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Songwriter aims for emotion in his songs

Chuck Cannon seeks to make audience laugh and cry

POSTED: August 7, 2014 1:00 a.m.
/For Get Out

Chuck Cannon will perform Saturday night during the John Jarrard Foundation Summer Songwriters Series at Brenau's Downtown Center.

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The son of a second-generation Pentecostal preacher, Chuck Cannon’s first musical influences were religious. However, he was not limited to those tunes while growing up in South Carolina.

Cannon’s father, in fact, introduced the boy to mainstream artists such as Isaac Hayes despite its secular leanings. And with the musical seed planted, the influence proved fruitful as Cannon evolved into an Americana artist and songwriter.

At 17 years old, Cannon began playing guitar in local bars. In 1984, he moved to Nashville and joined the booming songwriter scene. Twelve years later, he opened his own publishing company, Wacissa River Music Inc. Then in 2006, he established a publishing/production company called Chuck Cannon Music.

During his career, Cannon has written songs for many artists including Toby Keith and John Michael Montgomery. Cannon captured the Academy of Country Music Awards’ song of the year award for Montgomery’s 1993 No. 1 hit “I Love the Way You Love Me.” He also helped write Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “American Soldier.”

Cannon is married to musical artist, Lari White. The pair will light up the stage Aug. 9 at Brenau’s Downtown Center as part of the John Jarrard 2014 Summer Songwriters Series in Gainesville. He answered questions about his career earlier this week for The Times.

Question: What do you want people to take away from listening to your songs?

Answer: Typically when I’m writing and I’m stuck, usually my method to get unstuck is to ask myself, “What do I want people to feel? What emotion do I want to elicit with this song or this line?”

But it really is kind of song-specific. There are some songs where I want to make people laugh, and there are some songs where I want to make people cry, all the range in between. Typically I do a lot of work that is intended to make people laugh, but have a big message tucked in behind the laugh. It’s a saying that you like to make them laugh, and while they’re laughing you twist the knife.

Q: Who have you most enjoyed working with in your career?

A: I’ve loved working with Rodney Crowell, Shawn Mullins. Matt Scannell from Vertical Horizon is just a brilliant human being. Then there are a lot of people who are kind of behind the scenes that you never hear of. Allen Shamblin is a fabulous songwriter. I got to write with Carole King, and that was a blast.

Q: Would you describe your sound as country?

A: It will really be hard to describe (my music) as country, but I’ve had a lot of success in country music and I think it’s a function of when I showed up on the scene in the ’90s. It was fast becoming the pop music of that particular generation. It was where everybody turned to hear great lyrics. You didn’t hear great lyrics coming out of Los Angeles and New York as much.

Q: You and your co-performer, Lari White, are married. How will a performance by a married couple possibly be different from any other show?

A: We’ll probably get all sappy on you and sing a pretty love song together or something like that. Lari and I work a lot together. There will be some times when she’s on the stage by herself sometimes when I’m on the stage by myself and then we’ll join each other, do some of the stuff together.

Q: What do you think makes the essence of a good song?

A: Different songs are designed to make you feel different things. Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” makes you feel something different from John Waters’ “Looking Through a Glass Onion,” but they both make you feel. Both move you emotionally, and when a song moves someone emotionally . . . I really don’t care which emotion it is. Some people tend to judge songs they think have deeper meanings, but while steak and potatoes is good, so is ice cream. “Love, Love Me Do,” is a great song, and so is the “Long and Winding Road.” They accomplish two completely different things.



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