Chart-topping songwriter

Published 6:58 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2005

By By Janet Little Cooper
Atmore native Patricia (Pat Harrell) Smith remembers sitting on the front porch of her home in Canoe listening to the Grand Ole Opry with her father and her brother, Marvin.
The young girl had no idea that she would one day be writing and publishing songs that would be heard on the radio. She certainly didn't know that her words would be topping the country music charts as the number one song.
Smith was recently recognized at the 2005 Inspirational Country Music Awards Show for her # 1 song, "I Love You Son" recorded by country music singer Jackie Cox. The song has topped the charts for 15 straight weeks. She was also nominated for the coveted Dove award for her song, "But Then" recorded by Young Harmony.
Smith, who came from a musical family, remembers singing in church as a child, but didn't start writing music until she was in her late 30's. She began writing poetry somewhere around 9 years old, but never thought about writing professionally.
She quit school at the young age of 15 when she was in the ninth grade at Escambia County High School.
She would go on to marry at age 16, giving birth to three children and working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, at her husband's family business in North Baldwin County. It was then that she started thinking seriously about writing professionally.
"I remember asking my first husband what he thought about me trying to be a writer and he said, 'Do you really think a girl from Canoe can compete with folks in Nashville?'" Smith said. "Well, yes, I did think that. But that's pretty much when the pad and pen went into the desk drawer. I still wrote, but it would be years before I ever tried to do anything professional with my writing."
At some point during this time, Smith worked for the Atmore Advance as receptionist for then publisher Bob Morrisette. She eventually had to return to her husband's grocery store leaving the Advance.
She worked for 18 years at this rigid pace until she and her husband divorced leaving her in a downward spiral of low self-esteem and unworthiness.
"I tried to find that missing piece, that self-worth in a bottle," Smith said. "But it simply took me farther away from what my mom and dad had always taught me, that there is no strength or self-worth without Jesus Christ."
Songwriting would soon become the therapy Smith needed to help her cope with her low self-esteem, and the many other problems including depression that resulted from her past.
"It is through my music and my relationship with God that I have learned that forgiveness is the key and without that ability, you will forever be searching for some kind of peace."
Smith's peace came when she married her soul mate, Larry Smith, who is from Pensacola, Fla.
He began to encourage her to pursue her dream of music. She did, working through the mail, or by phone and even writing online. Smith would travel to Nashville occasionally, but soon realized she would have to be there full time to succeed.
"It wasn't until about three years ago that he (Larry) said to me one day that if I wanted to be successful that I was going to have to go where the music was," Smith said. "He was right. As soon as I moved to Nashville and opened my office on Music Row things started to happen and its been a sweet ride ever since."
Smith has made an impression on the Nashville community in a short time. In three years time, she is already experiencing great success as a songwriter and publisher.
"I got started in Nashville by knocking on doors," Smith said. "Hard, really does not describe this business. Almost impossible would be more appropriate. There are literally thousands of singer songwriters walking the streets of Nashville. The sad part is that there are thousands of sharks out there waiting; ready to prey upon them by telling them that they can be 'the next big thing'. When in fact, the chance of anyone getting a #1 song or becoming the next Tim McGraw is less likely than getting struck by lightning or winning the lotto. The odds are not good."
Smith soon became known in Nashville as a person who has an ear for hearing a great song and from that she opened her own publishing company, NextNumberOne Music Group and Pitchy Women Publishing.
"I now have seven staff writers who write for me and I also represent a couple of pro writer catalogs," Smith said. "I am presently working with Jim Robinson of Prodicalsongs Ministry representing his songs."
Smith represents a talented roster of artist and songwriters who have a combined total of 40 top ten cuts and over 15 top 40 cuts in Nashville and Canada. Her writers have had George Strait, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, Aaron Tippin, Toby Keith, Alabama, JoDee Massina, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney, just to name a few.
Smith's writing style includes country, bluegrass and Christian, but no matter what genre she writes, she gives all the credit for her success to her heavenly father.
"God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways and I was about as ordinary as you can get, but through my songs, he has in some small way, changed the lives of many people. That is worth more to me than any gold record on my office wall. I believe that everybody has God given abilities and mine, as small as they may be, are definitely in the musical field. And, if that is my 'little light', I hope that it shines bright enough for someone to receive a blessing from what I do."
Inspiration for Smith's many lyrics comes from life experiences she has had or from other people she has met through life. She listens to people, their problems or praises and starts thinking of how to turn their story into a song.
She keeps a 'hook book' with her at all times along with a mini cassette to jot down something she has heard that strikes her as, 'Man, What a hook!' A hook is a title or theme for a song.
"There is an abundant satisfaction in watching a song come to life on paper, then to see it take wings and fly through audio production," Smith said. "But nothing can match the feeling of having someone call or email and say, 'That song really touched my heart'." That is what happened with Smith's #1 hit, "I Love You Son". The song is being used in several prison ministries today.
"Writing this song has helped me to heal and understand more about my Heavenly Father's love for me," Smith said. "It has given me a better perspective on God's love, mercy, and forgiveness. It has also helped me to learn to forgive others. My mom and dad were honest, hard-working Christians who devoted their lives to God and family. They never lived to see or hear one of my songs make it on the radio, but I truly believe that both of them were looking down with pride when I walked up to the podium at the Inspirational Country Music Awards to give my acceptance speech. I couldn't help but think, 'Look at me mama, I am worthy.'"
The song, I Love You Son came to Smith one night as she lay in bed thinking of her only son.
"I was missing him and had not seen him in quiet some time and I thought about how much I loved him. He was my baby and only son. I wrote the title down in my hook book and did nothing with if for several months. One of my friends lost his father some time later. He called and said that he needed to write something to honor his dad. We started e-mailing the lyrics back and forth that I had already started and in about 15 minutes pretty much all of the song was written.
Smith's engaging personality and deep passion for music has contributed to her success as a writer and publisher in Nashville. One of her favorite parts of her job is being able to get out and meet people.
"I love people and I am good at what I do. I have always been a people person and I don't take no for an answer. So when the door shuts in front of me, I just look for a back entrance."
Smith also enjoys playing her songs and her writer's songs for the artist. She also loves the challenge of going through hundreds of cd's looking for that one great song. She equates that experience with mining for gold.
Moving to Nashville to pursue her music career took her away from the home and those she loved most. She says there were times when it wasn't easy coping with her loss of family, but now she feels the faith and understanding she's found, has given her a reward for that simple decision to do what she thinks God had wanted her to do all along.
Smith is a member of numerous country music organizations and associations. She also does booking of artists for a myriad of venues and functions such as clubs, concerts, and showcases.
She is also involved in and supports the Nashville music community through charity events and songwriter sponsored venues and dedicates a certain portion of her royalties to St. Judes Children hospital, her favorite charity.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox