Ronnie Milsap recorded Ralph Murphy’s “He Got You,” and it went to #1. We talked with Murphy about writing hits, thinking about the listeners during their worst time of day, and what he’s looking for as a judge for Ronnie Milsap’s “Country Cut” Contest. Enter the contest for a chance to have Milsap cut one of your songs.
You started off as a musician, in the Slade Brothers, before moving on to writing psychedelic pop and then country songs. How has your attitude towards songwriting developed through all those changes?
I was playing mostly at 10 o’clock at night. At 10 o’clock at night, you can do whatever you want because people are there, number one, for your personality, and number two, for the atmosphere. Part of that is the music, but it’s a part of a many many things. I didn’t realize that. I thought they were coming for the songs. Once I started looking for songs that would resonate with people, I realized there was a different expectation. I wasn’t giving the listener the information the way they expected to receive it.
What changed everything was that a producer signed me to a record deal. His name was Tony Hatch. Tony wrote “Downtown” and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.” He also produced a lot of hit acts at the time. The songs I was playing at 10 o’clock on The King’s Road and in different clubs, those weren’t the songs they needed. That was the first time that it had been graphically written out for me that there was a “time of day” factor. First of all, seven in the morning is drive time. People don’t seek new music at seven in the morning. They want local news, traffic, and a familiar song. A new song is an intrusion.
Read the entire interview here.