Songwriters of color tell ‘their country stories their way’

Songwriter Cameron Bedell said the welcome mat wasn’t rolled out when he arrived in Nashville more than a decade ago.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:48 AM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - When you ask people what makes a song “country music,” they often point to the storytelling. Songwriters of color told WSMV4 the industry is becoming more open to telling their country stories, their way.

Songwriter Cameron Bedell has been in Nashville for more than a decade. He moved from Wichita, Kansas to attend Belmont University in 2010. He admitted the welcome mat wasn’t rolled out immediately.

“It was just a constant, like, ‘You’re not country,’” Bedell said.

He said he’s worked hard to introduce people to his style of country music by writing songs that remain true to the essence of the genre.

“Country music is about a way of life. It’s the homefront. It’s mom and dad raising kids. And Jesus on Sundays, and Bud Light on Friday night,” Bedell said.

Songwriter Matthew Morrisey said connecting with an audience through emotion also helps change perspective.

“Whenever I’m writing, I try and pin down what’s the core emotion of the song. So, whether it’s love or loss or hurt, or hope, I think those are universal concepts that no matter what your background you can, you can dig into,” Morrisey said.

Bedell said he doesn’t shy away from being different or inviting others who are writing with him to lean into his potentially different perspective.

“I tell them all the time. I’m like, ‘Let’s use what I have … to push the bar a little bit. There’s 50, 60, 70 different rooms today with writers in it, and they’re all writing very similar songs. You’ve got something different here today, so let’s use it,’” Bedell said.

Now, they just hope audiences will give the artists they’re working with a chance.

“Tierra Kennedy is a great example. Brittany Spencer … Breland … there’s a lot of young Black artists in country music that want to tell their country story their way,” Bedell said. “I think it’s important to listen to them and to share their story with other people.”

His efforts seem to be working. Bedell recently worked with Jimmie Allen on the hit song “Down Home.”

“When I sent it to Jimmie, he was floored,” Bedell said. “Then, he came in on it with his bass player, and we finished it. He sang the vocal and was bawling. But it was just such a cool moment. It was just like – it was out of our hands a little bit.”