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Richie McDonald Writes Songs From the Heart

Posted in MusicWorld on March 23, 2006 by

For Lonestar frontman Richie McDonald, no award could mean more to him than one recognizing his work as a songwriter. That’s why the Texas native got misty-eyed at this year’s BMI Country Awards gala when he was named Songwriter of the Year, an honor he shared with Big & Rich’s Kenny Alphin and Harley Allen. McDonald was recognized for the hits “Let’s Be Us Again,” “Mr. Mom” and “Let Them Be Little.”

“It’s one of those moments that I cherish and I’ll never forget,” says McDonald of winning Songwriter of the Year, and though Lonestar has won top vocal group honors from the Country Music Assn. and Academy of Country Music, McDonald says awards won for his songwriting are especially close to his heart. “They are all special, the CMA and ACM Awards, but there’s something about an award for songwriting. Songwriting is where you are pouring out your feelings. You open up your heart.”

It wasn’t McDonald’s first time in the spotlight at BMI’s annual Country Awards gala. He’s received numerous BMI citations and took home the Song of the Year accolade in 2002 for the Lonestar hit “I’m Already There.”

McDonald has come a long way from riding around Dallas in a Coca-Cola truck writing songs while working for the beverage company. “There’s a night and day difference,” he says of his writing then and now. “I came to Nashville 12 years ago thinking I was a songwriter and I found out real fast that I had a lot to learn. You find out that there’s a difference in where you are and where you want to be when you go out to writer’s night and hear great writers.”

He says he learned a great deal by co-writing with Ron Harbin, Tommy Lee James, Gary Baker and Bob DiPiero, among others. “I could go on and on and don’t want to leave somebody out, but these are the guys I’ve learned from,” he says. “They made me a better songwriter.”

McDonald says writing is a passion and, unlike some writer/artists, he has no problem writing on the road. In fact, he’ll frequently invite collaborators out on tours to co-write. “I’m always writing; it’s something I never turn off,” he says. “By the time we go back in the studio, I’ll have 60 songs that I’ve written, but there are a lot of other songs I have to compete with.”

On Lonestar’s latest BNA Records album, Coming Home, McDonald contributes six songs, but he says the group is always open to outside material. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had the success that we’ve had,” says McDonald. “There are great songwriters in Nashville, and that’s all they do every single day. If we didn’t look at outside songs, we wouldn’t have gotten songs like ‘Amazed,’ ‘What About Now,’ and ‘No News,’ songs that have had a big impact on our career.”

On the other side of the coin, McDonald has had his songs recorded by other artists, including John Michael Montgomery, Billy Dean, Clay Walker and Sara Evans, who opens her new album, A Real Fine Place, with McDonald’s “Coal Mine.” “I just want to write a great song,” says McDonald. “If it’s cut by Lonestar, so be it. But if it sounds like somebody else, let’s pitch it.”

McDonald spent seven years as a Sony/ATV Tree songwriter, but now has his own publishing company called Loremoma Music, which combines letters of his wife Lorie’s name and that of their children Rhett, Mollie and Maisie. Though he hasn’t signed any other writers yet, he relishes the idea of mentoring novice songwriters. “I’m looking to [sign] some young writers and nurture them along,” he says. “There are some great ones out there and they just need a shot.”

When he tries to analyze what has made him successful as a songwriter, McDonald says it all comes down to writing about the people and things that are closest to him. “What’s worked best for me is to write from the heart,” he says. “That’s what I’ve had success with is songs like ‘I’m Already There,’ ‘My Front Porch Looking In,’ and ‘Let Them Be Little,’ songs that have really come from the heart.”