Interview: Patricia Conroy

Patricia Conroy

(August 2017) Patricia Conroy burst on to the country music scene in the early 90’s with a freshly minted debut album “Blue Angel,” which gifted her two top 10 singles, “This Time” and “Take Me With You.” Two years later, her second album “Bad Day for Trains” dropped four top 10 tunes. Her most successful album to date “You Can’t Resist,” two at number one, plus some more top 10. Another record in 1998 and then a Greatest Hits in 2000 and then taking a break from recording, it wasn’t until 2007 she released “Talking to Myself.” And then nothing. No albums. No tours. 10 years go by. I spoke with Patricia from her home in Nashville and asked where she went…

Mb: Hey Patricia. How’s your day?
Patricia: Good! I wrote a song with a fairly new country duo called Leaving Thomas. They’re really, really talented.
Mb: How did you meet them?
Patricia: I got up to write with them a little while ago, on their last trip to Nashville, through their record label MDM. Actually our last co-write is their next single coming out in about a month. This is our second time writing together.
Mb: Is that what you’re doing these days, writing songs for other people? Your last record was 2007, a decade ago…
Patricia: I shifted my entire focus from my career to song writing, I would say, about 6 years ago. I mean, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, a couple of years into that record. It just seemed like it was time to take a different road. I’d had, at that point, a 28 year career, which is pretty spectacular, in my opinion! (laughs)
Mb: And grueling…
Patricia: And grueling! The ups and downs, like crazy. I could write a book! I should! (laughs) It seemed like a time in my life when there was a new crop of country artists coming out and I wanted to be a part of that. I really did. I just didn’t want to kinda “drift off” into nothing. I wanted to stay very viable and in the scene, and I am! It took a few years to gain the credibility I needed as a song writer, but I knew everybody. I knew a lot of the artists that were starting to come up, halfway through my career. So, that was an easier thing to do. I just gradually started writing with all the younger artists. That’s what I’m doing now. I mean, I’m still working with Emerson Drive, right on down to Leaving Thomas, somebody that’s new.
Mb: And on the other side of song-writing, you’ve got people like Reba singing your songs. Do the royalties from that pay for all the speculation on young artists? (laughs)
Patricia: Aaaaahhhhh, certainly doesn’t hurt! (laughs) It felt pretty good. It validated a lot of things for me. I loved the song [God and My Girlfriends]. She actually had it on hold 7 years ago. So, it took 7 years for her to be doing the album [Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope] that, that song really did fit on, which is her current record. She went back to the publisher and said “I want that song.”
Mb: How nice is that?
Patricia: Pretty darn nice! I was jumping up and down when I found out. I mean, “Reba!” Hello!
Mb: Could it get any bigger?
Patricia: The only thing that could top that for me would be Emmylou Harris. She’s my all time favourite.
Mb: Have you ever reached out to her?
Patricia: If it was done that way I would, but pretty much songs have to go through the proper channels to the artist. If you’re lucky “to the artist” but most of the time it gets to their producer. And if they think it’s good enough to play for the artist then they’ll pass it along. Or if you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, that can happen too.
Mb: And that’s where so much of the business is done, between friends.
Patricia: Ya and there’s a lot of circles that are hard to break into. I’ve been kicking around Nashville for awhile now and I’m finally kicking in a door or two. I think it’s because I’ve been working really hard and learning the craft of song-writing.
Mb: So what’s your process. In the studio working stuff out or sitting down with an acoustic guitar and coming up with the tunes.
Patricia: I always have my guitar in my arms when I’m writing, ya.
Mb: So you’re around the campfire…. you’re around your parent’s kitchen table in Montreal…
Patricia: (laughs) Well, it’s different. I write down on Music Row… I write over at my friend’s Dave Thompson in his studio quite a bit because he and I click and we usually bring in the artist with the two of us. That happens with various different co-writers that I feel really comfortable with and we come up with results nine times out of ten. I love the energy in the room of a 3 way write, my favourite. Although, I can sit down by myself, like I did yesterday, and I can write a song. That’s what you need to be able to do if you want to get into the song writing process. Not that this interview is all about song writing, but my advise would be to any young songwriters, is really hone what you can do on your own. Learn an instrument, learn how to write a song even if it’s crazy or silly or not all that good, it’s just process of being able to do that and then bring that to the table when you co-write.
Mb: Have an idea and then comb it out with others.
Patricia: That’s right. I have a list of different hooks I see or hear or people say in a restaurant or I read on someone’s bumper sticker. I get ideas all over the place now. My antenna is fully up. I like to come, like I did today, with an idea. A small melody, a couple lines in a verse or a chorus. It gets people more interested than just sitting around going “So, how was your day?”
Mb: “What’s your idea?”
Patricia: A lot of seasoned artists will ask you “What have you got?” I’m more of a jump right in type. If I’ve got an idea, I just want to get right on it.
Mb: In for a line, in for a dime.
Patricia: Yep, a word for a third. (laughs)
Mb: And, you’re right, this interview isn’t just about your song writing, what about performing? Just one date on your website, the Havelock Jamboree? You’ve left the performing behind…
Patricia: I don’t as much as I used to.
Mb: Not your first time to the Havelock Jamboree though…
Patricia: Nope! I think I’ve been almost everywhere man. Every small town.. (laughs) and my original band, who will be reuniting with at the Havelock Jamboree… that hasn’t happened in a long time because they’ve all since moved on playing with different acts…George Canyon and others and they’re on tour with them. But I called them all, and said “Hey, I don’t know if this could work but, are you all free on this date at this time?” And they all said “Yup!” So it’s going to be really fun!

Patricia Conroy will be performing
Thursday Aug 17, 6:30
at the Havelock Jamboree, Havelock