RHS grad to perform tonight at VBCC
For Will Stults, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter from Russellville, a well-written song conveys as much of a story as a feature-length film.
He cited "Three Wooden Crosses," performed by Randy Travis and written by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson, and "The Gambler" as two examples of songs that tell a rich and memorable story.
"A good song is like a 2-hour movie, if it's written well enough," said Stults, who graduated from Russellville High School in 2001 and still lives in Russellville with his wife, Amanda, and their 2-year-old son, Dalton. "'Three Wooden Crosses' – that song tells such a big, big story in only 3 minutes. And 'The Gambler' by Kenny Rogers is another great story song that was written by Don Schlitz, who also wrote 'When You Saying Nothing At All' and 'On the Other Hand.'"
Stults, who will perform as the opening act in tonight's Jim Parker's Songwriter Showcase at the Von Braun Center Playhouse in Huntsville, said he relies on the audience's reaction to gauge a song's quality.
His six song-set set tonight will include two songs he co-wrote with Parker, "She's the Best I'm Going to Feel All Day" and "Close Enough to Kiss You," and "This Valentine's Day," "Diaper Daddy," "Daddies Don't Drink" and "Dad's Dresser Drawer."
"Dad's Dresser Drawer" is currently available on Stults' MySpace page, www.myspace.com/willstults, which has received nearly 4,000 views to date and also features "That's What I Really Need" and "Friend of a Friend." "Drawer" is a humorous look back on Stults' childhood when he learned the hazards of snooping through his parents' belongings.
"I've written probably up to 70 or 80 songs, but they're not all good," said Stults, a self-taught guitarist who didn't start playing until the age of 17. "I never know what's good until I play for an audience. I've had stuff I thought was the funniest thing in the world, but then I played it and didn't get a response.
"The audience gets the final verdict, and that's hard, but that's got to be a songwriter's ultimate goal – to entertain listeners and give them a reason to listen."
Stults' style, which incorporates country and folk music, is influenced by a range of artists, from legends Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard to current superstars Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton.
"My music style is country or new folk, and I've been told my songs are like Toby Keith or Brad Paisley, and Johnny Cash, too," Stults said. "Johnny Cash is as good as it gets for me – he's an all-time great – and I like a lot of the old-time country singers, like Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. I also love Blake Shelton, Joe Nichols and Brad Paisley.
"I try to mix in a lot of humor in everything I write because people like to laugh more than they like to cry. Brad Paisley is really good at throwing in sense of humor with his songs … I think you can still get a message across without always being serious."
Stults has performed at a variety of venues, including The Bluebird Cafe, a legendary restaurant in Nashville that has launched the careers of many songwriters and singers, including Garth Brooks.
"I've played a lot at the The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville – it's the biggest place for songwriters to play," said Stults, who performed his third audition last Sunday and is scheduled for his fourth and final audition Aug. 2. "There are so many people who want to play there that they only open the phone lines for an hour where you can call for an audition. They take the first 100 people, and then you only play 60 seconds of a song, and they choose eight people out of that 100. Then they book you 6 months down the road to play a Sunday night.
"The bartenders, waitresses, and waiters all have day jobs on Music Row, so they're actually critiquing you. They will call you that following Tuesday to let you know if you pass. If you do, then it's another 6 months until the next audition, and if you do it four times, you get to start playing main songs during the week with the professionals. If I pass the final audition, I'll get to play with the pros, which might open the door where they will let you come write with them."