Question and Answer with Allen Shamblin
by Cheval John
To say that the weekend was busy for songwriter Allen Shamblin is an understatement. The 1982 graduate of Sam Houston State University was recently recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus along with four others including former SHSU president, James Gaertner at the Distinguished Alumni Gala last Friday and will be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson tonight at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.
We caught with Mr. Shamblin to get his reaction on being selected as a Distinguished Alumnus and on getting inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
What’s the Word: Congratulations on being selected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. What does it feel like?
Allen Shamblin: To be honest, I haven’t quite processed it yet. The feeling is quite overwhelming and it’s more than what I can actually take in right now, so it will be a few years down the road before I can tell you what it was like because I’m still in a state of shock over it all.
WTW: How has Sam Houston prepared you for what you are doing right now?
AS: Well, I think it prepared me in a lot of ways. When I was here, I was a marketing major. In taking business classes, it helped me to understand the business side of life a little better. In the music industry, it is easy to get tripped up in finances and if you are in the industry for over a period of years, you will need to have your business taken care of. So I feel that I was prepared here at Sam to take care of the business side of the arts. That is why they call it the music business.
WTW: Can you take us to the time when you got discovered?
AS: At the time, I was a real estate appraiser in Austin. After coming home from work everyday, I would write songs. I was at Wyatts Cafeteria one day with the lyrics of the song that I had written the night before when Linda Orsak, the sister-in-law of legendary fiddle player Johnny Gimble, was standing in line next to me when I was reading it to my co-worker. I was able to play my song for her and she took me over to Mr. Gimble’s house and we played it. Afterwards, she sent the cassette to her best friend, Martha Sharp, who was the executive vice president at Warner Brothers Records in Nashville, Tennessee. Just meeting Linda in the cafeteria that day literally changed my life. It was a big deal.
WTW: You are also about to be inducted as a Distinguished Alumnus at the Distinguished Alumni Gala on Friday. How much does it mean to you?
AS: It means a whole lot. First of all, I am extremely proud to be an alumnus of Sam Houston State University. I love the school, the campus and the people. After all of these years, to be honored with this award and to be brought back, is very, very special to me. I was not a distinguished student when I was here, but it all worked out and I am thankful that they brought me back.
WTW: Tell us about the time when you wrote the song “He Walked On Water” that Randy Travis recorded? What was it like hearing it?
AS: It was incredible to hear it. I wrote the song at one of my lowest points. I had moved to Nashville and was struggling really hard and the song was a gift. It came in a special way at a special time. It is a personal song to me because it is based on my great-grandfather and for Randy Travis to record it and then to hear it on the radio, it was like a dream.
AS: That was an incredible experience. Mike and I worked on that song off-and-on for a few months and when we finished it, it was an incredible feeling. He leaned over the keyboard that he was playing on and said, ‘Don’t you ever forget this feeling in the room right now. Money and awards will not equal to what we are feeling at this very moment.’ It was great to be a part of that. It was a huge gift and a blessing to have Bonnie Raitt sing that song. She did an incredible job and made the song her own.
WTW: The hit single “The House That Build Me” that was recorded by Miranda Lambert, what was the process in writing the song and afterwards, listening to it?
AS: That song actually started eight years ago when my co-writer Tom Douglas was in Utah. We wrote the song and people were not connecting with it. So we put it away for about five years. Later, he called me and said, ‘Let’s revisit this song.’ So we returned to it and after all those years, the flaws and the holes in the song was real obvious. It took us about a hour and a half to fix it. We took some things out of it, change a line or two and felt that we had made it a lot better. It went on hold, which means that the producer will ask you not to play it for anyone else. It was on hold for Blake Shelton, the husband of Miranda Lambert. While he was picking her at the airport, he had the song with him and played it. When she heard it, she asked if she could record it. We were thrilled about that and it turned out well.
WTW: On George Strait’s new album “Here For A Good Time” you co-wrote a song title ‘Poison.’ Can you tell us what it is about?
AS: ‘Poison’ is about falling in love with things that can hurt us really bad or even kill us. I felt that it was a subject that needed to be explored and to find out why we love things that would hurt us. I wanted to shed some light on the subject.
WTW: What advice would you give to current students here or to anyone in general who have a passion for something, but don’t pursue it?
AS: I would say, whatever your deepest passion is, pursue it with all of your heart . Pray about it and give it a shot. For several years after college, I chased money and I was miserable. When I began to chase my dream, money didn’t matter that much, even though I needed it. I am more happy because I am doing something that I love. We get one chance at this life and it is very short. You do not want to go through life and say, ‘You wish you would have done it.’ Win, lose or draw, step up to the plate and swing for the fence.