Jared Hicks was the winner of the previous NSAI TOP 40, with over a thousand votes on his song "Higher High".
Let's get to know this NSAI songwriter a little better...
1. What's the title of your winning song and the inspiration behind it?
Higher High was a title I had sitting around for awhile. I had started it several times, but it never quite felt right until that first write of 2017. My buddy and frequent cowriter, Oran Thornton, and I were sitting around trying to get things started and discussing the busy holidays we had just had, our crazy kids, and one of our favorite writers, Travis Meadows. We both liked the title, Higher High, and during our conversation, Oran tuned his guitar to some alternative tuning and started picking. We sat in silence for awhile and I was trying to figure out what Travis Meadows' song he was playing around with because I thought I knew them all and I finally asked what it was. He said, "...I think it's Higher High..." and it instantly became clear that's exactly what it was. And it was up from there.
2. Who were your co-writers?
Oran Thornton and I wrote this tune. Oran is a crazy talented writer, producer, and instrumentalist, and I am just lucky to call him a friend and co-writer. I wish it wasn't just my name at the top of this interview, because it was 100% team effort. Since NSAI is all about the song, I can use a great song title to sum Oran Thornton up - Humble and Kind.
3. Do you plan on making this a career?
I hope so, because I don't have a Plan B.
4. What are your favorite genres to write?
I try to write the best song I can with whatever genre I'm focusing on, but my heart will always be with country music. That's thanks to my Dad and the first cassette tape I ever had: The Best of Marlboro Country Classics Volume 2.
5. What skill set do you bring to a co-write?
I really focus on ideas. I've learned over the years that a great idea is where great songs are born. But I think the most important skill set I can bring to any write is to be prepared and open to settle into whatever role I best fit that particular day. Some days I'm a lyricist, some days I'm melody guy, and some days I just get out of the way and try to send good vibes. Co-writing is definitely a team sport. I think it's good to always focus on your core strengths, but to also understand that at the end of the day, it's only about writing the best song you can. So sometimes that requires the adaptability to jump tracks and pull the weight you're best suited to pull with the team assets you've got.
6. What advice would you give to other aspiring songwriters?
I don't know that I'm really qualified to give any advice on songwriting, but I've learned a few lessons along the way that I can share. If you're trying to make a career out of songwriting, I think the most important thing I can say is to go for it! Dive head first, all the way to the bottom, fight to find the surface, and never quit swimming. Get rid of things that you don't need so you can go after things that you want. Drive a 99' Buick Century Custom that doesn't necessarily embody "cool," but allows you to place assets in other places to reach your goals. And after you have taken the leap to commit yourself to the craft: write, write, write. And then write some more. When you think you've written your greatest song to date, write another one and try to make it better. Figure out your strengths and surround yourself with people who make up for your weaknesses. Then just be you - it's more interesting. Get uncomfortable and try new things. Don't expect anything from anybody but yourself, and try to outwork all your peers. It won't be easy - you'll have days of frustration, days of triumph, and everything in between - but you can never quit swimming. Nobody reaches the other side with just a toe in the water. You have to dive all in.