For multiple CMA, ACM and Grammy awarding winning producer, Keith Stegall, music has always been a huge part of his life. His father, Bob Stegall, was an artist on Abbott Records in 1950’s and played steel guitar for the legendary country singer Johnny Horton.
Born in the central Texas town of Wichita Falls and raised in Shreveport, the home of the Louisiana Hayride, where his father often worked, Keith’s family was constantly playing and writing songs on guitars and the piano as he grew up.
A chance meeting during his college years with another famous Texan, Kris Kristofferson, inspired Keith to move to Music City.
“Show me what you got!” Kris told Keith backstage at a Kristofferson show. Keith played a couple songs, which prompted Kristofferson to remark “Son, you need to get your ass to Nashville and hang out with other writers. They will break you down and make you the best you can be.”
Keith took the advice to heart, three months after his arrival in 1978, Keith co-wrote his first hit, Dr. Hooks’ 1980 smash “Sexy Eyes.” Soon after, Helen Reddy, The Commodores, Johnny Mathis, and many others rushed to record Keith’s songs. Most notable was Al Jarreau’s huge hit “We’re In This Love Together.”
Eventually Keith signed a record deal with Capitol Records and later Epic Records. He released a pair of albums in the early 1980s with minor chart success. “Because I grew up in the studio,” Keith recalls, “the mistake I made was they told me to produce myself.” The upside, he says, was he learned how to produce other artists by producing himself.
In the midst of trying to get his own artist career off the ground, a struggling nightclub singer named Randy Ray asked Keith to produce an independent album to sell at his local gigs. The project led to Keith producing the standout songs “On The Other Hand” and “Reasons I Cheat” on the singer’s epochal debut, Storms of Life, under the singer’s new moniker, Randy Travis.
The success of Storms of Life convinced Keith that a life behind the scenes was more suited for him. “I wasn’t able to accomplish what I wanted to do until I became a producer,” Keith says. “When I did, I told myself, `this is where I belong.’ ”
Meanwhile, a friend and songwriting partner asked Keith to produce a tape to play for record companies in hopes of getting a record deal. That friend, Alan Jackson, would go on to sell over 50 million records and have 35 number one hits with Keith in the producer’s chair. Keith continued collaborating with Jackson, co-writing such hits as “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and “Dallas.”
In 1992, Keith received an offer to head Mercury Nashville’s A&R department and a chance to release another album as an artist. “I thought this is not my gig. I’ve spent half my life fighting with record labels,” recalled Keith. “Alan (Jackson) said, ‘Half the reason I wanted to work with you is that you are an artist and you understand.” So reminiscent of Chet Atkins years earlier at RCA, Keith became an artist and executive at Mercury Records. His subsequent 1996 Mercury debut Passages was critically acclaimed.
In 1997, Keith teamed up with legendary songwriter Dan Hill (“Sometimes When We Touch”). The collaboration quickly yielded two number one records: Sammy Kershaw’s “Love Of My Life” and Mark Wills’ “I Do (Cherish You).” Shortly after Wills recorded “I Do,” the platinum selling pop act 98 Degrees heard the song and included it on their sophomore album 98Degrees And Rising, as well as on the soundtrack to the 1999 Julia Roberts film Notting Hill. The song became one of the group’s biggest hits reaching the top 5 in the CHR and AC charts.
1999 saw Stegall working with country music legend, George Jones. The album, Cold Hard Truth went Gold and included the Grammy award winning track “Choices.” Three more albums with Jones followed including an album featuring another country music legend, Merle Haggard.
In late 2006, Keith was invited to a show by an unsigned band out of Georgia called the Zac Brown Band. “Zac had already been passed around Nashville a little bit. He had been Nashville’d to death,” according to Keith.
Just as he’d been for Alan Jackson, Keith Stegall was the absolutely ideal producer and mentor for the Zac Brown Band. Seemingly going counter to all the 2008 Music Row rules and conventional wisdom, the first nine singles went to No. 1 on the country charts and dominated country radio. Three platinum albums and millions of single downloads quickly followed. In 2013, the group’s third album Uncaged earned Keith and the group a Grammy Award for Country Album of the Year.
In 2008, Keith founded Bigger Picture Group and developed it into one of the most dynamic and exciting independent entertainment companies in Nashville, signing artists including Chris Cagle, Craig Campbell, Rachel Bradshaw, Ryan Kinder, and Chris Janson.
As usual with Keith, his radio success with these Bigger Picture artists happened almost immediately. The first-ever Bigger Picture singles for Campbell (“Family Man”) and Cagle (“Got My Country On”), both made the Billboard Top 15 in 2011.
In late 2012, Keith parted ways with Bigger Picture to concentrate on his productions. Currently, Keith is working on new projects with Ryan Kinder, Josh Abbott Band, Darius Rucker and Alan Jackson.
In 2015, Keith launched Dreamlined Entertainment, a company specializing in artist development, publishing and record label services with distribution through Caroline/UMG.
Even after over fifty-five number one hits as a producer and/or songwriter, forty million airplays as a songwriter, producer of over 70 million records sold, multiple CMA and ACM awards and a Grammy award, Keith Stegall has the exact same passion as he always has, he keeps right on painting outside the lines to bring country fans, radio, and artists some of the greatest music they’ve ever heard.