Summer Songwriter Series featuring J. Fred Knobloch
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13
Where: Brenau Downtown Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville
The only thing Mississippi native J. Fred Knobloch has ever worked in is music, he says. It’s a good thing he’s really good at it.
Since he started when he was young, Knobloch has written and performed many No. 1 country music hits. He has written songs for artists such as Faith Hill, Etta James, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles and George Strait. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Kathryn and has two children.
He performed in the group SKB, which he formed with his friends Thom Schuyler and Craig Bickhardt and recorded hits that reached the top of the country charts.
Knobloch will perform some of those hits at Brenau Downtown Center on Saturday for the Summer Songwriting Series. He has recorded two albums, which included the No. 1 country top charts hit "Baby’s Got a New Baby."
The Times asks Knobloch about his accomplishments in music.
Question: How long have you been interested in writing songs?
Answer: I don’t remember not being interested in it. We started a band when I was 12 years old, and one of the first things we did was made up one of our own songs. It was a terrible song. I still know how it goes, and I will never play it for anyone. But it’s always been about original music to me.
This has always been a part of (my) DNA. I don’t know why, because it isn’t a family trait. But I always like to make up stories and stuff like that. Everybody (in my family) was a good joke teller and pretty loud, so I guess that kind of makes it work.
Q: When did you form the group SKB?
A:It kind of evolved from a publishing company that we had started called The Writer’s Group. We started that, I want to say ... the summer of 1984. Six months later, we had the No. 1, 2 and 3 songs in the country charts, so it was going really well.
We would go out, and one of the ways you’d promote your songs back then, more specifically (is) a particular company would take over a local club for an early show and play your new stuff. We started harmonizing and putting together a nice little show. We sang with Paul Davis, but we did like 20 minutes by ourselves ... we were really, really good that night.
We got an offer to do records for MTM ... we didn’t think of it as a group, but that’s what it became. So I didn’t join...fate enlisted me.
Q: How did Etta James, Faith Hill and Kenny Rogers hear about your songs?
A: You pitch them.
I knew Etta when I lived in L.A. I had gotten to see her a couple times and we met. Rosanne Cash had recorded (my song), but it didn’t come out. She would have heard it through Rosanne’s record of it.
As for Faith Hill, that was through just normal channels here in town. They hung on to it for about a year and a half and finally put it on the "Breathe" album.
It’s a time anyone would’ve wanted a Faith Hill cut. It’s a real cattle call.
I knew Kenny a little bit ... they’d had that track lying around. It didn’t make the (previous) album, so they just pulled that out and finished it for the U.S. for Africa (album).
Q: Your songs have appeared on the TV series "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills 90210," as well as in movies. How were you able to feature your songs on the screen? How did it feel to hear your songs on TV?
A: Both of those were quite a while ago, but I still see some residuals from the "Next of Kin" movie. Patrick Swayze is huge in Europe.
All of those cuts came through supervisor relationships. It’s just like here in Nashville, but it’s in L.A. They don’t go pitch songs for artists, they go pitch songs for movies. So it’s people who keep track of the scripts, who read the scripts ... we’d get a script a week.
It was a pretty elaborate and pretty intense effort of trying to get that done, and even with all that effort (we would) still only have about seven things to show for it.
It feels good, still. (But) this one scene...my song’s playing underneath, and (the character) slams the off button on the radio.
Sometimes it’s a mixed bag, but it’s always a thrill to hear your work anywhere.
Q: What do you hope the audience will take away from your performance?
A: Just feeling good. We’re making an artistic effort to get people to feel something that they haven’t felt before. Even if you’ve hear a song 100 times, you might be a different place this time when you hear it than you were the last time and it may mean something different. They kind of grow over the years for us, and hopefully they do the same thing for the people that like them.
We’ll play some new things that nobody’s heard and see what happens. Hopefully we won’t fall down coming on or off stage.