Song: “Tennessee Tears


Songwriters: Brent Moyer & Bernie Nelson

Video Editor: Jim Jensen

Videographer: David Swift

Grip: Cindy Nicholson

Recording features: Ottar Johansen, Tore Andersen, Joe Sun


BRENT MOYER Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

CREDIT: David J Swift

Known as the Global Cowboy, Brent Moyer loves exploring the broad perspective of human experience, as he lights the fire of imagination while weaving stories across a wide open musical landscape.


From the wild west of Wyoming he embraced Nashville. Brent Moyer either had a guitar in his hands or a trumpet on his lips. A Berklee College of Music alumni, he has played guitar for Country Music legend Lynn Anderson, and was a cast member in the hit Broadway Show, Ring of Fire, the songs of Johnny Cash.


Moyer has recorded 12 albums of original material, and his songs have been covered by artists in the U.S. and Europe. As a producer and an in-demand studio musician, he appears on a number of CD’s.

We talked with Brent Moyer about his song “Tennessee Tears” and his approach to songwriting, being a session guitar player in Nashville, and success in Europe with his own records.

Credit: Denise Fussell

Credit: Denise Fussell


How did the idea of the song “Tennessee Tears” come to you?

I grew up in Wyoming and when I first got to Nashville in the mid-80s, I met Bernie Nelson—who had also spent some time in Colorado and Wyoming—and we became compadres. It’s been so long since we wrote the song but I remember we somehow started singing the phrase, “Nobody knows why, Cheyenne Rose cries, Tennessee Tears”—and we liked it. We both had that wide open feeling of the West, and the story unfolded from there.


What is your creative process for writing songs?

It varies. Mostly, it’s a musical groove but sometimes I have something to write about, and I build the song around that. I try to find feels and sounds that meld together. Being in a special place or a mood can bring on feelings that can evoke a musical groove and idea.


What songwriting tip would you like to offer?

Is it ever done? Don’t be afraid to keep working on it. Explore every option. Sometimes that can take a while. I had been working on a song “So Not Me” with Casey Kelly (who wrote George Strait hit “The Cowboy Rides Away”) for a few years as our schedules permitted. We had written several drafts, and then when we thought we had it—it turns out we liked some of the earlier ideas better. So we rewrote it again, and finally put it to bed after 5 years.


How do you keep song ideas fresh—and continue to think of new ideas?

Keep an open mind, and be aware of your surroundings. Write down your ideas, and revisit them at different times and places. Taking a break and then coming back to them might inspire a new perspective. I travel and read a lot.

Credit: David J Swift

Tell us one experience where something unique inspired you to write a song.

I was visiting an old friend in St. Petersburg, FL, and we were listening to Guy Clark’s Boats to Build album—and we were knocked out by how Guy could tell a story. That got me thinking about a big fish I almost caught. That’s how the story began but it wasn’t until the next summer in Wyoming that I finished it. My Mom and I decided to take a drive to Granite Creek, one of my favorite places. I asked her if she would drive so I could play my guitar. I just kept at it—trying to make the story come alive and it did, with a little help from Mom. It’s called “The Trouble with Trout Fishing on The Great Divide,” a yarn about a fish who dragged me from the Rocky Mountains across the plains down the Mississippi through the Gulf of Mexico to Florida—only to lose him! (Laughs)


How does where you geographically live or travel influence your music?

I love the West—it’s so big and wide open, which inspires the western/cowboy feel in my music.   Spending time on Captiva Island in Florida at Jensen’s Marina brings out that happy, laid-back island groove in me. And while touring in Europe, I fell in love with Flamenco and Gypsy music. It’s all country—just from another country. (Laughs) Wherever you go and whatever you listen to and have experienced—go into your heart and soul. And I think the more you can travel to different places and embrace different cultures, the more diverse you become as a person—and that shows up in your music.


How has co-writing shaped your music?

When I moved to Nashville, co-writing was a way to get in. If you could write with a hit songwriter, you were more likely to be noticed and maybe get a cut. On the creative side, there’s more fire power. I am more of a musical guy, so hooking up with a lyricist is a great mix. One example: I was hanging out with Anne McCue and she was getting ready to record her next CD. I asked her if I could play her a musical idea I had. She liked it and said she was getting together with our friend Reckless Johnny Wales to write, and invited me to come play it for him. He had a story mostly written that fit perfectly with my music. So along with some ideas from Anne, we had a song, “Dig Two Graves,” on her latest CD Blue Sky Thinkin’.


Who influenced you to pick up an instrument and write?

When I was a little kid, I used to sit and listen to my neighbor Bob Hominy give horn lessons. I started trumpet lessons when I was six years old, and he took me under his wing—taking me to his band practices and performances. The first songs I wrote were when I was learning how to play guitar as a teenager in Wyoming.


How many instruments do you play?

I play guitar, bass, trumpet and a little keyboard and percussion.


What instrument/equipment can you not live without—that helps you write, record or perform?

My Martin guitar, John Pearse Strings, Telefunken mic, and Universal Audio preamp.


Credit Reto Heiz

Credit Reto Heiz

Tell us about any other revenue streams for songwriters/musicians that have helped you continue your career in music.

Getting the big cut is hard. I’ve had a few records here and in Europe. My first cut was a song I wrote with Kostas, “Red Lips, Blue Eyes, Little White Lies.” Ottar Johansen from Norway recorded it and was on his album nominated for a Norwegian Grammy. A few years later, Gary Allan covered it and that actually paid the rent and bought some beer and schnitzel for a few months. I think that cut nowadays would only get you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—with what’s happened to royalties. You gotta wear a lot of hats. I do some producing and engineering, and have been very fortunate to be able to play guitar—good enough to get session work and some gigs with artists. I also have been doing musical theatre with Ring of Fire, the songs of Johnny Cash.


Top 5 Musicians or Songwriters who inspired you to become a musician?

My childhood friend, Allen Allred (R.I.P.)—I learned guitar from him, and had my first band with him. We inspired each other to really want to make it. Also, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Gary Burton (Berklee College of Music), and my mentor Ron Davies.


What PRO are you with?

I was with BMI, but now I am with SESAC because of my friend Dennis Lord.


What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?

Gypsy Passion: New Flamenco (1997) – A Narada Collection

Revolver (1966) – The Beatles

Serving 190 Proof (1979) – Merle Haggard

Where Does the Time Go (2003) – Ron Davies

Music from Big Pink (1968) – The Band


What is your most recent album?

It’s called Tennessee Tears on Brambus Records. It was released in 2014, and we received some great reviews and airplay in Europe.


Tell us about working with Lynn Anderson, and others, where you were part of the band.

Lynn had a great voice and she was a real entertainer. She could bring you to your knees singing “Cry” (originally a No. 1 pop hit for Johnnie Ray in 1951). I gotta tell you how I met her. My buddy Austin Church and I created a TV/live show called Chili Shack. It was a Luckenbach-Letterman, music-fun show. We created different characters for skits, and then would invite up-and-coming songwriters and artists to be on the show. We heard that Lynn had a great sense of humor and liked doing zany things. So probably in 1989, I got her number and called her up. I’d never met her before and she didn’t know me. I told her about our show, and we talked for a good 30 minutes and came up with Lilly LaBamba, the Salsa Queen. Her ex-husband, Glenn Sutton, also came on the show as Blue Water Dave. They were great and were on one of our TV shows. We were on WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville. I got a call a few years later to see if I could sub for her guitar player. My first gig with her was in Omaha—we hadn’t even rehearsed, and the gear and wardrobe didn’t arrive until our second set! I always fly with my guitar, so I used that for the first set. (Laughs) It all worked out, and I guess it went well because that started a stint with her for about nine years.


When did you and Donna Summer cross paths?

When we were doing the Chili Shack, we were at the Bluebird one night, and Amy Kurland approached me to see if Donna Summer’s husband could be on our next show. And Donna was a good sport and chimed in with “Working Hard for the Chili.” (Laughs)


Tell us about your work with the Broadway show Ring of Fire.

I got involved with Ring of Fire back in 2004. My friend Dale Herr called me and asked me to audition. He thought I’d be perfect for the role since I played guitar and trumpet. I said my wife was having her wisdom teeth taken out and I couldn’t make it. But luckily my wife talked me into going, and I’m glad I did. I got the part and I was there from the beginning. We were in New York City at the Barrymore Theatre in 2006 for about two and a half months—on Broadway! (Laughs) That was a thrill and I’m still doing it. In 2009 Jason Edwards, who was one of the main Broadway actors, asked me if I’d like to do the show again.


How are you involved in this show?

We have 10 members in the cast (two women and eight guys), and we are all on stage. And I play guitar and trumpet. The musical is more about the story within each song. If you get a chance, you have to see the show. We’ve done 13 productions since 2009, and we have three more coming up. We’ll be at the Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, FL, October 25 – November 13, 2016; and then with the Arizona Theatre Company in Tucson, March 10-25, 2017, and in Phoenix, April 1-16, 2017.


What is the best advice someone has given you?

I studied trumpet at Berklee College of Music. I had class with Gary Burton, and I thought the class was way over my head. He said, to just hang in there and “Listen, and when you hear something, just jump in.” That was the best advice I could have gotten.


What’s next?

I’m about three-fourths finished with a new album. I’m hoping to release it early next year. I write and play with Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby—he’s the guitarist from the English rock band Strawbs. They have not only been special friends, but very supportive of my career. The new single from the upcoming CD, “We’re Walking Each Other Home” was written and performed with Cathryn and Brian. You can find it on iTunes.


For more info and to stay updated:


Brent Moyer with Tore / credit: Ken Gray

Brent Moyer with Tore / credit: Ken Gray

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