Hit country songwriter J.T. Harding has celebrated his fair share of successes, with seven No. 1s under his belt, including “Somewhere In My Car” (Keith Urban), “Somewhere With You” (Kenny Chesney), “Sangria” (Blake Shelton), “Alone With You” (Jake Owen), “Beers and Sunshine” (Darius Rucker), “Smile” (Uncle Kracker), and “Different For Girls” (Dierks Bentley).
With quite the wild story to tell and plenty of experience as a songwriter in the country music industry, the accomplished tunesmith has put it all to paper in his new book, Party Like A Rockstar: The Crazy, Coincidental, Hard-Luck, and Harmonious Life of a Songwriter. The engaging page-turner is available everywhere books are sold today (Feb. 22).
Described as a memoir, a self-help book, and a how-to guide for aspiring songwriters, Party Like A Rockstar chronicles Harding’s life from being adopted at a young age, growing up in southern Detroit in a family of sports fanatics, and discovering his love for music.
“Like most kids, I was jumping around to the radio and putting KISS makeup on while listening to my KISS and Journey records,” Harding shares with MusicRow. “One day, like an alien landing, MTV came blasting into my living room and I felt like Dorothy going from black and white Kansas to technicolor Oz. I could not believe MTV. I wanted to crawl inside the TV and get into that world.”
Soon after in middle school, Harding put a band together with some of his friends. Together they entered into Battle of the Bands competitions, but Harding had a hunch that the only way to truly succeed was for them to write their own songs.
“I’ve always tried to write my own songs. I didn’t want to end up playing cover songs in a Holiday Inn with the smell of stale beer and full ashtrays. Which is funny because that’s where I met Uncle Kracker, at a Holiday Inn lobby,” he quips. “Regardless, I just knew that I wanted to [write songs]. I looked on the back of all my CDs, and they all said Sunset Boulevard. That’s where all the record companies were, so I went out to LA and lived in the most unglamorous corner of Sunset Boulevard for years. It was awful, but I made it through.”
Throughout its pages, Party Like A Rockstar shares some of the many playful stories of Harding’s life, including how he cleverly distributed his first demo. “I was living in LA and I didn’t know where to take my demo. I couldn’t get meetings with anybody, so I borrowed a FedEx jacket from someone I knew. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi just walking into the Death Star, I walked past every security gate, every A&R guy, and I put my demo in every single mailbox.”
The book also shares the stories behind Harding’s many country hits, including how he and his co-writers came up with titles, lyrics, and the thoughts that went into them. Party Like A Rockstar also takes readers through Harding’s worldwide travels with modern day rockstars like Linkin Park, and how he made his way to Music City to write for some of today’s biggest country acts.
“This is the book I wish I had when I tried to get into the music business because I didn’t know how to. I just wanted to write songs and be on the radio, but all I had were interviews with rockstars, which is like deciphering hieroglyphics in a dark room,” Harding jokes. “There’s not a magic button to songwriting. I’d have more hits if there was a magic button, but I poured my heart into this book in a very simple way. This is how I feel you can make songs stand out.
“I hope people will be inspired that [even though] you do get turned down over and over again, along the way you’ll find people that encourage you. You have to write a lot of bad songs before you get to some of those good ones, so just keep writing.”
Within the book, Harding also shares some of his hard-learned lessons and advice for budding songwriters.
“If you’re looking to do country music, to be a songwriter in the country genre, or to be discovered in the country world, I truly believe you have to get to Nashville. It’s a full contact sport here,” Harding sums. “Even though we have the internet and there’s people getting discovered on TikTok, I can’t think of any country star or hit country songwriter that isn’t [in Nashville] pretty much all the time.
“The second piece of advice is something that I did and something everyone here does,” he continues. “We first come to town and we all think, ‘If I can just write a song with someone that’s already having hits, then I’ll be good to go.’ I wanted to write with Hillary Lindsey, who wrote ‘Jesus, Take The Wheel’ and Craig Wiseman, who had 20 No. 1 hits [at the time], but that’s not how it happens. You meet your own tribe—people that are at your same level—and you rise together.”
Harding adds, “There’s so much value in the way that a new writer sees the world and the music that they’re influenced by. Find your tribe and come up together. Make a noise so loud that I’m begging to write with you.”
Aiming to serve up plenty of entertainment and laughs along the way, Harding also hopes that people find relatability and inspiration through Party Like A Rockstar, and that readers walk away with the confidence that they can find their way through the music industry, too.
“People should buy this book because I truly think it’s better than a backstage pass,” he explains simply. “More so than ever, people are interested in how songs get written. Songland was gigantic on NBC, and now everyone’s talking about the Beatles documentary on Disney+. They see these guys sitting around writing songs. That’s how it happens, and now you could have it in your hands!”
To celebrate the release of Party Like A Rockstar, Harding will host a book release show at The Listening Room at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26. With every ticket, attendees will receive a copy of the book.
Party Like A Rockstar: The Crazy, Coincidental, Hard-Luck, and Harmonious Life of a Songwriter is available everywhere now.
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