Question of the Week: Belinda Smith

About two months ago, I featured the Belinda Smith / Tony Wood song “Not That You Died” in the encore series. One of the co-authors, Belinda Smith, commented on the post, and in a subsequent email exchange, I asked to do a mini-interview with her for the site. While it took a little while to pull off the logistics, here you go!

Daniel: What is your background? How did you get involved in songwriting?

Belinda: I grew up in West Virginia and my grandpa was the pastor of our church.  He put me on stage very early, long before I could play the piano for myself, and let me sing in front of people.  I bet everybody in the congregation hated that, now that I think about it.  Anyway, I was invited to join a local gospel group probably around the 8th grade and I started writing songs by accident.  It just started happening.  Maybe we were getting tired of covering all the Nelons’ and Hoppers’ songs.

I was probably 13 when I took a cassette of two songs to a Cathedrals concert in Huntington, WV, and gave my first pitch to Roger Bennett.  God bless that man for not laughing in my face.  Instead, he wrote me a hand written letter of encouragement on group letterhead which I still have today.  You can imagine how cool it was when Roger and Scott Fowler chose our song, “I Stand Redeemed,” for their first Legacy V single.

Anyway, when I really got serious about songwriting back in college, a friend from my area, John Darin Rowsey, took some of my songs to his publisher in Nashville.  Niles Borop opened the door for me at Centergy Music, I moved to Nashville six months later, and here we are.

Daniel: Do any of your recent songs cut by Southern Gospel groups (say in the last 5 years or so) have an interesting story behind the song?

Belinda: I probably shouldn’t mention it till it’s actually out, but here we go.  A brand new song that I think people will be hearing before too long (if things go according to today’s plan), will be on the new Legacy V record.  The weird thing about this song is that I co-wrote it with Daywind writer Ben Storie and I don’t recall having ever met Ben.  We’ve written this whole song by email, text, and phone calls, and I wouldn’t know Ben if I passed him on the street.  Isn’t that crazy?  Oh, and I’m not going to tell you the name of the new song.  You’ll have to buy the CD to find out.

Daniel: How can people who’ve enjoyed one of your songs get in touch with you?

Belinda: The best way to get in touch with me is email.  Melmak443@yahoo.com.  I will say, just so we can avoid any awkwardness, that I cannot listen to any songs that songwriters might send.  It’s purely legal stuff, but this way we’re all protected.  For all the songwriters who’d like to further their careers, I suggest www.writeaboutjesus.com.  It’s the best workshop of its kind for songwriters.

Daniel: Thank you!


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42 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Good feature this week Daniel, I have to say that Belinda has become one of my favorite “newer” songwriters in this genre.

    I am looking forward to hearing that new L5 song for sure, I think I might know what the title of the song is though, maybe… 😉

  2. Well since Ben Storie is somewhat noted for writing some patriotic pieces (He wrote “I Love This Land” cut by Gold City) I am guessing that the collaboration between him and Belinda is a Patriotic type song… That is however a guess/prediction 🙂

  3. I thought Kelly Garner wrote “I Stand Redeemed.” Did Belinda have a co-write on it?

    Love the Roger Bennett story!

    • She did. I believe there were three co-writers on that song, but the others escape me.

      • Holding people hostage is illegal.

      • Odd. I wonder why I ever only saw Kelly Garner’s name on it?

  4. New SoGo Fan,
    My name was left off the first run of the pressing on I Stand Redeemed. Not a happy day. It was a clerical error. They fixed it in the second run, I was told, and it did appear on the charts. Whew. ;-P I wrote the song with Christina DeGazio and Kelly Garner at Kelly’s house…after she fed us pasta.

    And thanks for the nice words, gang.

    -b

    • Wow! I never knew that. In that case… fantastic work!

    • Hopefully you will get the credit on the new Gold City cut of it as well Belinda!

      • They had better credit her! If not, their CD is going to get a one star review here, no matter how good it is!

        (Yes, I’m joking. Sort of.)

      • I would actually probably knock off half a star for that kind of blunder… 🙂

      • First time around, sure, me too. But after it’s been done once . . .

      • If I’m reading what Belinda says right, didn’t Christina DeGazio not get credited first time around either?

  5. Very true well I am sure Gold City (or whoever is responsible for writing their CD credits) will make all of this star slashing a moot point… 🙂

  6. Haha! Okay, troops, no ‘half stars’ on my behalf. But, that’s hysterical. I didn’t know Gold City was doing it?! Awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing them with the new line up.

    It’s been years ago, so I can’t remember every thing about that mix up. I do think Christina’s name was included on the first round, too. Someone on staff at my publisher’s office had left my name off, if I remember right, but it was only me, I’m pretty sure. And, it wasn’t like they did it on purpose. Further, all three of us did get our invites to the Dove awards that year for our nom on it, so all was well. …I’m sure we promptly lost to Bill Gaither. ha

    And for the record, Kelly pitched it to Roger’s wife in Staples (welcome to Nashville), and since she actually got the cut, it would’ve been worse had her name been left off the first run.

    • In Staples! Talk about being prepared!

      As I mentioned, I was joking about knocking four stars off for that . . . sort of. Incorrect credits (whether songwriter, musician, or otherwise) have been a long-time pet peeve for me.

  7. Daniel, I’m kidding, too…kind of. ;-p

    Thank you all so much for giving me something to put on my refrigerator. Mom and Dad will think I actually have a real job.

    • Well, it certainly served a good purpose, then!

  8. I have a reputation for writing patriotic songs? I’m okay with that. But I’ve only written three patriotic tunes to date. One of them is the new song I wrote with Belinda that L5 is recording right now.

    And for the record, Belinda and I have met once previously. It was in a writer’s room at Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing. She and Sue Smith were playing an amazing song they had just finished called “Almost” (still unrecorded and looking for a home, I believe). I’m sure she was just too overwhelmed with her own talent to remember everyone gathered in the room to hear her new material. It’s totally fine that she can’t remember me. (Sniff.) My mom thinks I’m special.

    • I Didn’t really mean to insinuate that Patriotic songs are all that you wrote! I really enjoyed “I Love This Land” and If the new one is as good as that one, well then I know I will love it…

    • Ben – thanks for stopping by! Assuming that was tongue in cheek, it was pretty funny! I’m rather curious what she will say once she wakes up!

      • noninsider – Thanks, man. (or woman?) I’m flattered you remembered my name at all. Thanks for the kind words. If you want to hear my non-patriotic material The Talley Trio have recorded a song of mine called “Applause” for their upcoming project. You can hear it on the video blog on their site.

        Daniel – Tongue planted firmly in cheek. Belinda would be disappointed if it wasn’t.

      • OK, great!

  9. Ben, I would really like to talk with you because I love to tell the Storie. 😉

    • Oh, my word! 😆 I can’t remember the last time I’ve had more fun in a comments section here. I should interview Belinda more often!

  10. Okay, in my defense, I was eleven years old when Ben alleges this incident took place.

    …as far as you all know.

  11. Daniel,
    Good interview…

    Belinda,
    One aspect caught my attention. That was the legal mention for not listening to another songwriter’s songs. Is that so you can avoid being accused of stealing another person’s ideas?

    I just thought it was interesting that in one part of the interview, you mention how encouraging it was that another songwriter wrote you a personal note of encouragement for an unsolicited song when you are young, but you basically are unable to do that for another budding songwriter now. The law often gets in the way now, it seems, which is necessary, but also sad.

    • I had been curious about that point, too, and I suspect you’ve hit on the reason.

    • That was my hunch, to avoid accusations and lawsuits. Movie companies do the same thing after being accused of stealing scripts. They just return unsolicited scripts unopened.

    • That is interesting, and the theory makes sense. I would also say that it has a personal perk for songwriters as well, because it can be nice not to have to think of a way to be tactful if a young hopeful eagerly submits something that’s…er, well… less than stellar.

  12. David,
    You have no idea. 🙂 And, I refer people to http://www.writeaboutjesus.com because I have done lots of work through them as well as GMA and NSAI. I had nothing like Write About Jesus when I was starting out and GMA was focused on CCM. These are organizations which could actually place a songwriter with a publisher or get someone a cut. That part of what they do and would be of more service to an aspiring writer than I could be.

    At this point, I have too many friends who have spent $3000 just getting a lawsuit thrown out of court because someone accused them of stealing their ideas. And think about it–in SG, we’re all writing about the cross, the blood of Jesus, grace, faith, etc. So, in accordance with my legal advice, and my own personal policy, I will only listen to songs which come to me by friends or organizations with which I have a relationship (Write About Jesus, GMA, etc.) Most people are good and honest people, I have found, but the ones who are not can be very expensive. You don’t know me, of course, but I’m not a self-absorbed monster. Just gun shy. I think you’d find that many of my peers who are not publishers work the same way.

    And, who are we kidding? If a 13-year old kid gave me a song at some concert in WV, I’d take it, too.

    -b

    • Belinda,
      I can only imagine. Thanks for the explanation, and I’m glad to hear you wouldn’t ignore a 13 year old kid’s efforts!

  13. I had lunch with Steven Curtis Chapman about 20 years ago – when he was just starting out. At one point I offered him a song title. He didn’t pursue the idea, but he promptly wrote it, along with my name, on a napkin so he wouldn’t forget where it came from…I found out he kept a file of ideas and titles so that whenever he wrote something new he could go back and make sure he hadn’t taken sole credit for something someone else had initiated. I thought it was just a nice gesture back then, but later I realized he was covering himself from a legal standpoint too.

    Belinda is right – Christian songwriters concentrate on a limited subject matter and I can’t tell you how many times I see songs on the charts that have the exact same title as a song I recently wrote. Thankfully, titles are not copyrightable.

    • That is a fascinating story – thanks for sharing it!

  14. As I recall, Larry Gatlin (back in the days that he was drinking if not druggin’ yet) found a song title or idea piece of paper in his pocket that was in his pocket. He wrote the song and had success with it. Later, another country songwriter came up and asked why Larry hadn’t given him credit for the idea. Larry realized that the idea had not been his after all. Even though that writer had been stuck with the idea, Larry was mortified and gave the writer an idea He’d been working on and was unable to write or finish.

  15. Sorry about the sentence I resumed that wasn’t complete. 😀 BTW, I also meant to include the piece of paper was in Larry’s handwriting, so he assumed he’d thought of it. That also demonstrates the wisdom with Chapman. Even though Chapman’s situation would be unlike Gatlin’s, he might still forget otherwise.

  16. Larry’s still doing it. :o)

    Did you watch the video on my blog of him singing “Johnny Cash Is Dead And His House Burned Down?” Larry said he wrote that song to the tune of a Johnny Cash song without realizing it.

    • I didn’t watch it, but think I saw it when it first came out.

  17. David, I understand it is hard when creating songs to remember if a tune or lick in your head is something that you just thought of, or something you heard years and years ago. It would be hard to stop I guess if you have music running into your ears so much.

  18. I’d been a nervous wreck if I were Larry Gatlin upon finding out. Great story!

  19. I found the story I told and will put down more details. The song was “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love.” It went #1 and Johnny Lee called Larry that week and asked why he hadn’t been given some kind of recognition for his part in writing the song. Johnny had given Gatlin the song title during a golf tournament. Gatlin had been drunk and forgotten this. He had written it down on a matchbook and forgot about it. He found it two or three days later and wrote it. When Lee called, he profusely apologized and gave him an idea for a song that he (Gatlin) couldn’t write.