Songwriter Jason Saenz successful in Nashville

Music can play a powerful role in a person’s life. Hearing a familiar, favorite tune can instantly take one back to a childhood memory or their wedding day.

2000 Pleasanton High School graduate Jason Saenz knows all about the influence music and the written word can have. The son of Victor and Linda Saenz of Pleasanton, Jason is a successful songwriter currently living in Nashville, Tenn.

While in high school, he played the trumpet in the Mighty Eagle Band and was drum major his senior year. He studied under Solomon Banda and Dale Lockett, whom he just talked to recently. Saenz shared how he co-wrote a song with the legendary Burt Bacharach.

“I told Mr. Lockett, ‘You are never going to guess who I am meeting with- Burt Bacharach.’ He has a place in Santa Monica and so many awards. It was super intimidating.”

In high school he tried writing and would sometimes play songs for his friends.

“We would play Beatles music for the lunch period.”

He was figuring out his tastes musically. He was introduced to Robert Earl Keen and Pat Greene when he was 15 by friend Bobby Santillan, whom he was also roommates with at UT.

Saenz earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. He worked for singer-songwriter Bruce Robison in Austin, which helped catapult him to make a living in Nasvhille.

His trips to Nashville began at the young age of 4-5, when his parents would take him to Music Row.

“At that age, I did not quite get what was going on. They took us to the Grand Ole Opry. Back then it was more touristry. It was more about the love of country music- that is what I pulled out of it. My parents were huge Elvis fans. We went to Graceland three times. They loved country music so much,” said Saenz. 

Saenz writes both country and pop and this past summer, singer Gavin DeGraw released a song that Saenz co-wrote, “She Sets the City on Fire.” It hit #16 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 charts.

The song involved a team effort, explained Saenz. He had been writing with Todd Clark, a talented pop producer and writer.

“We started it and ended up having his producer, publisher Greg Wattenberg help us with the chorus. We were going back and forth, making sure the words fit in the right melody. It so happened that Gavin DeGraw heard it. He came in and helped. He is a great writer,” said Saenz.

“We saw him at the Ryman. It was really cool. It was the right place at the right time. That was my first pop music experience. I have gone to LA for a couple of years now. It is a whole different method- different than country. It is so much fun to do. It usually takes a lot longer. We worked on that for months. We would send each other ideas, Gavin and his whole team. They knew it was something and we wanted to get it right.”

Los Angeles offers Saenz a wider spectrum and a different experience. He considers it a challenge, flipping a different switch and writing in a different language rather than what Nashville has taught him.

“Doing that keeps you on your toes. It makes you a better writer.”

He hopes to one day visit London to write.

Saenz has co-written songs for Little Big Town. His first cut was with singer and fellow Texan, Lee Ann Womack. 

“She recorded one of my songs. I just found out she recorded another. So she recorded my first and latest cut. She is awesome and one of the best singers.”

So what is Jason’s songwriting process like?

“I have gotten into a good routine. My publisher lets me use her office. I think of ideas and normally there is a routine. You get together with other people, but you need to come up with the ideas.”

He does that at different times, sometimes at home or while drinking coffee.

“I am a night owl. When my wife goes to sleep, I can stay up until 3 a.m. I am more of an idea/lyrics, melody person. A lot of it comes from being prepared before I get into the routine.”

His wife, Ashley Ray Saenz, is an artist and songwriter. They met when she was on Capitol Records. 

“She made her first record and I met her while she was singing. She was recording a Randy Rogers song. I walked into the studio. We have been together since.”

They married in Nashville and recently celebrated their two-year anniversary. 

“She is from Kansas and loves Texas and Austin. She is obsessed with tamales.”

The couple normally finds time to visit Texas two-three times a year, especially during major holidays. 

“Sometimes I come to Texas to write, but most of the time it is for family.”

You can buy “She Sets the City on Fire” on iTunes or see Gavin DeGraw’s video on YouTube.

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