Like hundreds of others had done before him, Ben Hayslip left the comfort of home and family and headed to Nashville, Tenn., with a dream and a guitar.
But he didn’t play guitar or any other instrument, and he can’t read music.
His talent is songwriting, and he’s found extraordinary success in country music.
“My best friend growing up was Rhett Akins,” Hayslip recalled. “We started writing songs together at about age 13. He played, so I didn’t have to.”
Instead, Hayslip focused on writing. “Every spare moment I had, I wrote lyrics,” he said. “I was bound and determined when I got here (Nashville) I was going to learn how to play.”
Hayslip now plays guitar, though he never took lessons. Learning piano, he said, is next.
Born in Evans, Hayslip graduated in 1988 from Evans High School, where he was a star baseball player. He continued playing baseball at Georgia Southern, where he earned a degree in communications in 1994. Then he headed to Nashville.
Success didn’t come until 2005 that he finally hit the charts with the song Long, Slow Kisses, recorded by Jeff Bates.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “Just unbelievable.”
Hayslip said he likes all kinds of music, but is a huge fan of country music in general.
“My favorite song that I wrote is Touchdown Jesus on Tim McGraw’s new CD,” he said.
“Touchdown Jesus is a saying for anyone who’s a really big sports fan,” he said. A statue at Notre Dame of Jesus with both arms raised is called Touchdown Jesus.
Hayslip said he, Akins and another friend, Dallas Davidson, write together every Wednesday.
“That’s Peach Pickers Wednesday,” he said. “We named ourselves ... the Peach Pickers because we’re from Georgia.”
Of the trio, Hayslip won ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in 2011, after a year in which three of his five charting songs hit No. 1. The same year, Davidson and Akins together won BMI Songwriters of the year.
Hayslip was nominated this year for the Academy of Country Music Awards Songwriter of the Year, but the award went to Davidson.
Other hits Hayslip and his partners have written include I’m Gonna Love You Through It by Martina McBride, Barefoot and Crazy by Jack Ingram, The Shape I’m In and Gimmie That Girl by Joe Nichols, and I’ll Just Hold On, All About Tonight and Honey Bee by Blake Shelton,
In addition to realizing his career goals in Nashville, that’s also where Hayslip met his wife, Melissa. The couple married in 1997 and have three sons, and Hayslip coaches all of them in sports.