Phillip Lammonds lives in Pawleys Island mostly, but as one of those in the rarefied air of professional songwriting, he spends a lot of time in Nashville. From the Appalachian Mountains where he was raised, to being on the road with Charleston band The Blue Dogs, Lammonds will soon travel to Greenville for the Songwriters in the Round fundraiser for the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts & Humanities. The self-deprecating, funny songwriter opens up to TOWN.
Okay, first question, Phillip—have you met Taylor Swift?
I have . . . I took my kids to the Opry several years ago. We were backstage, and she was there. My daughter Martha Grace told her that she had fixed her hair just like Taylor’s, and Taylor scooped her up and went to the dressing room to primp and compare.
Thanks for playing along, I just had to ask because she is so huge now. But, seriously, what is it about writing songs that you love?
I love songwriting more than any other job I can imagine. I pinch myself every time I pass the Nashville city-limit sign. Songwriting makes you explore every corner of your passion, your intellect, your wit, and, of course, your imagination. It’s very intimate and revealing at the same time.
What are examples of what you consider “perfect” songs?
That’s easy: “Yesterday” (Paul McCartney); “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen); “Amazing Grace” (John Newton); “Me and Bobby McGee” (or anything written by Kris Kristofferson); “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman); anything by Hoyt Axton.
How did you get involved with the Songwriters in the Round for the Governor’s School, and why is it important to you?
I was asked to be on the foundation board of the Governor’s School several years ago. I always had aversions to the classic auction, snake-oil fundraisers that are so prevalent. The event is akin to being in your living room with the most talented songwriters and performers in the business, with me on their coattails. The Governor’s School offers students with overflowing talent and creativity an inlet and an outlet to foster a passion that, left to smolder, might otherwise tragically burn its own way out.
For which artists have you written?
Hootie and the Blowfish, Josh Turner, Blake Shelton, Lee Brice, and Jerrod Niemann.
How does a good song come together for you?
It’s a little bit like training a wildcat to fetch, or catching lightning in a mayonnaise jar. You are trying to allow stream of consciousness and the craft of art find some middle ground. Usually, me or my co-writer will have either a title, an idea, a hook, a story, a melody, or a groove that prompts, or sometimes forces, further inspiration. We bounce whatever we arrive at around for a while and hope to find the core emotion of the pieces. We whittle, patch, paint, go into labor, and breathe deep, argue, laugh, and cry until it’s either born or it decides it “just won’t get wrote.” Then we go to lunch.