VIDEO: Raitiere accepts Grammy alongside Natalie Hemby and Hillary Lindsey
Photo by Becky Fluke
Raitiere with the Oak Ridge Boys
Aaron Raitiere “Star”ry-Eyed After Recent Grammy Win: Talks Winning, Writing, Reindeer and
What’s Next on the Horizon
BY MELISSA COKER
He may have lost his phone on the way to this year’s Grammy Awards—but that didn’t stop songwriter Aaron Raitiere from answering the (proverbial) call. As he stood alongside co-writers Natalie Hemby and Hillary Lindsey you could feel the thankfulness radiating from Raitiere, who grinned from ear to ear throughout the entire 30 seconds of the threesome’s collective acceptance speeches upon winning the golden trophy in the Best Song Written for Visual Media category. Raitiere and his co-writing cohorts were up against creations from Randy Newman, Dolly Parton, Thom Yorke and Beyoncé.
“I’d like to thank my mom and dad. Love you all,” he was sure to add in edgewise as the exit music began to play as the songwriters accepted their A Star is Born win for the song “I’ll Never Love Again.”
“All of that stuff [the song and nomination] was just a total . . . wait and see,” shares Raitiere. “I showed up and turned something in. The song was written in probably less than an hour and that was while they were still writing the movie. And so we didn’t hear for a couple of years whether or not it was even going to be in the movie.”
Fresh off of the Grammy high, Raitiere returned to a lower level—down to The Basement, to be exact. Thanks to an invite from Mike Grimes (owner of Grimey’s New & Preloved Music and the Basement) Aaron wrapped up a month-long residency at the Nashville nightspot just two days after the awards ceremony with a free show featuring very special guests Anderson East and Ashley Monroe. The encore evening was also recorded, with plans in the works for a live album. Other guests throughout the residency included Everette, Hayes Carll, Wyatt McCubbin and Waylon Payne. Raitiere says he’s lucky to have met Grimes and is very grateful for that opportunity.
Self-described as a “single-wide dreamer in a double-wide world” (a lyric which he explains simply means being “happy with the smaller details in life in a world where people’s goals aren’t necessarily small”), winning for the Star soundtrack is definitely one of the things of which dreams are made. But being aligned with the soundtrack’s constellation isn’t the 2009 MTSU Master of Fine Arts grad’s first foray into the celestial. An enchanting far and away tune titled “Brand New Star,” which Raitiere co-wrote with Americana artist Mando Saenz, is the first track on and a featured single from The Oak Ridge Boys’ 2018 album 17th Avenue Revival (produced by Dave Cobb). The uptempo ode is a sort of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” of sorts, mourning the loss of a loved one but celebrating that the loss is the sky’s gain because there’s a brand new star up in heaven tonight.
“It’s the happiest song I’ve ever heard about someone dying,” Oak Ridge Boys singer Joe Bonsall cheerfully says of “Brand New Star.”
“I love that song. Mando and I had a write planned that day anyway and I write for Dave Cobb, and Dave Cobb was producing that record,” reflects Raitiere. “Dave said he needed a gospel song. It happened to be about the time that Chris Cornell of Soundgarden died and so the song for me was written for Chris Cornell, but it was played at my grandfather’s funeral and I think it’s turned into a real special song for a lot of people.”
Keeping on the sunny (and snowy) side, to detail Raitiere’s work for the Oaks and not mention their most recent Christmas collection would be grounds for the naughty list. He wrote six of the eleven tracks (two solo) on 2019’s Down Home Christmas. The title track was another Mando Saenz co-write, “Don’t Go Pullin’ on Santa Claus’ Beard” was written with Raitiere’s fellow former MTSU classmate Anderson East (and featured producer Dave Cobb in its video), and the frolic-filled “Reindeer on the Roof” (video below) was written with Jake Mitchell.
“We told Aaron Raitiere that we needed a fun Santa song, and almost immediately he and Anderson East wrote ‘Don’t Go Pullin’ on Santa Claus’ Beard,’” said Bonsall. “[The album process] was like old Nashville again. Writers would bring us a song and we would record it while they wrote another one. It was all magic and our producer Dave Cobb led us all the way! Quality songwriters writing great songs.”
“Show up and turn something in,” he advises to current students trying to make it in songwriting. “I think that’s how I graduated from college at all is to show up and turn something in. You never know. Sometimes the stuff you think is the worst could be what winds up bringing you success.”
But, about those reindeer on the roof? The Christmas video (below) for that Oak Ridge Boys cut could easily be another win in a best visual media category (albeit of a different variety). It prominently showcases John Rich (of Big & Rich) in a Santa suit, a pensive Jamey Johnson, and Dennis Quaid spiritedly singing Aaron Raitiere and Jake Mitchell’s lyrics in the video, which even showcases the group’s William Lee Golden stirring up a big batch of eggnog.
“Yeah, that was nuts [watching these guys sing ‘Reindeer on the Roof’],” he tells us. “Me and Jake Mitchell wrote that song. But Dave was making the record and he introduced me to the Oaks. And then I just kind of went into a Christmas hole for the month of June and just wrote tons and tons and tons of Christmas songs and I guess we all just kind of clicked."
On songwriting versus singing, he says: “I call it the ‘look at mes.’ I don’t think I have the ‘look at mes,’” he laughs sheepishly. “I hope I’m like a storyteller or maybe like a writer’s writer. I like to mind my own. And I think if you’re out in front as an artist, you’ve got to have a little bit of an appetite for attention. And I like being behind the music where I’m not the one that has to go out and sing the same songs every night and answer the same questions.”
That said, there is “a full-length album on deck that I’m really excited about and we’re shooting for a fall release,” he anticipates. “The music’s full-band. It’s co-produced by Anderson East and Miranda Lambert. We started working on it about four years ago and Anderson and I finally finished it up recently. I did do all the writing but they’re all co-written songs. I’m pretty excited about it. There’s a lot of guests on the record. But we’ll probably release the live record before the album.”
Raitiere even co-wrote (again joined by Jake Mitchell, in fact) two songs on Ashley McBryde's just-released album jaunt Never Will - "Voodoo Doll" and "Sparrow" (tracks five and six, respectively). Buy Never here.
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