As a songwriter herself, it really struck Krista Marie Oswald (nee Robusto) as another artist having a lightbulb moment when Gretchen Wilson told her how she came to write the song "Red Neck Woman."
"She said for her, she didn't understand why anybody would want to listen to her story," Oswald said during a phone interview today. "She's a girl from a tiny park in Illinois and nobody is going to listen to her story. She told me, that isn't the case."
Oswald is cohost of a new syndicated TV show, "The Song: Recorded Live at TGL Farms," which will air for the first time this Saturday in Rochester and Buffalo, that features songwriters and their songs and the stories behind the songs. It's filmed live at a farm she and her husband, producer Marc Oswald, own outside of Nashville.
In an episode that will air near the end of season one, Wilson told Krista Oswald that her producer her told her that to be successful she needed to be true to who she is. "You've got to be 100 percent authentic to be true."
It obviously paid off. "Redneck Woman" was the #1 country song in the nation in 2004.
She's thrilled, she said, to get a chance to sit down and talk with so many great songwriters, such as Big & Rich, Rick Springfield, Jim Messina, Travis Tritt, and Don McLean.
She's joined on the series by cohost Damien Horne, who interviews CeeLo Green in the first episode (embedded above).
"Obviously, what's exciting to me about the show is personally, and as a songwriter, is getting to speak with these iconic artists and hear their take on what their creations meant and how they put it out there," Oswald said. "It's really interesting. CeeLo Green said in the first episode how it only takes one song to change history, to change music history, and that was a real moment for me."
There are other moments in the series, she said, such as Rick Springfield revealing that he didn't think much of his biggest hit, "Jesse's Girl," when he first wrote it. "It was just a little ditty," he told her.
"Honestly," she said Springfield said, "I feel like I've written better material but that just happened to breakthrough."
Jim Messina shared a similar story about his biggest hit with Loggins and Messina, "Your Mama Don't Dance."
He feels he's written better songs but like Wilson with "Redneck Woman," that song was born of his own conservative upbringing, making it true to life and, counterintuitively, more relatable to a popular audience.
The show also offers Oswald a chance to meet the songwriters who provided "the soundtrack" of her life, such as McLean, whose "American Pie" is perhaps the soundtrack of everybody's life.
That song, of course, was released in 1971, long before Oswald was born but she said, "It was part of my growing up, part of my childhood."
The new TV series has other Batavia connections. Her mother, Barb Galliford, spent three weeks at TGL Farms helping landscape and paint "The Song Garden," where the interviews are recorded. Genesee County residents Johnny Cummings and Sam Polizzi, who recently opened a recording studio in Rochester called Sound Notions, helped with the production and when Robusto and her husband weren't happy with original theme music for the show, Cummings and Polizzi wrote and recorded a new theme song in 24 hours.
As she spoke with The Batavian, Oswald was at the luggage carousel at the airport in Miami with her husband waiting for their baggage. Marc had given surprised Krista Marie with tickets for tonight's Billy Joel concert in Miami.
Krista Marie, known as a country music artist, said people are sometimes surprised that she loves Billy Joel but she said if you love music, you love all kinds of music (which comes across in the first episode of The Song with soul singer CeeLo talking about his range of influences that include Iggy Pop and The Clash). That's why she is optimistic The Song will be a hit. It's a show about a love for music that covers every taste and every generation of fandom.
"Today, with music being so accessible, with iTunes, iPhones, and YouTube, I'm finding everything is more accessible. My 12-year-old niece loves 'Piano Man' and 'American Pie' and Rick Springfield. There's more good music, more demos, and more generations, and I think that's great."
And with a little luck, Oswald said, maybe next season she will get to interview Billy Joel.
Episode 1 of "The Song" airs on WNYO in Buffalo at 10 p.m. Saturday. We've not been able to confirm that time of the show on 13 WHAM.