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Ten Questions With Mel Tillis

July 18 2012

Mel Tillis is a true Renaissance man - a songwriter, recording artist, film and television actor, painter and humanitarian. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, his career has spanned more than six decades.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame?
I feel extremely honored to be in such good company.

Q: How did you get started writing songs?
In 1956, Wesley Rose told me on my first trip to Nashville that I needed to try and write songs if I expected to make it in Nashville. He told me I sang well, but the stuttering may hold you back. So I gave it a try!

Q: How did you get your first song recorded?
I was just out of the Air Force and was working as a fireman for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. I went to see Ray Price at a venue in Tampa and through a friend of Ray's, I got to meet the singer. I sang, "I'm Tired" to him, and he liked it well enough to take it back to Nashville.

Q: Where does the inspiration come for your songs?
Wherever my mind takes me.

Q: How do you tell a good song from a great one?
There's no formula for good vs. great. Depends on the listener. For me, it's whether I like it or not.

Q: What's one lesson you've learned about songwriting that you can pass on to future songwriters?
How enjoyable it is to create a little jewel and be honored by the fans, the media and your peers.

Q: Are there any songs that you wish you had written?
Yes, "Wind Beneath My Wings." What a great song. Congratulations to the writers, Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley.

Q: Where were you when you heard your first song on the radio?
While still living in Florida and working as a fireman on the railroad, I would listen to Eddy Hill on WSM most every night while waiting to go to sleep. He played my first song recorded by Webb Pierce, "I'm Tired." (#2 on Billboard)

Q: Given everything it has taken to be a successful songwriter, would you do it all over again?
In a heartbeat.

Q: What advice do you have for up and coming songwriters?
Burl Ive's once told me, "If you want to be a songwriter or novelist, take time to sit down and write one hour a day. At the end of the year from the day you started, you would have 360 days of experience. How true.

For more on Mel Tillis, visit his website: