If there’s anything I’ve noticed as a writer/editor and music reviewer at Country Weekly magazine, it’s that nowadays you can hire someone to write just about anything about anybody (for an additional fee, you can even get it spelled correctly): press kits, media releases, so-called news and, ahem, “bios” so inflated with half-truths and distortions that you can’t tell the forest for the fleas. But, in the interest of full disclosure, be ye hereby advised that no money was exchanged for the words you’re now reading about Chad Roland. I volunteered without even being asked, because I believe he’s deserving of attention and professional consideration. And of course, Chad, being a songwriter, couldn’t have afforded to pay for a bio anyway—at least, not at the moment.
Chad Roland isn’t currently rollin’ in dough, but dang, is Chad rollin’ in ideas. If creativity were considered as collateral, he could be driving a Jag . . . well, that is, if he weren’t vision-impaired. Chad was, in fact, born legally blind. This particular obstacle, as obstacles so interestingly tend to do, gave the boy an acute sense of hearing and, ultimately, a massive ear for music—as it were, the Maker’s great compensation plan.
While he was busy not riding a bike, playing back-yard baseball or reading Mad magazine (OK, that’s a substantial loss there, but I digress), he became enthralled with his dad’s and aunt’s 45 rpm records. We’re talking Motown, Beatles, British Invasion, novelty records, ’70s pop, soul and some classic country to boot. In tandem, Chad soaked up the art of the hit single and the earthy, funky R&B and exuberant rock ’n’ roll of his home turf near Shreveport, Louisiana—a state that contains perhaps the greatest musical melting pot the U.S of A. has to offer.
He once told me, “I swim in all sides of the pool. I don’t care if it’s country, punk, R&B, pop, folk, hip-hop, jazz, bluegrass or gospel. If it moves me, it moves me.” He’s quick to admit, though, that what he listens to and what he writes are sometimes no more than casual acquaintances. As he put it, “I’m all about writing for radio, though I do like to invest what I listen to into what I write.”
I’ve listened to a lot of Chad’s songs, and while he can hit many different bases, his command of the commercial is what comes across most frequently. When he writes with or for younger artists, he absolutely nails the youth and young adult perspective along with its latest keywords and catchphrases—all with an easy authenticity. When necessary, he can nimbly walk the line between country and pop to produce the kind of mainstream hybrid that has become so prevalent in today’s Nashville. But he’s not a one-flavor kind of writer. Chad draws from a deeper well than many commercial songwriters, and his songcraft benefits hugely from his broad musical foundation.
Personally, I was stunned by the wealth of musical knowledge possessed by this 30-something guy who was born just a few months before I started college. He intimately knew music that was recorded well before his time, and knew about stuff even I hadn’t encountered in my 50-odd years as a fervent musichead. In front of his rows of CD shelves, you can probably make out the marks on his carpet that my knees have made during long sessions of browsing.
Chad can be a pretty soft-spoken guy until you get to know him a little. We met in the office building his first publisher shared with Country Weekly, and maybe a month later he sat me down and played “The F-Bomb,” a clever, funny number that delivers a potent punch line, though not the R-rated one you might expect. It took me by surprise that this guy, who exuded virtually no ego, became a commanding presence when he picked up a guitar and sang his songs. Months later, with some prompting on my part, he shared the nearly unbelievable story about how he got signed to his first publishing deal without so much as trying.
While in Nashville to play guitar for a young female singer who’d recorded a couple of his tunes and was performing them at the Wildhorse Saloon, Chad agreed to play some originals for a man who simply said his son might like to hear them. He found himself at the Opryland Hotel in the middle of what he eventually figured out was a mass pitch session for teenage Curb Records act Dylan Robinson. The songs of pro writers were quietly striking out one after another, as Chad recollected, but “The F-Bomb” filled the room with applause and resounding laughter—from his competition, no less. About five songs later, he’d won the room over, made a lasting connection with the young singer and was then whisked away to a Music Row office and promptly given a one-year writing deal by one of the publishers in attendance.
That deal came to a close in March, and Chad—a year older and maybe a decade wiser in the fickle ways of the music biz—is now a free agent with a small but enthusiastic and growing list of industry pros who recognize his ability and potential. Sometimes, they even answer his phone calls. I could go on about all this, but then it might sound like I was getting paid. I will say, though, that it’s exciting for me to watch the process unfold. And frankly, I’m looking forward to the day when I can legitimately say, “See, I knew that was gonna happen.” But I’m already pretty sure about it now.
Just check him out for yourself. The guy can write ’em.
Country Weekly magazine
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Chad Roland has had songs recorded by multiple artists: