A Good Country Song
Joe Darwin a Songwriter of the Year nominee
Pulling me – Pulling me to Texas. Yeah, I’m gone – I’m gone – I’m gone to Texas. It’s Texas on my mind and the late-night calls. It’s the miles between us and the steps to fall. If you could hear the silent wish I make – for Texas.
For seven and a half years, two or three times a week, Shreveport’s Joe Darwin drove back and forth to Longview, Texas.
Not for work, but for love. Putting 50,000 miles on his 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee paid off when Joe and his girlfriend, Diana, married in 2021.
A (semi) long-distance relationship.
Rubber meeting road. Early mornings and rainy nights. Sounds like a story that would make for a good country song.
Darwin thought the same. “Gone to Texas” has Darwin, vice president of logistics for AFS Logistics, a Top 10 nominee for Songwriter of the Year by the Texas Country Music Association (TCMA). The winner, from 342 songs entered, was announced on Nov. 12 during Texas Country Music Weekend at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
“As I researched it, the other nine songwriters are professional, touring musicians and singer/songwriters,” Darwin said. “So, I thought that was a real honor that (the TCMA) saw something in the song and the lyrics and the melody that put it up there with really some of these other accomplished songwriters.”
Darwin met Diana, a first-grade school teacher, while filling in for a band as its drummer. The group was playing at a steakhouse in Longview, where Darwin sat at the bar and had dinner before the show.
“She was there with several of her teacher friends. We just happened to strike up a conversation. I never told her I played in the band. That’s not my day job, so I didn’t want anyone to think I was a starving musician.”
Darwin was only with the band for a couple of months, but that was long enough for him and Diana to get to know each other.
“One thing led to another. During breaks I would go sit at the table, and we would chit chat. Ultimately, it led to going out a few times. The wheels kept turning, the ball kept rolling downhill, and ultimately, we dated for seven and a half years while her girls were in school. She wanted them to be out of school before she moved anywhere.”
A song about a long-distance relationship could lead to Shreveport musician Joe Darwin being named Songwriter of the Year.
Thus, the 90-month Interstate 20 courtship gave Darwin time to contemplate while sitting behind the wheel.
“The song is written about all those hours and 15- to 20-minute drives, thinking about, “‘Am I doing the right thing? Is this the right thing? Is this the right thing for me? Is this the right thing for her? (All) the complex emotions that come into play, and ultimately coming to the realization, ‘Yes, this is the right path to take. I’m on the right road.’”
“Gone to Texas” is part of an eight-song CD titled “The Joe Darwin Project — Sixty Years On.” It was the folks at Steel Records Studios in Grand Cane, La., where the CD was recorded, who submitted the song for Songwriter of the Year consideration.
“I’m from Louisiana, but I’ve played music in Texas my whole life,” said Steel Records Studios’ co-owner, producer and engineer Kyle Roop. “As soon as I heard the song, it reminded me of going down (Interstate) 20, sunny and 75, with the windows down, just jammin’ this song. I could just see that scene of myself in a car, windows down, going to Texas.”
Roop doesn’t think the TCMA judges will use a secret formula when deciding who wins Songwriter of the Year.
“I think, ultimately, it’s hearing a song and wanting to hear it again. I call that “replay value.” If a song doesn’t have replay value, it’s not a great song. If you hear a song and you want to hear it again, then it’s a great song. It doesn’t matter who produced it, who wrote it, who sang it. If you want to hear it again – for me, if I was a judge – I would ask, ‘Do I want to listen to this again?’”
Darwin played around with music most of his life. He played drums in high school and college and in the following years, earning a little pocket change along the way.
“I was self-taught on piano and guitar. I would hear melodies in my head and begin to plunk them out and figure out chord structures. I just taught myself basically from melodies in my head how chord structures are formulated. I began to put some things down on paper. None of it was that complex, but it was just melodies in my head, and creating the chord structure to match the melodies in my head. Based on what I felt like what the tone of the song was, I crafted lyrics to match that tone or feeling or emotion within that melody.”
Darwin says “Gone to Texas” – which has an accompanying music video on YouTube – has been downloaded on Spotify and Pandora at least 500 times. Darwin says he’s received a lot of compliments from people who have heard the song. But none of that has the 62-year-old thinking about going to Nashville to try and make it big.
“It was a moment in time, something I enjoyed doing, understanding I’m never going to make a living at it, nor did I ever intend to. It was a fun project to undertake, complete and see the results of. I don’t think I have the desire to put forth the amount of effort it would take to reproduce something else of a similar caliber. You have to remember I wrote this stuff over 10 years. I’ve written maybe 40 songs, and we chose eight of them.”
Darwin is amazed how band members can spend their whole life writing songs for a successful first album, then be expected to turn out a second album of equal caliber just months later.
“You have to be inspired. Things have to come to you. I’m not that proficient where I can just sit down and start pumping things out. Things come to me maybe sitting on an airplane. I hear a melody in my head, and I will sing it into my phone. I will come back home and plunk it out on the piano and figure out what the chord structure would be to match the melody. It doesn’t happen that often.”
So, Darwin will settle for a bit of hometown recognition.
“It’s been somewhat surprising, and really an honor that others have liked it, they consume it, and it’s been recognized as something way beyond whatever I thought it would be.”