By: Kat Harlton
For over 15 years, country star and songwriter Tebey has built an impressive music career that includes writing, performing and producing. Speaking with Tebey, it’s clear he constantly pushes himself to be the best he possibly can be, citing Max Martin as a writing influence and inspiration, “Max Martin is arguably one of the greatest pop writers of all time. Even though he is a pop songwriter, a great song is a great song. He’s the epitome and I strive to be like him, his melodies are classic. Longevity is a key with Max as well because he’s been around for so long. He started off with Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N’sync, and he’s just kind of kept going consistently with worldwide pop hits the last 20 years. In fact he’s still doing it, the new Ariana Grande single just came out, and he wrote it. It’s never ending, it’s shocking.”
Tebey’s resume includes writing credits across genres that include #1 charting songs and multiple cuts for One Direction, Flo Rida, Fifth Harmony, Cher, Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys), Emerson Drive, Jimmy Rankin, Big and Rich, Doc Walker, Jason Blaine, Aaron Pritchett and more. He’s landed 3 major publishing deals and is a respected and sought after writer in Nashville, and yet, Tebey says he continues to surprise fans and peers with his credits, “I think people are surprised to find out that I’ve written songs for artists outside of the genre. One Direction’s a big one, people are very very surprised. If you look at other artists I’ve worked with like Fifth Harmony, Flo Rida, Cher, it’s just really random stuff. I also think there is a misconception when it comes to songwriting and artists, I think that most people think artists write their own songs just because their name is on it. That is not always the case, and is usually not the case, especially in pop music. I like being a songwriter behind the scenes when it comes to the pop stuff that I do. I’m not a pop star, so I’d rather just try to write songs for people who are.”
As a producer, Tebey has taken home 3 Producer of the Year awards for work on his own projects in the past 6 years. Tebey’s artist career, which kicked off in 2004 with the top hit We Shook Hands (Man to Man) and a major label signing to RCA Nashville, took a back seat shortly thereafter to a thriving writing career and then kicked back into high gear in 2011 with four successive full length releases and a quiver of bulls eye hits like Somewhere in The Country, Till It’s Gone, Now I Do, Wake Me Up, Jealous of the Sun and award winning single When The Buzz Wears Off.
In 2016, Tebey took a one-year hiatus to decompress form the stress of the highly competitive music industry. In a recent social media post for #BellLetsTalk day, Tebey spoke of lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression. He works closely with organizations that benefit those who suffer from these afflictions including Greater Peterborough Health Services Foundation and the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
He is especially endeared to charities that help guide today’s youth through mental health issues. “I pretty much wrote an open letter to everybody, and I was like you’re going to see a lot of posts about Bell Let’s Talk, and that’s phenomenal, of course. But here’s an artist, that you guys know that literally was within an inch of walking away from music because I was so depressed. You can have a publicist spin it anyway you want, but the truth was, I was extremely depressed and I could barely get out of bed, and I wanted to quit. So I think when I wrote that open letter and I was so excruciatingly honest, I didn’t know how people were going to react, but the response was incredible, because I think it makes the artist look human. Sometimes as an artist you get put on a pedestal because people see you up on stage with lights and hear your song on the radio, and at the end of the day, it’s important that they realize I’m no different than them. I think there was a certain humility about that post that was really important.”
Tebey says making sure you’re healthy and mentally prepared is just the beginning if you’re looking to get into the business, “Get ready because this is a crazy business, you have to really want it. You have to really make sure you’re in it for the long haul. The music business is very sexy, it’s a sexy business, it’s like a lot of other things, like modelling. Anything entertainment looks great when you’re winning, but they don’t really show the losing. It’s been a struggle, I mean I’ve been in the game 15 years, since I was in High school, and I’m still trying to get my songs placed, still trying to have artists listen to my music, and get radio play. It’s a constant struggle, it never really ends.”
Tebey also cites being unique and not giving into trends as a way of staying ahead of the curve, “Don’t write a song with hopes of pitching it to The Weeknd, that sounds like something he’s already done. He’s already done that, you need to think of what the next step is. Of course artists have their lane that they like to run in, and usually don’t stray too far, but being ahead of the curve is so important, because then you’re fresh. This is a random example, but Since You’ve Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson, when that came out, that mix of pop and rock, that song was so fresh. The first time I heard that song, I was like ‘holy shit, there’s nothing out there like this’. That was Max Martin again, just doing what he does, just writing great music.”
Tebey’s new music comes from a clear head, a sharp mind and a happy heart. “I always just try to write great songs, because production can change. There’s always going to be sounds that are hot right now, but at the end of the day it’s all about great melodies. I just try to write the best songs I can. I usually start with a bunch of songs that I love, then I start looking and thinking can this work for me? Is this song right for what I’m trying to do with this next phase of my artist career? I usually don’t have a theme, because albums are not as popular anymore. There just isn’t the attention span to listen to an album front to back like someone would do with Thriller back in the day. It’s more of a singles market, just with the way things have changed with Spotify and Apple Music and stuff.”
Tebey’s new EP Love A Girl, features many songs that were co-writes with Nashville heavyweights Phil O’Donnell, Adam Hambrick, Sam Ellis and Thomas Archer. “I love co-writing with people, I’m one of those writers who loves to have other people to bounce ideas off of. Even for as much success I’ve had as a songwriter, I’m still very insecure. I still second guess myself a lot, with melodies particularly. I think it’s very easy at the end of the day when you finish a song to say ‘Is that good enough?’. I always joke and say I could have written I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys and I still would have been like ‘man this isn’t as good as it could be.’ That’s OK and it’s just the way I am, but that’s why having co-writers is a good thing and it allows me to bounce ideas off of people. I love working with people that make me better. People who push me to be a better songwriter.”
For more on Tebey visit: www.tebeyofficial.com