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Country music legend Loretta Lynn records Gainesville man's song
Brenau executive-in-resident Bruce Burch penned 'Wine into Water' 20 years ago
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Bruce Burch, executive-in-residence at Brenau University, shows his framed records that include songs he wrote. Burch discovered his song, “Wine into Water,” was covered by country music legend Loretta Lynn when reading a story about the artist in Billboard magazine. The song is featured on her new album, “Full Circle,” which was released last month. - photo by Erin O. Smith

It was a typical day in September for Bruce Burch, until he stumbled on an article in Billboard magazine.

The entertainment magazine reported his song, “Wine into Water,” had been covered by country music star Loretta Lynn and would be featured on her new album, “Full Circle,” which released March 4 in stores.

The news stunned him at first.

“Obviously, I was excited,” said Burch, who then double checked it was actually his song. “It’s happened before, where they said my song would be on the album, but then it didn’t work out.”

While the Gainesville native found out his music was being used for the country star’s first album since 2004 in the fall, he limited his news to friends and family. Burch said he wasn’t sure his song would actually be used on the album.

But when Lynn’s album was released last month, the song was heard loud and clear.

“It’s a blessing to have a song that’s 20 years old and have it be rerecorded,” Burch said.

The songwriter first became interested in country music when he listened to “For the Good Times,” by Kris Kristofferson. The Country Music Hall of Famer inspired Burch to get into the country music scene in the first place. Then he later ended up working with Kristofferson, who is also an acclaimed actor and Grammy winner.

“It is an honor to know him,” Burch said in a new release from Brenau University, where he works as executive-in-residence.

Burch had other successes in the world of country music. One of his songs, “Christmas Carol,” was cut by the Oak Ridge Boys in 1982. Other big names such as Reba McEntire, Billy Joe Royal, Faith Hill and Wayne Newton have recorded his songs.

But it’s “Wine Into Water” that has proved to have staying power. Burch wrote “Wine Into Water” in 1995 with singer T. Graham Brown, when Brown was dealing with an alcoholism problem.

“I was just cutting the grass one day, and the lyrics came to me,” Burch said. “I knew I wanted to write this song with (Brown). It came together pretty quickly — we wrote it in one sitting. It just fell out of the sky.”

Lynn felt connected to the song as well. Her late husband, Oliver Lynn, struggled with alcoholism, according to an interview the singer did with The New York Times.

“I don’t see nothing wrong with drinking, but when you get hooked on it, it’s time to do something about it,” Lynn said in the interview. “I would’ve liked to have sung (“Wine into Water”) to my husband.”

The song has been recorded by other artists, but Lynn is the most recent to record it. She has performed the song for the past two decades on her tours. Lynn, a four-time Grammy winner, is best known for her song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

“Finding out my song is on her album means more to me than anything,” Burch said. “Loretta Lynn is one of my heroes.”

The lyricist said he was writing less frequently before Lynn recorded the song on her album, but now it has inspired him to pick up the pen again.

Burch uses incidents like these to influence his students at Brenau. He teaches courses related to the entertainment business.

“What I enjoy most is writing (songs) with people, and that’s what I advise students at Brenau to do,” he said. “I try to teach them you don’t have to play a guitar to songwrite, nor do you have to know a lot of chords. It’s not as complicated as you think.”

Burch hosts the monthly Sofa Sessions, where up-and-coming songwriters are given a platform to perform their songs in John Jacobs Jr. Business and Mass Communications Building on Green Street in Gainesville. He also organizes the annual John Jarrard Foundation Summer Songwriters series, which is hosted by the university.

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