Hugh Prestwood Finds Success as an ‘Unknown Quantity

Posted in MusicWorld on September 30, 2002 by

Everyone knows that songwriters should flock to Nashville if they’re writing for the country market, New York to pen Broadway scores and other recording centers for different genres. Someone forgot to give Hugh Prestwood that advice before he left El Paso, Texas for New York City, and, eventually, Long Island, where he currently lives, crafting country hits.

“I don’t co-write, so I don’t have to go down to Nashville much, though I love it,” explains Prestwood. His unusual method has paid off with BMI Country, Pop and Million-Air awards, including the 1991 Robert J. Burton Country Song of the Year, “Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart,” recorded by Randy Travis. “There’s a lot of advantages being in Nashville, especially for co-writing,” he admits. “But this works for me.”

“I had success without moving to Nashville, and turned it to my advantage by creating a mystique about it,” he says. “I’m kind of an unknown quantity.”
After his move to New York, Judy Collins launched Hugh’s first hit, “Hard Times For Lovers,” in 1978, and recorded five more Prestwood tunes. While chasing a songwriting and singing career, he worked temporary jobs and performed in Greenwich Village folk venues. He landed writing gigs at New York publishers, and a number one country hit with Crystal Gayle, “The Sound of Goodbye.” After Michael Johnson reached the top with “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder,” artists and producers sought him out for songs.

Now signed to BMG Music, Prestwood has enjoyed cuts by such artists as Anne Murray, Collin Raye and Trisha Yearwood, whose version of “The Song Remembers When” won BMI awards along with Song of the Year honors from the Nashville Songwriters Association. Recent successes include songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett (“Savannah Fare You Well”) and James Taylor (“The Suit”).

Prestwood also teaches advanced songwriting at the New School in New York. His advice to wannabe country song-slingers? Move to Nashville to pursue your dreams. “There’s a whole colony of my former students who have done that,” says the man who doesn’t take his own advice.