TAXI Member Elliot Park's Song, "I Loved Her First" Is Climbing the Charts

By Mike Farley
taxi member climbs charts
Mike Farley: So, where are you from?

Elliott Park: I'm actually from Clyde, Texas, which is sort of in West Texas, near Abilene. That's basically where I was raised. I was born in California somewhere, but my parents moved to Texas when I was very young.

MF: And you still live there?

EP: Yes, I still live there. I went to church, graduated from high school, and still live in the same town. I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and lived there for eight years, then I just felt the desire to move back when I started having kids. We have a large extended family in the Clyde area. I just really like that.

MF: How long have you been a TAXI member?

EP: I guess it would be four years. I believe it was 2002 when I first joined if I remember correctly.

MF: What made you decide to join in the first place?

EP: Well actually a friend of ours called and talked to my wife. I had written several songs and I didn't know what to do with them. And my wife said, "Well you need to do something." I had no answer for her. But a friend of ours had come across TAXI's Web site and said, "Hey, check this thing out. It looks like it can be at least something." And so my wife took it upon herself to convince me to join and we sent a couple of songs in. One of those was "Cotton Dyed Gray" that I had written a year before that.

MF: And how many forwards have you had so far?

EP: Oh gosh, I don't know. I lost count.

MF: So 50 to 60 is probably a safe bet?

EP: Yeah.

MF: Have you submitted mostly as a songwriter or as an artist too?

EP: Just as a songwriter. I've never really had any intentions of being an artist. But nothing's impossible at this point. Who knows what might be around the next corner?

MF: Tell me about your recent cuts and how TAXI helped with that process.

EP: I haven't had too many cuts overall, not in the country venue. But we have one right now that's kind of exciting that was cut, "I Loved Her First." It's starting to stir a little bit out there, and it's really exciting because it's on an independent label and the band 'Heartland' was completely unknown. In fact, they haven't even finished their album. But they went ahead and released the single on the first of June and it's been climbing pretty steadily. Nobody really knows who they are yet, but everyone loves the song and they're getting a lot of requests at various radio stations. It's still on quite a few smaller stations and areas, but the large ones typically follow the lead of what the charts are saying. It's starting to catch people's attention.

MF: So how did you get the cut? How did that all come about?

EP: I co-wrote the song with a guy named Walt Aldrich who has had a lot of success. He's been around a lot longer then I have, and he's had a lot of big hits. I was really honored to get to write with him. And that was the first co-write that I ever had. I had some songs that I had started with other writers that I hadn't finished. But Walt is such a professional. We sat down, I brought this concept to the table, and he just flew with it. And that's how it works sometimes. But that was probably three years ago. And that's how long it takes, even if it is a really good song. Everybody feels very confident in it, but it sometimes takes that long to even get anything going.

MF: And you have a publishing deal, correct?

EP: Yes.

MF: With Extreme Writers Group?

EP: Yes.

MF: Did you get your publishing deal through TAXI or was that on your own?

EP: TAXI introduced me to quite a few publishers and I made a couple of trips out to Nashville after that. And Michael Laskow introduced me to a lot of people and just said, "Hey, I want you to meet some people." He is just really super about that. He doesn't try to pull any strings or steer the reigns, he just said, "I want you to meet people and I want you to make an informed decision." I met probably about 20 different publishers, and I met the guys at Extreme on my second trip. And something felt right about these guys. So I signed with them, and it's been good. It's been real good.

MF: And that's how you got that one cut?

EP: Yeah. And I have done some other stuff. I had the pleasure of writing for some children's scripture memory music, a thing called "SEEDS" that Jason Houser of Extreme has been heading up.

MF: And have you had other songs on hold?

EP: Yes, there's always a song or two on hold and it just revolves. I'm not even sure right now which ones are on hold. I know we just got a couple of holds with Randy Travis for his next album coming up. I've also been fortunate in having holds with Diamond Rio, Tim McGraw and several other big artists.

MF: Do you know how many songs you've had on hold up until this point?

EP: Oh gosh. As far as different songs, probably 20. As far as number of holds, I don't know. I wouldn't even begin to guess. I definitely learned that holds don't mean cuts. But it's still exciting. It's exciting to hear you have a hold for Randy Travis, or Alan Jackson, or whoever. It's exciting. You've got to have a hold before you have a cut.

MF: Tell me about the persistence and patience it takes to succeed in this business sometimes and how that has helped you.

EP: Well, there is definitely a lot involved. I'm real different. I've made it a determination that I was going to do this without having to live in Nashville. So I can't really say from the standpoint of someone who moves and is actually here every day what the amount of persistence and patience is, since I live out of state. I knew it was going to be more of a patient road for me than actually being in Nashville and working everyday toward a goal. But I just didn't want to move my family and wanted to stay around my extended family. So it's definitely been a road of patience and persistence.

If I ever start to generate more interest, that would be awesome. One thing I've learned is if you get way too excited for every hold you get, you're going to get tired after about the twentieth hold. (laughs) You're going to get real tired of getting real excited, not that there's anything wrong with that. But there is definitely patience and persistence involved.

MF: How has being a TAXI member affected your songwriting in general?

EP: A lot. I mean TAXI is the reason I was introduced to people who influenced me to write better songs. Any time you get into something like TAXI, your writing is going to improve just because you have more people who hear your stuff instead of your mother and your father and your brother and your sister. You've got more people listening that are going to give you honest feedback, positive and negative. When you're around the business, it's all about money, it's not just about, "Hey that's a cool song." You have a more, a heightened sense of if it's going to be viable financially or if it's something that is going to waste everybody's time.

MF: Any advice you can give to TAXI members that have become discouraged with a lack of forwards?

EP: The advice I would give to someone who really does have potential and is discouraged is they need to just keep on persisting. I have always been a writer who's been motivated by inspiration. I don't write because I hear there is a need for a song and have to crank out a song for a particular person within the next day or two. I've never been that way and I don't think it will change. So I would say try to stay inspired in some way by writing. Don't try to do what you think people want you to do. You won't be satisfied with the end result, whatever that is. That's kind of a generic piece of advice.

MF: No, that's a really good piece of advice. And you would say the same thing to any songwriters trying to land cuts or publishing deals?

EP: Yeah. And if you are so individualistic that your songs are not going to ever be considered by anybody, that's one thing. You always have to fit in just a little bit. But from on outsider's point of view, you have to bring something unique. The songs on an album, the songs that are just filler songs, those are usually the artist, the artist's friends, and their producer. It's hard to get a "song" on an album unless it's a hit song. It has to have something to offer that's unique.

MF: Yeah, and they only pick one or two of those.

EP: Absolutely. So every song I write, I have to consider if I think it's a hit. If it's not a hit, I'll write it anyway if it inspires me, but I won't necessarily put my hope and trust in that song as being a hit. So that's one thing I have to think about every time I'm writing a song that I want my publishers to pitch. But having a publisher in Nashville is really a great thing. It's basically them being there 24/7. I'm not there, so they've been invaluable in that regard.

MF: So do you write full-time at home too?

EP: No, I actually have a day job. At home I'm a graphic designer. I do that for the money right now.

MF: And how often do you come to Nashville?

EP: I really would love to come more. I've been busy the last six months, and I've had a new baby and I just got through building a house last year. It's just kept me real busy this last year, but I want to try to start coming back. I was coming about four to six times a year. Even that is a little skimpy. It's just good to touch base. I'm different; I write by myself, I think that's my strongest way to write is solo. But then again, my first co-write is the only one that's been climbing the charts. My other songs have generated interest, but haven't landed me any cuts yet. I still feel over the long haul that writing by myself is my strong suit. But anyone who co-writes, they definitely need to be in Nashville as much as they can.

MF: You had another publishing deal on the table though TAXI that you turned down... tell me about that.

EP: Well you know there are some people who offered quite a bit as an advance, and my wife and I talked about it. I didn't want to get into a position where I felt the pressure of having to live up to an advance. That's just, for me personally, debilitating when I have the pressure of living up to something that's already committed to. So that was one reason. The other reason was the people who offered it weren't a good match. Not that Extreme didn't offer me anything, but they were more practical and more reasonable and I respected them for that. And I just felt a good personal connection with them.

MF: So how soon after you turned the other deal down did Extreme come about?

EP: I don't know if it was even the same trip. I guess I don't even remember, maybe between my first trip and my second trip.

MF: Anything else you want to add?

EP: I guess that's about it. If the TAXI members want to call and request my song, "I Loved Her First," I'd be grateful. Call the stations and request it and get another TAXI member as a # 1 in there! (laughs). Right now it's at 32 on Billboard and at 13 on iTunes Country downloads. It's getting some spins and a lot of adds. I'm thrilled to have my first top 40 song, but we might have a top 30 in a week or two. We'll see what happens.

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