Interview: Songwriter Jeff Hyde Steps Up to the Mic on ‘Norman Rockwell World’
Near the end of songwriter Jeff Hyde's new album, Norman Rockwell World, there's a song called "Henry Ford." The 3-minute track finds a journalist, in an interview with a singer, getting rebuffed when he asks personal questions: "You don't have to know Henry Ford to drive one," the artist tells the writer.
It's an especially interesting line coming from Hyde, who has made his living being a more behind-the-scenes guy in the industry. Until Friday (Feb. 23), he had never released a record of his own; rather, his name is familiar to country music fans thanks to his numerous big-name cuts (including Eric Church's newest No. 1 song, "Round Here Buzz") and his role in Church's band.
"I don't think ... that a person has to walk around with their chest stuck out too far, letting the world know what they've accomplished, because if you work hard at what you do, then that says more than what you can say, you know?" Hyde tells The Boot. "You can tell somebody how good your work is, and they'll look at it and decide if you're telling the truth or not."
It's a lesson that Hyde, who landed his first publishing deal in 2005, learned the hard way. When the Marshall, Texas, native moved to Nashville in 2001, he was "so gung-ho ... and a little green," he admits, and was "politely shut down" when he asked some of the songwriters he admired if they could write together.
"I think maybe I gave a couple of 'em a demo that ... I thought was pretty good, but in hindsight, of course, I wouldn't play it for anybody," Hyde remembers. So, he stopped asking; instead, "I told myself, 'I'm going to have to write some songs, at least one or two, that maybe one of these writers will hear the song [and want to write with me]."
"The next songwriter I had a chance to write with, it was because he'd heard a song that I had written and thought it was pretty cool," Hyde shares. "I let the song do the asking for me ... and got a lot better result that way."
When putting together Norman Rockwell World, Hyde culled its 10 tracks from a list of 30-40 songs he'd written over the years and were "just kind of sitting on a shelf." Together, he and Ryan Tyndell -- a songwriting buddy from way back -- whittled down the track list and worked on the record as they had time in between their other projects.
"[The idea of "Norman Rockwell World"] was kind of a common thread between some of the songs -- how complicated life was, but it'd be kind of nice if it didn't have to be," Hyde says of the record's title track, co-written with Clint Daniels and Michael Heeney. "It just kind of seemed to sum up the way I feel a lot of times ... and it's always been one of the songs I've been most proud of being a part of."
Hyde has been a fan of Ricky Skaggs and bluegrass artist Tony Rice, among other big names, for years. Listeners will likely hear a bit of Church and Jon Pardi (another artist who's cut Hyde's songs) in his music, too. Both while co-writing with artists and in crafting his own music, Hyde confesses, "it can be kind of daunting to think, 'Man, how am I ever gonna measure up to those guys?'"
"Something I told myself is, you don't have to worry about being them, because they're already them," he continues. "Everybody has their own unique look on writing a song ... so I just learned to try to be the best version of myself that I can be, and then just let the chips fall."
More New Country Albums Coming in 2018