For Dave Tough The Studio Is Where Creativity Happens


Nashville producer Dave Tough’s goal in life is to not only do what he loves every day, but also to encourage other people to do what they love in music. Tough is helping artists all around Nashville get their music out so people everywhere can hear their songs.

Tough comes from a musical family. Tough’s father played in bands throughout high school and college and his mother was involved in music as well. His grandmother had her own radio show and played accordion and keyboards on air. While his father slowed down playing music he would always play and sing for Tough while he was young.

In high school, Tough recorded an album with his band which according to Tough was his first producing experience. From there he went to college to be a jazz drummer, got a job at Capitol records and then went to Pepperdine University from his MBA. Throughout all of his experiences, he decided the studio is where he belonged.

“The recording studio is a place where the creativity happens and to me that’s what I’m after. Performing live is a different thing. I think a lot of artists they are the ‘look at me’ type of people. They want that attention. I mean I’ll put on a show live but I have no desire for any of that attention,” said Tough.

“My love is creating something from scratch. A lot of people say nothing’s new under the sun. I can believe that to a point, but there is still a way to say and sing something unique when you write a new song. I think Garth Brooks once said Nashville's a great town because it’s a town where you can start with a piece of paper and three hours later you have an amazing song. I like that idea. That’s why I like being in the studio. I don’t like traveling on buses and being away from home. I'm a homebody so it works out for me..ha ha,” continued Tough.

Tough wears many hats in the music industry. Not only is he a record producer, but he is also a songwriter, a professor, and he hosts a show online and on Nashville cable TV called “The Producer’s Room with Dave Tough”. Tough’s songs have also been featured in television shows and movies like Empire, Glee, Nashville, Pretty Little Liars and more. No matter what hat he is wearing Tough’s goal is to enjoy what he does each and every day.

“My whole goal in life is to wake up and do something I love. I always knew that if I could make a living doing music in some form or fashion I’d be happy.” For Tough, there are many income streams for his line of work, some more lucrative than others. “In music today, there has to be a lot of income streams. My first love is producing… however nowadays the mass public is either stealing records or streaming, In the new model, producers aren’t making as much money on the back-end royalties from the songs and albums, the same albums they put months of work into. A lot of producers are charging more upfront fees in lieu of the back-end royalties. In the past they would charge five thousand for a song and get back end royalties from when the album sells. For a major label project now, I would rather take a flat fee of 5-10 thousand dollars a song and I don’t need any back-end royalties because there may not be any,“ said Tough.

“Writing songs for film TV has been a bigger income stream for me in the last five years. The public still pays to go watch movies or subscribes to video streaming services such as Netflix. However, most aren’t paying for music. They probably just stream it or watch their favorite artists on YouTube for free. If you can get your music attached to some visual media people are still paying for, you’re going to get some type of paycheck. Once again, it’s not life changing money but it adds up if you get multiple placements,“ continued Tough.

Teaching for Tough has been a great experience. Tough has spent the last 14 years at Belmont University teaching the production and audio classes. Tough enjoys being able to help the students before they are discovered. “Teaching to me is awesome. My philosophy on teaching is empowering my students to create. Giving the students the tools and acting as a facilitator while they can fail/succeed on their own,” said Tough.

Tough has taught many famous country artists and songwriters during his time at Belmont University. “I teach a lot of the songwriting and production majors so I get to see a lot of great talent come through my door. It’s not untypical for a student graduate and get a record deal in three or four years. Some have deals while in school. One of my recent students that is doing well is Devin Dawson, who I saw recently at CRS. Clare Dunn, Russell Dickerson and Emily Weisband, who is a huge songwriter now, were all students of mine over the last few years. I'm sure I'm missing some names, but you get the idea. It’s amazing to get to see the talent before they explode.

Once again, I love to empower the students that come through my door. I’ve had a lot of former students come back to me and say “I’ve recorded just my first album and I produced and recorded a lot of it myself; I couldn’t have done it without taking your class.” Hearing things like that from former students makes me feel great.

Tough also enjoys the songwriting part of the business. Most of the songs Tough writes or co-writes, he produces. Tough co-wrote produced almost all the songs on Jeff Dane’s last two records. Tough says “It’s so fun make that happen, doing both the writing and producing on one artist’s project. I like to sit around and write with people, that’s fun as well, but I definitely don’t limit myself to just one genre. That is probably why the film TV folks like me.” Tough said this about song placements, “I honestly don’t even know how many people have cut my songs because a lot of the time they’ll come to me or I will see it on my BMI/SESAC statement.”

Whether it is in the recording studio, in a co-write, in the classroom, or onstage Tough enjoys being able to do music for a living. He hopes to continue to produce and write and empower the next generation of country music.

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