Beth Nielson Chapman
SIL. After reading the first page in your CD booklet, I have to wonder how much more can one person take?
BNC. I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I was so lucky that the brain tumor was caught in time, because it had started to make inroads into being hard to remove. I feel like someone handed me my life back. It’s been an amazing year.
SIL. How did you know something was wrong?
BNC. I got this weird ringing in my ears. That’s what prompted me to get my head checked out. They told me that my ears were fine, but you have a brain tumor. It was a gift that my ears did weird things, or I wouldn’t have known.
SIL. How were you after the procedure?
BNC. I finished my songs that I was having trouble with before. It was almost euphoric.
I remember thinking, “Thank you, thank you. I’m alive”.
SIL. I think that is reflected in your new songs. Did “Hallelujah”, spur from that?
SIL. Is that song about anyone in particular?
BNC. Yes, I’ve been in a relationship for twelve years. I’m engaged and we’ve been through a lot together. That song is about hanging in there with someone you love, going through rough parts and coming out the other side. It’s also an analogy for things like brain tumors coming along.
SIL. In “How We Love”, I really like the line that says, “All that matters is how we love”. Did that line spark the song’s creation?
BNC. It wasn’t. I just found some of my work tapes for that song. I’ve been writing it for years and it had other lyrics, originally. I arrived at that line upon completion of that song and knew that was when I had figured out what the song was about.
SIL. “More Than Love” is my favorite song on the record. I think that you should pitch that to TV shows, etc. It belongs on more places than just a radio station.
BNC. I wrote that with Danny Flowers, who wrote “Tulsa Time”. He did a great job on it.
SIL. You’re coming to play in Birmingham. How many phone calls do you get for tickets when you come to town?
BNC. It’s not a huge place, so they better call fast. My family and friends have already put in their dibs. I’m thrilled to come to Birmingham. I lived there for a few years when I was in my early twenties. My parents were based in Montgomery, so I already had been there a lot.
SIL. Do you get to come to Montgomery very often?
BNC. I was just there last week. I was in for a family reunion. It’s grown so much.
SIL. Tell me about growing up there.
BNC. I grew up there from the ninth grade on. I had a lot of schooling in life growing up there. I played in a band called Harmony that was popular. I took Tommy Shaw’s place when he left to play in Styx. We played in the Bowling Alley Lounge at Bama Lanes. I just saw Tommy at an Alabama Hall of Fame event. There is still a lot of talent in Huntsville, but there just isn’t an infrastructure of a music business. That’s what drove me to Nashville.
SIL. Your parents were in the military. Have you ever re-encountered someone at one of your shows that you were friends with while you lived overseas?
BNC. I have a friend here in Nashville that I hung around with in Germany when I was in sixth grade. She came up to me at the Bluebird one night and held up a picture of us and said, “Do you remember me”? In the picture, I was holding my first guitar. But it has happened to me quite a bit.
SIL. Did you think you migh have benefited from growing up on a military base?
BNC. I did. There were so many creeds, races all in one mixing pot.
SIL. I agree. My parents were in the service and I experienced what you did. There isn’t much room for racism, etc. because there were so many people in such a small place.
BNC. You’re right. Then to come to Montgomery, I had to live with people that had lived in one place all their lives. They only had one perspective.
SIL. You’ve written tons of songs for other artists. Do those songs start out intended for other people?
BNC. Yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve been asked to write for Willie Nelson and people like that. I try to get into his kind of character going and start from that. But I still write the songs from my experiences. I don’t write well unless it rings true.
SIL. Did you write when you were younger?
BNC. When I was in school, I wasn’t blazingly creative. But one time I started my own newspaper when mimeographing came out. I would just make stuff up. When I got a guitar in the sixth grade, I started writing songs right away. The first one I wrote was a cowboy song.
SIL. Did you parents encourage your songwriting?
BNC. I played that first one for my mom while she was lying on the couch watching a soap opera. She had five kids and was very tired. She fell asleep while I was singing. I should have taken that as a warning that it wasn’t going to be easy. Many, many years and six number one hits later, I’m still doing it. After that first song, they really started to get behind it. They never told any of their kids they couldn’t do something. They told me that if I worked hard, I would never have a problem making a living. So I’ve never had a real job and never worried about it.
SIL. Has there ever been a song that you had a hard time giving away?
BNC. No, because I don’t feel like I’m giving them up, I just share it. A lot of people tell me, “I bet you regret giving “This Kiss” to Faith Hill”. But the truth is I’m really glad Faith did it because she was on the road and enjoying hit records, and gave that song more exposure than I could have.
SIL. What do you do when aren’t writing, recording and touring?
BNC. I love art and love to paint. I make jewelry and make stuff up. After I do songs, I go to the other side of my house and sculpt, etc. But I don’t have the time for that because I have owned my own label since 2005 and have to set up tours and things like that.