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A Little Riff Brings Big Success to Stephanie Bentley

Posted in MusicWorld on August 27, 2001 by

A little verse melody, a little riff, a little chance meeting with a hometown friend led to big success for Stephanie Bentley and "Breathe," BMI's Pop Song of the Year.

While working out in a Nashville gym, Stephanie got a tap on the shoulder. It was her Thomasville, Georgia, friend Holly Lamar, who had just moved to Music City.

Lamar asked Stephanie to sing a demo for her, and they decided to try writing together. "I brought that little riff that I had," advises Stephanie. Holly quickly noted that she had a title for it: "Breathe."

"We wrote it on seven Tuesdays - our regular writing day," Stephanie explains. "We're both very picky and it took several times to get it right."

Winning the top BMI prize was the last thing on Bentley's mind when she arrived in Nashville in 1991 pursuing a music career that resulted in an Epic Records album, Hopechest, spawning country chart singles. "It was such an unbelievable thing when 'Breathe' brought all those awards," she comments. "We pour our hearts out every day, we work so hard, we pay our dues to the max, and we do it because we love it - through the times we don't have any money, through the times that it's in our souls and we have to do it."

Though she rose to success through the country genre, Stephanie grew up on southern rock, folk, pop and jazz and cites such influences as James Taylor, Sting and Barbra Streisand.

"It's fun not to have to be in a box," she says. "And it's fun to write whatever feels good from your heart and just see where it lands."

Besides the platinum-gilded power of "Breathe," Bentley also has cuts emerging from Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, the Wilkinsons and Pam Tillis.

"I feel blessed to be able to do what I love to do every day, and make a living doing it," Stephanie reflects. "A lot of times in this business, it gets in your head that people worry more about the business than they do the music, which is really what it's all about. That's the reason I'm really in the business to begin with."