Songwriter and musician Tim Menzies had gone a lifetime without even being nominated for any sort of music award, much less a Grammy.
It’s only fitting that last month, on Dec. 5, it would feel like another lifetime while the Thompson’s Station resident waited to find out if his first-ever gospel album, “His Way of Loving Me,” was among those receiving a nomination for the upcoming Feb. 8 awards show.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) had announced the prominent categories on national television that morning, but, unlike past years, had decided to stagger the remaining nominations throughout the rest of the day and release them via celebrity Tweets.
Menzies had no idea.
He had spent the morning checking the Grammy website for a complete list of nominees when he finally read his name listed among the five nominees in the brand new category Best Roots Gospel Album.
“My feeling was I wanted someone else to verify that it was there,” Menzies recalled. “I wasn’t secure enough in just seeing it for myself. I think it was because it had been so many hours and not knowing.”
His wife, Brenda, was working. She was between clients and unable to pull up the site and it took another 30 minutes for him to reach Butch Baker.
Menzies and Baker have known one another through church and music for the past 20 years. Baker had seen Menzies perform in June at the Franklin Theatre and afterward bought a copy of the album and, according to Menzies, “became a huge believer” in the project.
Although they don’t work together, Baker, who is a NARAS member, submitted “His Way of Loving Me” for Grammy considerations.
“He just believes in the album and the gospel message in it,” said Menzies, of his longtime friend.
Baker and others from the Franklin and Nashville music scenes began a grassroots campaign to let voters know that Menzies was on the ballot. He was among 57 approved entries and eventually received enough votes to be among the five official nominees.
“It’s been an amazing time,” said Menzies, who admitted that when Baker confirmed he was indeed among the nominees “it’s probably the most excited I’ve been about something happening in my career in probably 20 years.
“As a songwriter, you just get so used to rejection.”
A different path
Menzies grew up in Virginia performing as part of a family band.
He was the third of five siblings and performing came naturally.
In 1980, he moved to Nashville. He initially lived in Mt. Juliet before moving to Williamson County in 1998, after years of playing as a session guitarist in recording studios with Kenny Rogers, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings and others.
As a songwriter, he started off writing jingles for Coca-Cola and Chevy.
Eventually he began penning songs for everyone from George Jones and Gene Watson to Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood along with Randy Travis, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie and Trace Adkins.
As much success as he’s had, Menzies said only about one in every 10 songs is recorded.
“You can’t get emotional,” Menzies said, “or it affects your being able to write the next day. Rejection, if you let it enter into your heart, then it’s very difficult to go in and write another song, so I’ve just learned not to give out the norm emotional responses to success or failure.”
Instead he channeled those emotions into his local church. In 1991, he joined a small Bible group with his wife.
He started teaching Bible classes, while continuing his career as a country music songwriter, but it wasn’t until his father, Walter, passed away and he spent time helping his mother, Janet, adjust to life — his parents were married for 61 years — that he began to revisit some of the gospel songs that would become “His Way of Loving Me.”
That was when Menzies said he first realized he was supposed to make this record.
“There’s a strong father theme,” he said, “which makes sense retrospectively both to the Earthly father and the heavenly one.”
According to Menzies, he picked songs he felt fit where he was in life.
“There’s a song called ‘I Was There’ and it’s relatively new,” Menzies explained, “and when we finished that song, I felt like there was something that was going to happen with me and that song more than me just writing a song and then it being pitched to people like I had been doing for 28 years.”
However, another version of it was recorded by Josh Turner.
After spending eight weeks with his mother in Virginia, Menzies returned home and said he had trouble focusing on anything other than the material he was revisiting for his own project, and the foundation of that album was that particular song.
He then enlisted Ben Isaacs as producer. The two friends worked together in the studio and neither one worried about radio or retail.
“There was a lack of premeditation,” said Menzies, of the album and the new-found career as a gospel artist that it has spawned, “because I’ve always understood — I’ve been blessed to have a career —my feelings for a song or a project, that’s important, but I’ve always also understood that it’s a product. That if it’s so personal that it connects with no one, but me, then I can’t continue to do this for a living.”
But, he added, “On this album it was just beautifully ignored.”