Songwriter Hugh Prestwood releases first album with outside label

10/30/2016 7:00 AM |

Lately, Hugh Prestwood has spent a lot of time in the personal studio above the garage at his Greenport home.

A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Mr. Prestwood gets great pleasure from writing music. And he’s good at it: Three of the songs he’s written for other artists during his nearly 40-year career have earned him Grammy nominations. Another garnered him an Emmy.

But this time, Mr. Prestwood isn’t writing for other musicians. Instead, he recently recorded an album of his own songs.

Released Oct. 18 by Wildflower Records, “I Used to be the Real Me” is the first album the veteran songwriter has ever recorded with an outside label.

“I’m really proud of it,” said Mr. Prestwood, an El Paso native. “I think every song on the album is great.”

“I Used to Be the Real Me” features 13 tracks consisting of new songs and older tunes Mr. Prestwood previously self-produced or that other artists recorded.

Just as she helped launch Mr. Prestwood’s songwriting career in 1978, singer/songwriter Judy Collins assisted with his new album.

Ms. Prestwood said the process began in 2014 after he saw Ms. Collins perform on TV. He called her to tell her how well she did, and they began talking about his latest projects. From there, the collaboration began, with Ms. Collins signing Mr. Prestwood to her label, Wildflower Records.

Mr. Prestwood said many of the album’s songs are complex and probably wouldn’t be played on the radio.

“That’s what we were trying to do,” he said. “We were trying to make some art.”

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Hugh Prestwood playing guitar Tuesday at his home studio in Greenport. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

The album also represents a lot of great memories. Years ago, for instance, Mr. Prestwood returned home to a voicemail from James Taylor, who had left a lengthy message telling him he loved a song he’d written called “The Suit.” The legendary artist went on to record the track.

Mr. Prestwood considers that one of the best moments of his career, so he recorded “The Suit” himself for “I Used to Be the Real Me.”

The album’s last track, “The Song Remembers When,” earned Mr. Prestwood a 1994 Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics. It was performed by Trisha Yearwood during a Disney special and was voted “Song of the Year” by the Nashville Songwriters Association.

Mr. Prestwood said songwriting has always been his passion — and when he finds his flow, he just keeps going. Sometimes he starts with the music; other times he’ll simply think of a good name for a song and go from there.

“I feel like I’m levitating when I write,” he said. “I love that I have the great blessing to be a professional songwriter.”

While his songs have been performed many times by artists like Jimmy Buffet, Anne Murray and The Judds, Mr. Prestwood said he’s still learning how to be a performer himself.

Mostly, however, he’s focused on promoting his new record. Recently, he played shows in Florida and Montana.

“I’m trying to put more effort into being a performer at this point,” he said. “But my ultimate goal is always to write a great song.”

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