Tony Arata: The Dirt On "The Dance" And Four Other Hits

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This weekend, Conroe's Crighton Theater hosts another big-time writers in the round song-swap with Lee Roy Parnell, Tony Arata and J.D. Souther. Looking at their songwriting credits, which include "Love Without Mercy," "We All Get Lucky Sometimes," "On the Road," "Best of My Love," "New Kid in Town," "Heartache Tonight," "Victim of Love," "Here I Am," "Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open," "I Used to Worry," and "The Dance," is like looking at a river of money.

Arata doesn't have quite the high profile of Souther and Parnell as a performer, but he has had a tremendous amount of success as a songwriter. A printout of covers of his works covers almost five pages. Rocks Off caught up with Arata in his hometown of Savannah, Ga., Wednesday and asked him to give us his thoughts on songwriting and on five of his biggest successes.

Songwriting: "If you sit down to write with the idea that you are going to produce something that will appeal to a wide cross-section of people, you'll probably fail every time. Or I think I would. What works for me is to just try to write the best, most honest thing I can every day and hope that I get lucky now and then."

5. "Satisfied Mind" (Randy Travis, Hal Ketchum): "The weird thing about 'Satisfied Mind' is that it's never been a single, yet it is probably one of the most requested songs at my shows. I'm amazed at how many people will request this one. Fortunately when Randy and Hal cut it on their albums, people were still listening to entire albums."

4. "Here I Am" (Patty Loveless): "Patty is such a sweet Kentucky gal and is an amazing talent. Such a real deal. I can't say enough about her and what her cutting this song did for me when she included it on When Fallen Angels Fly. It went on to be the Country Music Association album of the year in 1994."

3. "Dreaming with My Eyes Open" (Clay Walker): "Clay was brand-new when he cut this. It was actually done as part of movie soundtrack for The Thing Called Love [1993]. The song did better than the movie. I always jokingly tell people I gave Sandra Bullock her start. The funny thing is there was only about 16 seconds of the song in the movie, but it took off from there."

2. "I'm Holdin' My Own" (Lee Roy Parnell): "I knew of Lee Roy but I'd never met him and was really glad he picked the song. I never met him until we all went to the No. 1 party for the song. We've written a bunch together since then, and he is one of my true friends."

1. "The Dance" (Garth Brooks): "It seems so odd that the biggest song I've ever had was the first one I ever wrote in Nashville. I was living in Savannah and I decided to try to make a living as a full-time songwriter, so [wife] Jaymi and I moved to Nashville in 1986.

"That song was turned down by the biggest and best for three years. Garth came to town about the same time, and he and I met playing open-mike nights. That's how he first heard it, and he said if he ever got a record deal he was going to cut it. Of course, at that time he was selling boots and I was loading trucks at UPS.

"But he did a showcase at Bluebird and got signed, and sure enough he put "The Dance" on his first album. It was actually the final track. Garth has been very loyal over the years. He always comes back and listens. Ironically this Irish pop band Westlife has recut the song recently.

"I think I'm older than their collective ages, but them cutting the song won me some cred with my two teenage daughters."

8 p.m. Saturday, 234 N. Main, Conroe, 936-441-7469, ext. 201.

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