Songwriting Success Was Just Around The Corner: How Could We Have Known?

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I remember sitting in my small, cramped writing studio in Nashville 10 years ago chasing this crazy dream of songwriting…

One day I was co-writing with my two best friends and co-writers, Sonny LeMaire and Shane Minor. We’d been writing together for two years, mostly because we loved hanging out with each other and creating music. No one was recording our songs, but we were were excited about what we were creating and having fun. No matter what level of songwriting success we were having.

When I say I was having little songwriting success, it was even bleaker than that!

My publisher at the time remarked that the combination of the three of us was not working, and I should‰’t spend so much time writing with my buds! But, once a week, we kept on writing in that tiny room. We’d write all morning, go to lunch and come back to write all afternoon. We didn’t know if anyone would ever record our songs or ever achieve songwriting success. Heck, we didn’t know if we’d still have our publishing deals at the end of the year, but we enjoyed writing songs together.

One day I put on a drum loop and started goofing around and rapping like one of our favorite bands, the Red Hot Chile Peppers.

I sang,‰ Going outta my mind these days, like I’m walking around in a haze.” We all laughed. No Country band was going to cut this Rock/Rap style verse. But, we threw some minor chords under it and kept laughing and making up a verse. Then we broke for lunch. While we drove there, Sonny saw a woman with headphones walking down the sidewalk and smiling. He said, “She’s a beautiful girl.‰ Shane jumped in and said, “She might be a mess though.‰” And then it hit all three of us: she‰’d be a Beautiful Mess! We were always co-writing no matter where we were.

We ate lunch in record time and couldn’t wait to work on our new song “Beautiful Mess.‰

We turned it into my publisher, and his first thought was that it was too Pop.

No Country act would cut it. Sonny’s publisher didn’t care for it either. But, 13 months later, Country band Diamond Rio heard it, recorded it and it went to #1 on the Billboard Charts. We couldn‰’t have known when we were writing that this song would get recorded by a Country act. We could‰n’t have known it would spend a year on the charts and hit #1. We couldn‰’t have known it would be one of the top 20 most played songs of the last decade. All we knew was that we loved what we were doing and kept writing! So if you are feeling discourage about your writing progress or lack of songwriting sucess, I hope this story gives you some faith to keep working at it. You never know when success is just around the corner!

Click below to hear the original demo and the radio Diamond Rio version.

Write on! ~Clay



Clay Mills is a 16-time ASCAP hit songwriter, producer, and performer. He has 2 Grammy nominations for “Beautiful Mess” by Diamond Rio and “Heaven Heartache” by Trisha Yearwood. Clay Mills is also the co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Co-writing. 


Original Demo

Diamond Rio #1 Radio Version

21 thoughts on “Songwriting Success Was Just Around The Corner: How Could We Have Known?

  1. Thanks for the story ! I’m enjoying the ones so far you are sending out. Just shows that there’s life in the song when they’re done from the heart. We have to just open our eyes to see it. I get so focused on the moment that I can’t see the big picture sometimes. I just have to stop to see. My attempts at writing that I force usually are not the hat good. I will print them then give a little time and try to listen with an open mind. It can be hard for to be your own critic. But the ones that come naturally without the push seam to be better. I wrote one on the back of a service order once that came so fast you can’t hardly read my handwriting. I only had the music and the first line. Once again thanks for your work here! R

    1. Kenny, songs that come quick can sometimes be good. Often that first burst of inspiration needs a good bit of editing. That’s where learning your craft comes into play. Having the skills down so you can write the best song when inspiration hits.


  2. That song was big when my wife and I first got together…I totally related to the main character and we were indeed in a “beautiful mess”… 14 years later (this July) we are still together and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks to the three of you for writing that song!

  3. Great story of encouragement, thanks Clay and Marty. Really a beautiful song. Thanks for sharing it. Got me writing again, just need to find co writers, musicians.

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