Songwriter Jim Pollock fell for country music when he was 23. Or rather, it "hit me," said the Conway native, whose family relationship with the gospel-infused Statler Brothers drew him toward a lifelong passion.
More than anything it was the lyrics that caught his ear. "The melody’s important, but the message that the song sends to the listener, and what it makes the listener do…" he said, his voice trailing off. "It might make you stop in your tracks; it might make you pull off to the side of the road."
That fascination has led Pollock and his fellow songwriting buddy Terry B. Smith to start a unique music promotion business right here in Conway.
It all began about a year and a half ago, when Pollock and Smith found themselves at a "house concert" in Perryville, paying 18 bucks apiece to see an obscure country artist.
"It’s in this woman’s living room, there were 42 people there. And this guy put on a show that I’ll never forget the rest of my life," Pollock said, shaking his head. "He sang this song about Schnectedy."
Riding back in Pollock’s pickup truck, glowing from the show, the two men hit on an idea: Why couldn’t they put on shows like that? And so they did. Calling their venture songriderslive.com, the pair have steadily compiled a list of roughly 1,000 aficionados interested in attending intimate settings to see songwriters of some of country’s biggest hits, but who may be otherwise obscure to listeners. The venue might be someone’s backyard, Pollock said, living rooms, country clubs.
"It could be somewhere that means nothing to anyone."
Thus far Pollock and Smith have arranged two shows, both at the Conway Country Club, attracting about 60 people apiece. The next show will feature the Nashville songwriting trio Hits & Grins on July 26 at Kings Live Music on Front Street.
The group consists of Steve Dean, a longtime Nashville songwriter who has written six No. 1 hits for artists such as George Strait and Reba McEntire.
Dean is joined by Bill Whyte, a longtime radio DJ and comedian, and Victoria Venier. The trio will perform popular songs they have written, heavy on three-part harmonies and interspersed with comedy and stories behind their work as songwriters.
On a bar stool in Kings last week, scoping out the venue, Pollock sat with a look of wonder as Steve Dean recounted how he wrote Strait’s No. 1 hit, "Roundabout Way."
Dean, a Little Rock native, had cycled through a list of song ideas with his writing partner in Nashville that day when the title "Roundabout Way" caught his eye. Things just flowed from there.
"We wrote the first verse and then when we got to the chorus, we came up with this hook on ‘Roundabout Way.’ It was, ‘I still miss her in a roundabout way, around about the time midnight rolls around, that’s around about the time my spirit starts falling down,’" Dean remembered.
"And that was the hook ... the muse came down and slapped us in the face."
The story just confirmed why Pollock started in the first place. "I would rather bring the guy that’s written all of his hits to Conway than George Strait, because I think there are people out there that want to know, "What the [heck] was that guy thinking when he wrote that song?’"