STORYTELLERS THROUGH THE SONG: Best-selling country writers The Warren Brothers set a date for Clayton’s symphony | Entertainment

Now consider the lyrics to “Red Solo Cup,” 2011 top 10 country artist Toby Keith, co-written by the Warren Brothers, Nashville songwriters Brett and Brad:

“Red solo cup uh huh / I fill you up / Let’s party / Let’s party / I love you, Red solo cup / I lift you up …”

It’s not Shakespeare, and even Keith himself, in an interview with CMT, said the song is “stupid, but really great.”

Even more awesome, though? The guys who wrote it, telling the story behind it and playing it in front of a symphony orchestra, which is exactly what the Warren Brothers will be doing on Saturday night at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the campus of Maryville College.

“It’s a really cool experience, even outside of what we’re doing, because when you put the symphony on with country songs, it’s hysterically phenomenal,” Warren recently told The Daily Times. “We play with the symphony behind us, and we only do this kind of show four or five times a year. But it’s like a whole symphony behind the songs we wrote, so here we are, some Florida rednecks, while the symphony plays a score for ‘Red Solo Cup’.

The siblings (Brad is 2.5 years older) grew up in a strict religious home in Florida, and while their father enjoyed some classic countries – Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins were on regular rotation – most of the music they did. the Warrens were listening to was from a bent Christian. With their two older sisters, they were to play an instrument and perform at church, but once he heard a friend play “Sweet Home Alabama” Brad Warren became addicted to the guitar.

He eventually formed a band with friends, enlisting Brett to play the drums and sing. It was in these early bands, which started out as Christian rock projects before morphing into an assortment of other styles, that the guys recognized their songwriting talent, Warren said.

“I remember the first little song we heard on radio in Tampa was called ‘Blue Eyes’, and I can tell you why we started writing exclusively together,” he said. “In our band, me, Brett, and the bass player would all write and then bring our songs to the band, and it got a bit controversial what songs we were going to play or record.

“The songs we were writing together were the best we’ve had anyway, so we realized that if we wrote together there wouldn’t be any arguments over which songs we were going to record because they were both our own.” songs. That was 25 or 30 years ago, and so far we’ve written about 2,000 songs.

By the mid-1990s, they were big enough that a manager landed them a development contract with A&M Records, and while their trip to Los Angeles to play a showcase never came to fruition, it kindled a fire in them. to do more, and in 1995 they moved to Nashville. Two years later, they signed a contract with BNA Records, and the following year released their first album as recording artists: “Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World”, which placed three singles in the Top 40 of country radio. Live, they hit the road with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, among others.

While they loved to play and still do, they liked to party a little more, and by 2005 their music careers were in turmoil and their drinking was out of control. That year, they both got sober and wrote a song Hill placed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart: “The Lucky One”.

“It was our first break on the radio, and we had been sober for six or nine months,” Warren said. “When we got the first royalty check for being on the radio, we both went, ‘Oh, yeah, we’re songwriters now! We wanted to spend more time with our families, but we still loved music and we were still talented, so it was a life choice that became a career choice.

“At the moment none of us want to be recording artists. We love to be songwriters and we love to perform the songs we wrote, but let’s let guys like Tim McGraw do the ACM (Academy of Country Music) Awards.

In 2007, McGraw did just that with a song he and the Warren brothers wrote together: “If You’re Reading This,” a letter from a deceased soldier to his wife. The siblings knew they had something special on their hands when they started writing it, and they immediately called McGraw and invited him to help them finish it.

“We went to his place, and we all wrote, and we all kissed afterwards, because it was just a really big kind of song, and it just spilled out,” Warren said. “About three weeks later, he played it at the ACM Awards, even though he didn’t have it on an album, and his current single was at # 10. The only recording was this live recording, and everything everyone screamed out their eyes. He went to No. 3 on the charts and was nominated for a Grammy, all from that live recording.

“Back then, we just knew it was special. We didn’t care if it was a hit or anything; we just needed to write it down, because a song like that means something to a lot of people. We receive many families of deceased soldiers who tell us that they play this song at the funeral.

Some songs, he added, appear as divine gifts from a spiritual muse. Others, like “Red Solo Cup,” are written during wacky moments where the brothers and their co-writers joke around. And for every hit they’ve written – McGraw’s “Felt Good on My Lips” and “Highway Don’t Care”, Keith Urban’s “Little Bit of Everything”, “Anyway” and Martina’s “Wrong Baby Wrong” McBride, Dierks Bentley’s “Feel That Fire” and Jerrod Niemann’s “Drink to That All Night”, among others – there are dozens more that end in deep cuts on records from everyone, from Luke Bryan to Lady A to Jason Aldean to Billy Currington to Skynyrd.

On Saturday night they will share some of these songs and the stories behind them. Gambling isn’t their bread and butter, but it’s still something they love to do, Warren added. They mostly do corporate gigs these days, playing 25 to 30 shows each year, but gigs with the symphony are even more special, he said.

“It’s just amazing, and we’re as entertained as anyone in the crowd,” he said. “There is a certain segment of the population that has discovered the singer-songwriter as a thing, and they love to hear these stories. There is so much to how these songs reach artists and the radio that they are all little miracles.

Steve Wildsmith was editor and writer for the Daily Times for almost 17 years; A recovering drug addict, he now works in media and marketing for Cornerstone of Recovery, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Blount County. Contact him at

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