Garth, Strait, Brooks & Dunn - all had an impact on singer-songwriter Chris Cavanaugh who came to Nashville after high school, graduated Middle Tennessee State University, and signed his first songwriting deal soon after. Over the next few years Chris honed his craft as a writer, but always knew he wanted to play and perform. Cavanaugh has played throughout Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, sharing the stage with artists such as Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Frankie Ballard, Justin Moore, Eric Church, and Kip Moore. In advance of his new single "Find You Sooner," which releases on December 1, Cavanaugh took the time to answer his Essential 8+ and fills us in on songwriting, road life, and much more!
Did you have a musical mentor? Who was it and how did they influence you?
I didn’t really ever have one specific mentor...I consider most my mentors to be the nashville songwriters that I grew up listening to and a lot of who I ended up writing with over the last 10 years. I’ve learned so much from them just sitting in the room and watching them think and seeing how they approach a song..
With "Find You Sooner," what was the “a-ha” moment when you knew the song was completed and perfect?
When we got the line “The Only way that I could make it better would be to start forever younger”... To me that just put the cherry on top of the song.
What’s the story behind your album’s title?
My fiance’ actually saw something on Pinterest that was along the same lines as Find you sooner. I think it was something like “If There’s anything I could ever change about us the only thing would be that I would find you sooner.” ....
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
From everywhere. I always try to figure out what I want people to feel when they hear the song, and from there I try and reference anything that I can draw that emotion from, whether it’s a movie or a conversation I had with a friend.
When/where do you do your best writing?
With a cup of coffee and a quiet place with no distractions
Do you write about personal experience, the experience of others, observations, made-up stories, something else or a combination? All of the above!!
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten from another musician?
From my drummer, he told me countless times to calm down because I would consistently play ahead of the beat haha
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
Practice every single day. And don’t just noodle around on your instrument, give yourself assignments. Make yourself learn songs, or grooves or solos, etc.
What’s your favorite food on the road?
Do you have any touring tips?
Try and eat healthy and always be on time. I would rather someone wait on me then me wait on them.
What are your “must have” albums for the road?
Kenny Chesney When the Sun Goes Down, Keith Urban Defying Gravity, Brooks and Dunn greatest hits
How do you kill the long hours in the van?
We usually talk about everything. I mean EVERYTHING….Serious stuff, funny stuff, musicians that travel together usually become like family.
What’s the most frustrating thing about being on the road?
It really just depends on where we are going and where we are playing. I will say it’s frustrating when you have a sound guy that gets your sound “dialed” in and then for no reason at all starts pushing buttons to where by the end of the gig it sounds nothing like what you originally had it!
What do you love most about being on the road?
Playing guitar with great musicians
What has been your biggest struggle so far?
Learning to drive, text, eat, and follow the gps, and rehearse on the way to a gig all at the same time
What has been your biggest success?
I don’t have a particular “success” that I look at, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to go out the last several years with just me and two musicians. In a 3 piece band, there can be no weak link, everyone has to know their parts and it has taking relentless hours of practicing guitar parts for me to be able to pull it off.
What’s your favorite venue and why?
The Listening Room in Port Clinton Ohio. It has such an intimate vibe, and everyone always is so welcoming and perceptive of the actual song and the process of writing it. Their hospitality is the best I’ve ever had. Great venue great people
What’s your dream venue and why?
Any venue that has people there waiting to hear my songs!
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Which song of yours gets the best crowd response?
Depends on the bar and the night. My song I’m All About That is always a crowd favorite
What song are you tired of playing and why?
No comment :)
Is drinking at gigs a positive or a negative?
It depends who you ask haha...For me I can’t drink that much without losing my dexterity when I play lead guitar. So for me it’s a negative. For my musicians it’s probably a positive ha
Favorite thing to do on a day off?
Do you have a favorite gift from a fan?
My fans have been so awesome...I’ve gotten everything from boat rides in the ocean to hunting trips.
Have you met any of your heroes? How did it go?
My hereos are mostly songwriters. I’ve been lucky enough to write with all of them. I don’t usually ever get nervous. I’m usually so excited to write, that by time we get together it goes awesome and we knock out a song in a couple hours!
Current recent release you cannot stop listening to?
Kip Moore - Last Shot
Song (of yours) you wish you would have released as a single and why?
Damned if I Don’t - It’s a crowd favorite and i just always felt like there was a place for that song as a single.
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