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Faith, fate lead to songwriting success for Lebanon man

Angie Mayes • Updated Aug 6, 2016 at 11:00 AM

When popular country music singer-songwriter Ben Hayslip was growing up in Georgia, he had two loves, sports and music. 

In high school, he played on state and national champion football teams. Then after his family moved to Evans, Ga., he became an All-State first baseman on a team that won the state championship his senior year. He also played in the Georgia High School Association’s North-South All-Star game with other high school baseball players. He received a scholarship to play baseball at Georgia Southern University. While there, his team played in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

But all the while he excelled in sports, he knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do in life.

“I’ve been writing songs since I was about 8 or 9 years old,” he said. “I didn’t come from a musical family, but my family loved music. There was always music playing in my parents and my grandparent’s houses. I listened to beach music that my mom played, R&B from Percy Sledge to Al Green that my dad loved. My grandparents played Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. I listened to everything from Run DMC to Hank Williams Jr. I was exposed to all kinds of music as a kid.”

After he graduated from college in 1994, he packed up and moved to Nashville to embark on a career in the music industry.

“I had no idea how I was going to make it,” he said. “But I knew I wanted to write. I was friends with Rhett Akins, but he was a young artist who had just signed his first record deal, so he couldn’t help me. I moved on, trying to figure out how to make it on my own.”

By 1996, he had his foot in the door when he received a publishing deal with Don Daily Music, which was a co-venture with EMI Music.

“I went through stages the first 10 years I was there,” he said. “I went back and forth from time to time, trying to decide if I made the right decision. I was getting paid to write songs, but unless you have a hit, you’re not making any real money. It was a struggle, and I often wondered if it was worth it, because I was away from my family. I come from a really close family, and this was tough on all of us.”

Hayslip said if it weren’t for his mother’s encouragement, he might never have moved to Nashville.

“My mom said, ‘you’re young, and you’ve always wanted to do this, but if you don’t do it now, then you might always look back and wonder what might have been. If you don’t do it now, you will never do it. Without my mom, I probably never would have taken the leap of faith.”

He struggled so often with the idea of moving back to his family in Georgia. One night, which was one of his lowest nights, he prayed that he would get direction as to what to do.

“The next day, Jeff Bates called and told me the song I wrote, “Long Slow Kisses,” was going to be his next single. I took that as a sign. That was the last time I ever thought about moving back to Georgia.”

Hayslip has co-written several hit songs, including “Put a Girl in It” recorded by Brooks & Dunn, “Barefoot and Crazy” recorded by Jack Ingram, “Gimmie That Girl” and “The Shape I’m In” recorded by Joe Nichols, “Long, Slow Kisses” recorded by Jeff Bates, “I’ll Just Hold On,” “All About Tonight,” “Honey Bee” recorded by Blake Shelton, “All Over Me” recorded by Josh Turner, “Farmer’s Daughter” recorded by Rodney Adkins “Broken In” recorded by Trent Willmon, “Summer Thing” recorded by Troy Olsen and “Chicken and Biscuits” recorded by Colt Ford.

He also co-wrote Martina McBride’s single “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” Craig Morgan’s “This Ole Boy,” Jason Aldean’s “The Only Way I Know” and “When She Says Baby,” Chris Young’s “I Can Take It from There,” Jake Owen’s “Anywhere with You,” Justin Moore’s “Point at You,” Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This,” Dustin Lynch’s “Wild in Your Smile” and Craig Campbell’s “Keep Them Kisses Comin’.” 

In April 2010, “Gimme That Girl” went to No. 1 on the country music singles charts, the first Hayslip-written song to do so. Other No. 1 songs include “All About Tonight,” “All Over Me,” “Honey Bee,” “I Don’t Want This Night to End” and “The Only Way I Know.”

Hayslip won ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Hayslip has won 20 ASCAP awards and two song of the year awards for “Honey Bee” and “It Goes Like This.”

In 2011, 2013 and 2014, Hayslip received the CMA Triple Play Award for having three No. 1 songs in a 12-month period. Hayslip was also named ASCAP’S 2011 and 2012 Songwriter of the Year. In 2009, Hayslip had 29 cuts by various artists. He now has a publishing deal with THIS Music, which is a co-venture with Warner-Chappell Music.

Despite his successes, he wanted his family to have some of the same things he had as a child. The children were away from their grandparents and cousins, so they didn’t grow up like Hayslip did in that manner, but he was able to give them other things that he didn’t have.

In addition to a hit songwriter, Hayslip also coaches his 10- and 16-year-old son’s travel baseball teams, the Tennessee Prospects and Team DeMarini, respectively.

“I’ve gotten to where I am through sheer hard work. I know baseball, and I also know what it takes to find success in this crazy world. These kids want to play college ball, and I’ve had bigger eyes than that. I want to instill teamwork and how to do things the right way in these kids. I really enjoy being around kids.”

Hayslip doesn’t spend his time trying to be a singer, but he can sing. In fact, he performs at charity shows around the country now and then.

However, the first two weeks of October, Hayslip, and friends Akins and co-songwriter Dallas Davidson become the Peach Pickers and open for friend and country music superstar Luke Bryan on his Farm Tour.

“Rhett and I grew up together in Georgia, and we were both pickin’ on guitars, so we thought Peach Pickers was a good name. But it was kind of a joke. We soon became the first songwriters to have a name and play where everyone knows who we are. When we’re out with Luke, we play to 20,000 people a night, and the fans treat us like we’re the Beatles. We get out there and play 12-15 of our No. 1 hits in a row, and everyone loves it.”

He added they have their own bus and “for two weeks we live like rock stars. But two weeks is all I need. It’s good to get out into the scene and on stage and see the response the songs get. To have 20,000 people singing to something you’ve made up is amazing. It is good to see what they react best to. It helps me as a songwriter.”

Hayslip and his family moved to Lebanon two years ago. 

“We were in Mt. Juliet, and we really liked Friendship Christian School, because we wanted to send our kids to a private school. We had outgrown our home and decided to build a house on 44 acres. The kids can play with their four-wheelers, and they can grow up in a similar way to what I did. They have the freedom to have adventure outdoors.”

He said not all of his children are interested in music, but Hayslip has a prediction about his 10-year-old son.

“He has a gift to do this for a living,” Hayslip said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he became a country music star. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.”

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