Renowned Nashville producer and songwriter Keith Thomas chats to Headliner about some of his career highlights and long-standing working relationships, and reflects on how he co-wrote Don’t Cry with BeBe Winans, a track which is being used in the new Whitney Houston biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
Born into a musical family in Conyers, Georgia, and growing up with a “hillbilly musician” father whose dream was to make it in the music business, the young Thomas was arguably destined to follow the same path. Playing multiple instruments at his local church services and making records from a young age, he later experimented with an acting scholarship, much to his father’s disapproval.
After eventually hitting the road with a Christian band on Word Records for almost four years, Thomas tried his luck and sent two vocal demos to singer Rob Galbraith in Nashville. He soon found himself in Music City with the knowledge that Galbraith and co were starting a publishing company, and soon after that, was asked to be the first staff writer for Ronnie Milsap – one of country music’s most popular and influential performers of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“Ronnie and Rob truly changed my life,” Thomas reflects fondly. “When Ronnie was on the road, I was fortunate enough to be given free rein of his studio, Groundstar Laboratories, and would spend up to 15 hours a day learning how to produce in there.”
Thomas then moved to Word Records where he spent six years, writing and producing over 20 Number One records during his time at the company. It was at this stage, however, that he decided pop music was to be his calling.