around the Music Row area. “I did work for Big Loud Shirt/Big Loud Bucks, some work for Jody Williams Music. It was Jody who recommended me to [publisher] Mike Molinar to fix a computer problem, but he also mentioned to Mike that I write songs,” Scherz says. Molinar signed Scherz to a publishing deal at Elevation Music. The next years as a songwriter brought Scherz modest success, including “The Rock,” the title cut from Tracy Lawrence’s 2009 album. He also garnered cuts by Greg Bates, Joanna Smith, Matt Kennon, and Dakota Bradley.

In 2012, Scherz joined Big Machine Music, which continued his working relationship with Molinar. “[Big Machine’s] Andrew Kautz brought me on as a writer when they were starting Big Machine Music, and then they brought on Mike [Molinar] as a VP at Big Machine Music Publishing, so we found ourselves together as a team again.”

That same year, Scherz received a phone call that would lead to the biggest success of his career. He accepted a last-minute writing appointment with two teenage singer-songwriters: Sugar Land, Texas native Maddie Marlow and Ada, Okla., native Tae Dye. “There was a depth of songwriting, and their voices blended so well,” Scherz said. He continued writing and recording demos with the teens when they would travel to Nashville each weekend. During the week, he would put their vocals on the songs and mix them. The girls also joined Big Machine Music as writers.

Having spent several years in standard co-writing sessions, penning songs in hopes that they would have that magic combination of lyric, melody and groove to fit a specific artist, Scherz saw potential in the new duo, and decided to take a risk.

“I would go into a writing room and try to figure out what an artist wanted to say, and I wasn’t having the success I wanted,” Scherz says. “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. So, I decided to just go all-in on Maddie & Tae, and develop them from the ground up.”

Three days after high school graduation, Marlow and Dye moved to Nashville, eager to pursue their dreams full time. Scherz spent each day developing the girls’ songwriting and performance skills, prepping them for a breakthrough. Mornings found the team in a writing room, crafting new songs and fine-tuning the duo’s sound and message. Afternoons were spent in the basement of Scherz’s house, where microphones and a makeshift stage were set up. The team would work on live performance, stage movements, and song transitions.

“I told them early on, ‘I’ll give you all of my knowledge I’ve earned in over 13 years of being in this town, if you’re willing to put in the work.’ I never wanted to feel like I was outworking them, and I never did. Each day I would give them things to work on, whether it was performance-related or music-related. They would show up the next day, and they would have it down solid.”

In April 2013, Scherz told his publishers that he would center his focus on the new duo, and would continue to prep them for getting a record deal. He also co-wrote “Sierra” from the duo’s self-titled EP. “In our case, we did two years of legwork and thought we were ready to go, and we still weren’t ready to go,” he recalls. “We were sort of existing in this stage where they were waiting for one song, the right song.”

Enter “Girl In A Country Song,” which recently made history as the first No. 1 debut single on the country charts by a country female act in eight years.

“Maddie brought in the title and was talking about the similarities of songs on the radio,” Scherz says of penning the song, which he also co-produced with Dann Huff. “I thought, ‘If we’re going to say what it’s like to be a girl in the country songs, let’s load up a couple of drum loops and the tempo of those kind of songs, which is usually about 74 beats per minute. Throw in a little rap.” The song’s lyrics aimed squarely at the overabundance of bikinis, cutoffs, riverbanks, tan lines, and pickup trucks on today’s country radio, sampling catchphrases in songs from Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy,” Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here,” Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That,” Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party,” and more. “I thought, ‘Are we really going to do this? Because this could be not so good.’ But we aimed right at it,” Scherz says.

Aaron Scherz with Dot Records duo Maddie & Tae

Aaron Scherz with Dot Records duo Maddie & Tae

“I turned the song into Mike, and he was like, ‘This is really good, but there is no way Big Machine can touch this.’ The song started to make the rounds a little bit in the Big Machine underbelly, so people were aware of it. Then Maddie & Tae put on a little show in the back of the Big Machine studio. The girls introduced the song, and [Big Machine founder/CEO] Scott [Borchetta] was there and heard it. He just busted out laughing and it was then that everyone was like, ‘Whew, it’s all good.’”

All good, indeed. The duo’s signing to Big Machine Label Group’s Dot Records was made official in June 2014. They released “Girl In A Country Song” as their debut single, and country audiences took notice. While “Girl In A Country Song” topped the country charts, the song’s tongue-in-cheek video soared past 14 million views on VEVO. And it wasn’t only fans who were getting the song’s message. “Once we did ‘Girl In A Country Song,’ I had all these hit songwriters texting me and saying, ‘Thank you for writing this song.’ I don’t know how they got my number. It was really interesting.”

Maddie & Tae are working on their full-length album debut for Dot Records. Scherz says after the past few years of development, he feels the duo has plenty of solid material in their musical coffers. “From what I understand, we are going all in-house on songs,” Scherz says. “They always said they wouldn’t turn down a smash song, but at this point, I don’t think they will have to venture outside their own catalog of songs.” For now, it seems the duo’s second single will be “Fly,” an acoustic, fiddle-driven tale of an optimistic dreamer.

As for Scherz, his own dreams rest on adding more hit songs to his repertoire. “I had a friend who moved [to Nashville] to be an artist,” Scherz recalls. “He said, ‘When I dream, I dream of being onstage and in the lights.’ I remember telling him, ‘Wow, I don’t really dream of that.’ I dream of writing a song as well as Pat Alger. I decided I’ll let other people chase standing in the bright lights.”

 

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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