This interview was originally published on musicnewsnashville.com.
Reba, George Jones, Phil Vassar, Blackhawk, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Lee Greenwood, George “Goober” Lindsey, Tanya Tucker – the list of artists who’ve cut the songs of Bobby Fischer reads like a Who’s Who of country music over a four-decade period. And where so many writers of his era have either passed on, retired, or just gotten sick of the music industry and left town, Fischer is still in Nashville, writing songs with the likes of Robert White Johnson (Celine Dion, Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Faith Hill musical director Jimmy Nichols.
Fischer left a good job and a local following as an artist in his native Iowa-Illinois Quad Cities area to pursue his dream of being part of the country music industry, and was a Nashville recording artist himself in the 1960s before focusing on writing, radio promotion, production and other aspects of the business, eventually even becoming successful in real estate on Music Row. Today nearly 600 artists have recorded Fischer’s songs, with recent cuts by up-and-coming country singer Braden Stover, and by Imaj, a new vocalist who is the daughter of Miami Vice’s Philip Michael Thomas. Writer Rick Moore spoke with the congenial music business veteran at his home in the Nashville suburb of Green Hills.
How would you say Nashville has changed from the days when you had your biggest successes, when you could just walk into a publisher or producer’s office on Music Row and play them a song?
That’s the biggest thing here these days…people today just don’t really want to hear someone’s song as much. I guess I don’t really blame them, but I’ve always been open to hearing what someone had for a minute. It was a friendlier place then. I remember when you could demo something or play something for someone and while you were still sitting there they would say, “Let me take that over right now and play it for (major ’70s producer) Billy Sherrill” or whoever. People were more helpful, they were more about helping you out with the song if they liked it. But even then there were people who were only into it for themselves, so it wasn’t always that way completely.
People used to say that a great song would find a home, no matter what. Do you think that’s still the case today?
I used to hear people say that too. I don’t know if that’s true anymore or not. Hopefully in the long run the song will succeed if it’s a great song.
Are there any writers or artists out there today that you like?
(Pauses) I’m not really sure. I stay up on things pretty well but I don’t really know a lot of them. There’s a big difference in the songs today…there’s very few songs out there like “Live Like You Were Dying” for instance. There’s a big difference in a great song like that and a party song that has a great groove and great looking people…but once somebody has got that ball rolling (with a song like that) that’s what people continue to expect from them. No matter what kind of song it is, if they found a way to do it, to make it successful, you have to give them credit for it.
You’ve received various accolades and awards over the years. What has been the most meaningful?
I was given an honorary high school diploma. I quit school and went to work when I was young, didn’t think graduating was a big thing, which it wasn’t nearly as important as it is today. But when my hometown (Wilton, Iowa) gave me an honorary diploma I couldn’t talk. I didn’t have the words. That, and going back home to be a grand marshal of hometown parades. Those have really been the most meaningful awards.
What do you tell someone who wants to come to Nashville to write today?
It’s not easy but don’t give up, don’t quit. When I first got to Nashville I worked in any area I could find in the industry to meet people, to learn the business, get my name out there. I finally got a top 20 cut, and started getting lots of cuts but not much money really. But eventually my heroes – George Jones, Eddy Arnold, Roy Clark – started cutting my songs. And finally Reba cut “You Lie,” which (has been on albums with sales that) passed the 10,000,000 mark. “You Lie” is a great example of not quitting. I wrote “You Lie” with two great writers, Charlie Black and Austin Roberts. The song was rejected by Arista Records; they even spelled my name wrong on the reject letter, spelled it “Boby.” But then we cut it on an artist we helped get signed to Curb records named Cee Cee Chapman. Curb put almost no money behind the promotion of her album, said the songs, including “You Lie,” weren’t strong enough. So I took “You Lie” to Reba’s office and she cut it and it was huge. (Fischer looks at the gold and platinum albums on his walls as he says this.) Oddly enough though, more people today seem to be more familiar with “Goodbye Says It All” by Blackhawk, which was a big hit of mine also. The point is, never give up. Whether you’re trying to be a writer, publisher, producer, artist, whatever, never give up. Keep at it and you can make something happen. Don’t quit.