Scott Hendricks | Biography
Blake Shelton. Keith Urban. Trace Adkins. Brooks & Dunn. Alan Jackson. Faith Hill. Hank Williams Jr. John Michael Montgomery.
If you sift through the credits and histories of some of country music’s biggest stars, a handful of names are threaded over and over again in the background of their careers. Those supporting names are often completely unfamiliar to the public, but on Nashville’s Music Row, they play a key role in shaping the sound that influences America’s heartland.
In that small circle, Scott Hendricks is without question one of Music City’s most influential decision makers. A producer, recording engineer, talent scout, music publisher and former label chief, Hendricks is the Senior VP of A&R for Warner Music Nashville, where he has a primary voice in who gets signed to a recording contract and what songs they record.
Hendricks is an easy-going, self-deprecating figure who works too many hours – because he loves the music and the people who make it. A strong work ethic plus an uncanny ability to find greatness, whether it be an outstanding song or a truly talented artist, are the reasons Hendricks has become a significant player in country music for over 30 years.
“Find the talent,” he maintains, “and everything else will work out.”
Hendricks has identified, led and followed talent into a lot of enviable places. He’s won six trophies from the Academy of Country Music and two from the Country Music Association as the producer of such hits as Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” John Michael Montgomery’s “I Swear,” Alan Jackson’s “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and Blake Shelton’s collaboration with Trace Adkins, “Hillbilly Bone.” He also won an Emmy for his production of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Monday Night Football” theme.
“I attribute a lot of my success to working with artists, writers and employees who I believe have an inordinate amount of talent and potential,” Hendricks shrugs.
His unflinching drive to succeed didn’t hurt either.
Hendricks was obsessed with music from an early age. Born and raised in western Oklahoma, he picked up the guitar when he was 8 years old. Though he’d never even seen a recording studio, he knew he wanted to work in one. Hendricks started playing in local bands in junior high, began writing songs as a teen and was an all-state stage-band guitarist in high school.
While attending Oklahoma State University, Hendricks joined a band that played covers of Top 40 hits of rock, pop and funk bands. He supplemented his education by working at a local studio.
Arriving in Nashville fresh from college, Hendricks landed a job as a salesman for Nashville Sound Systems, a studio-design company that had him designing and selling gear to recording studios. He also picked up a part-time role teaching studio engineering classes for the famed music business program at Belmont University.
During a sales call at Glaser Sound Studios, the studio engineer lobbed an invitation for Hendricks to drop by and hang out at sessions any time he wanted.
“Little did he know how seriously I took his offer,” Hendricks laughs. “Every day when I got off work, I would go there and hang out while Jimmy Bowen would make all these incredible records.”
Hendricks was an unpaid gopher at Glaser Sound—and got very little sleep. He taught Belmont classes in the morning, worked his day job, then hung at the studio into the early morning hours.. It was at Glaser that he witnessed sessions by the likes of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams Jr. and became familiar with some of Music City’s A-list session players.
After nine months the Glaser Brothers hired Hendricks as a full-time engineer. He was officially “in,” but it was just the start. From Glaser Sound Hendricks moved to Bullet Recording Studios, where he was chief engineer. Hendricks and another Okie, Tim DuBois, hooked up to co-produce Restless Heart, a new band eventually signed to RCA Records. Together with Hendricks and DuBois, Restless Heart racked up 13 top ten singles, including six No. 1 singles.
That success made Hendricks a go-to engineer as well as an up and coming producer. Soon after, Wayne Watson asked Scott to produce/engineer his next project, which became a No. 1 album in Contemporary Christian Music. Hendricks also mixed and/or engineered albums by Alabama, Anne Murray, Lorrie Morgan and Tanya Tucker, among others. He recorded Lee Greenwood’s Holdin’ A Good Hand, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Engineered Recording. He also took the sonic reins on seven Hank Williams Jr. albums, including the award-winning Born To Boogie. During that partnership, he combined Hank Williams’ vocals from a 1951 acetate recording with new tracks to create “There’s A Tear In My Beer,” a honky-tonk number with a foot in two different generations. It won a Grammy and trophies from both the CMA and the ACM.
Starting in 1989, Hendricks co-produced the first two Alan Jackson albums and a No. 1 single from Alan’s third album, which combined sold over 12 million copies. Hendricks was instrumental in pairing newcomers Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks and co-produced the first three albums by the most successful duo in country music history, Brooks & Dunn.
More success followed as Hendricks produced albums by Faith Hill, Lee Roy Parnell, Steve Wariner and John Michael Montgomery, including John Michael’s mega-hits “I Swear” and “I Can Love You Like That.”
In 1991 Hendricks founded Big Tractor, a music publishing company. Starting with just one writer, Big Tractor has matured into a successful and respected independent publishing company with song credits that include George Strait’s “I Saw God Today” and Lonestar’s “Amazed,” the No. 1 country song in the history of the BDS monitoring system.
In 1995 Hendricks took over as President/CEO of Capitol Records Nashville and restructured the label, dropping a staggering 25 acts and focusing the efforts of the label around mega-seller Garth Brooks and an unknown artist, Trace Adkins. Hendricks fortuitously met Adkins when he was introduced by a friend at the Nashville airport.
“I heard him say ‘Hello’ and immediately asked him if he sang,” Hendricks remembers. “I went to see him play the next night at a local bar, and I signed him on the spot.” That began a long relationship with Adkins in which Hendricks produced several of his biggest albums.
Hendricks also was instrumental in shaping Deana Carter’s multi-platinum album; Did I Shave My Legs For This? After making some significant changes to its content, Hendricks then broke numerous accepted rules by releasing a four-and-a-half minute ballad as the first single on a new artist. That single, “Strawberry Wine,” teamed with two other No. 1 singles from the album, led to sales of more than 5 million copies.
Another unconventional move was Hendricks’ signing of Roy D. Mercer, who became one of the most successful comedy acts in history, selling millions of records.
“Determining good from bad is really pretty easy,” Hendricks says. “Determining good from great is not as easy.”
At Capitol, Hendricks signed an unknown Australian artist, Keith Urban, to the label as part of the band The Ranch. Urban has gone on to become one of country’s best-known talents.
“Signing Keith was a no-brainer,” Hendricks recalls. “He is a world-class guitarist and entertainer. It just seemed like it was only a matter of time before it all came to together for him as an artist.”
Hendricks stayed with Capitol Nashville less than three years, leaving the division before Urban hit his stride. Yet that array of successes—Adkins, Carter, Mercer and Urban—underscores his ability to spot talent and his willingness to trust his gut.
In 1998 Hendricks was asked to establish a separate EMI label and founded a Nashville division of Virgin Records, where he signed Chris Cagle and worked with Ronnie Milsap. In 2001, Hendricks went back to his first love, independent production, producing a new round of hits by Trace Adkins, Jeff Bates and others.
In 2007, Hendricks joined Warner Bros. Records Nashville as the head of its A&R department, coordinating the musical efforts of Blake Shelton, the JaneDear girls, Hunter Hayes and Jana Kramer, among others.
In addition to his A&R duties at Warner Bros., Hendricks’ producing efforts have been instrumental in Blake Shelton’s ascent from mid-level act to bona fide star with six No. 1 singles, including “Hillbilly Bone,” a duet with Trace Adkins which won an ACM Award for Best Collaboration in 2011.
To date, Hendricks has produced a staggering 86 Top 10 hits, with 49 of those hits going all the way to No. 1. In all, he’s spent 83 weeks— over a year and a half—at the top of the chart. The stat that he is most proud of is that he has taken 15 different artists to the top 10, and 10 of who have reached No. 1.
Hendricks rarely contemplates those successes and prefers the credit to go to the artists and songwriters. Nevertheless Music Row insiders and avid readers of liner notes know him well for his participation in a long line of hits, from Restless Heart’s wedding classic “I’ll Still Be Loving You” to the recent Blake Shelton No. 1 hit “God Gave Me You.”
“I’ve always just had a passion to be a part of making music,” Hendricks observes. “If anything, I’m more passionate about making music than I ever was. I can’t wait to get up and go to work every day and find the next great song or the next great artist.”
Hendricks resides in Nashville, TN with his wife Teri and his two daughters Keely and Shaye