Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Chris Hillman

Ep. 112 - Chris Hillman

"So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" - A Country-Rock Legend


Scott and Paul talk about the Motley Crue movie and the pros and cons of musical biopics.

PART TWO - 9:45 mark

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and multiple Grammy nominee Chris Hillman joins us to talk about his songwriting with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Desert Rose Band, and much more.

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Scott and Paul head up to Ventura to meet Chris Hillman and find out how he got hired to play bass with The Byrds without ever having played bass before; the reason that Miles Davis and Bob Eubanks deserve a lot of credit for The Byrds’ success; how playing bass on sessions for South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela inspired Chris to write his first songs (which became country-rock classics for The Byrds); the band he and Roger McGuinn were mocking when they wrote “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star;” what happened on a particularly memorable trip to Stonehenge with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; the song he and Gram Parsons were inspired to write following Gram’s motorcycle accident; what he says really killed Gram; why Chris was so shocked by his major country music success with The Desert Rose Band; how spirituality has impacted his songwriting process; and the inside details of creating his most recent album with producer Tom Petty.

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chris Hillman first came to songwriting prominence as a founding member of The Byrds when he wrote or co-wrote several of the band’s classic songs, including “So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” “Have You Seen Her Face,” “Time Between,” “Thoughts and Words,” “The Girl with No Name,” “Natural Harmony,” “Old John Robertson,” and others.

Departing The Byrds following their landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, Hillman teamed with Gram Parsons to launch the Flying Burrito Brothers. The pair penned a series of now-classic Americana standards for the band, including “Sin City,” “Wheels,” “Christine’s Tune,” “Juanita,” and “High Fashion Queen.”
Chris spent time in the group Manassas, where he co-wrote the charting single “It Doesn’t Matter” with Stephen Stills, before releasing a handful of solo albums and collaborative projects with several other musicians, including Richie Furay, J.D. Souther, Gene Clark, and Roger McGuinn.

Hillman found his greatest commercial success with the Desert Rose Band, which he founded with Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson. Chris penned a dozen of the group’s charting singles, including the Top 10 hits “Love Reunited,” “One Step Forward,” “Summer Wind,” Start All Over Again,” “Story of Love,” and “I Still Believe in You,” which reached #1 on the Billboard country chart. The group was named Band of the Year three years in a row by the Academy of Country Music and earned multiple CMA award nominations.

Hillman is a country rock pioneer, a four-time Grammy nominee, and the recipient of the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His songs have been recorded by Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Ron Wood, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, Beck, The Hollies, Roxette, Crowded House, Uncle Tupelo, Dan Fogelberg, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Steve Earle, Nazareth, Black Oak Arkansas, The Oak Ridge Boys, Alison Krauss, and others.

Songcraft's Chris Hillman Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a sampling of more than four hours of Chris's songs. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.