For Mitch Rossell, the former Chattanoogan with a penchant for writing hit country songs, the COVID-19 pandemic has given him a reason to go back into his treasure trove of songs, both unfinished and finished. He's also focused on producing his own music, something he admits he wasn't completely confident in doing before.
That doesn't mean it's been easy, he says. Like everyone else, he had a rhythm to his life going, and the virus pretty much shut that down.
"If I'm being honest, this year has been tough for me, just like it has for everybody because everything is so disrupted," he says. "Not having the normalcy of performing throws things out of balance, but I've focused on the recording of music that has been piling up."
Rossell is likely best known because of his work with country superstar Garth Brooks, which began just before 2016. The two had done some songwriting together, but that year, Brooks asked Rossell to open a couple of shows for him on tour. The following year, Brooks recorded a Rossell-penned song called "Ask Me How I Know," which became Brooks' first No. 1 single in a decade.
The following year, Brooks again had a Rossell-written hit with "All Day Long," which reached No. 11. Brooks' newest album, "Fun," has three songs with Rossell co-writing credits: "That's What Cowboys Do," "All Day Long" and "Dive Bar," a song that came out last year and reached No. 5.
Rossell is a solo artist who performed in 2019 at Riverbend and at Songbirds this past February before the industry shut down due to the pandemic.
Some of his solo releases include "All I Need To See," "Slow as I Could" and "Two Weeks." He has more than 13 million streams on Spotify.
Rossell has always been determined to do things his way, which is not always easy to do in the music industry in general — and in the country genre in particular. Brooks has obviously been good for his career, both on the charts and as a mentor, but Rossell says the main thing he has learned is to be true to himself and to write great songs.
"I'm actually very selective about what I send to him," Rossell says. "I try to write great songs, and I might send him a song to get his opinion. He's an artist's artist and, like with "Ask Me How I Know," I did my way. I didn't have to politic it. I let the music speak for itself."
With time on his hands, he has been going back through old songs, an experience that has been rewarding but sometimes cringe-worthy, he says. At 33, some of the things he wrote in 2007 or shortly thereafter look a little different than they did then.
"Oh man. For some people, songs can come right out of the gate and be great. I was not blessed with that talent. I've had to grow my wings out," he says.
Not every time, he admits. He co-wrote "Then Again" with well-known Nashville songwriter Gary Burr and knew instantly it was a good song.
"That came out of left field, and I loved it when I wrote it. Gary turned it around with the hook, and when we cut it, it was just magic. Everybody we sent it to loved it, and it became a single. It's captivating watching these things take place," he says.
With some experience under his belt now, he says having the confidence to know when he has a good song, and to be able to track it himself, has been the positive for 2020.
"Some of the older tracks fit into a time period and some don't, but we went in and cut more songs than I ever have before," he says. "They are songs that I know are lyrically strong. I know when something sounds too eclectic or too wordy."
Rossell says while he rides out the pandemic, "I probably won't release a ton of songs because it's too hard to support them."
However, he does expect to release more music this month.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.