Called “one of the most successful songwriters in Nashville” by the Knight-Ridder News Service, Grammy winner Paul Overstreet came from a modest background in Mississippi but found major success as a songwriter with more than 25 of country music’s biggest hits to his name. Randy Travis, the Forester Sisters, Tanya Tucker, the Judds, Glen Campbell, Mel Tillis, Travis Tritt, and Marie Osmond are just some of the singers to perform Overstreet’s material. The artist performed his own songs on albums like Sowin’ Love, Heroes, and Love Is Strong before broadening his horizons as a producer, exploring the Christian country genre, and publishing a book, Forever and Ever, Amen, in 2001.
Overstreet was born on March 17, 1955, in Newton, Mississippi, the youngest of five children born to William, a Baptist preacher, and Mary Overstreet. Musical talent ran in the Overstreet family. The entire family sang, his sisters and mother played piano, and one of his brothers played guitar. When Overstreet was six years old, his parents divorced, and his mother and siblings survived on prayer and government assistance until his mother remarried. As a child, Overstreet listened to country radio and the songs of Marty Robbins, Charlie Pride, Hank Williams, Sr., Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, and Ricky Nelson. He also loved old Motown and R&B music by Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. As a teenager, Overstreet’s tastes leaned more to the rock music of the time—the Doobie Brothers, Janis Joplin, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, and Bread. After spending a few summers in California with his father, he had taught himself to play most of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s songs. Inspired by the story of country legend Hank Williams, Sr. in the 1964 film Your Cheatin’ Heart, Overstreet aspired to make a living writing and playing country songs.
Ambitious, Overstreet pressed three hundred 45s of a song called “The Wanderer” and sold them at a local grocery store for $1 each. After picking up a single, former Grand Ole Opry performer Walter Bailes contacted Overstreet. Nothing came of their meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, but Overstreet had developed an interest in the city. After graduation from high school in 1973, he went to Texas where he worked as a mechanic. After a concert by country singer Tanya Tucker at a local dance hall, Overstreet approached the country star and got her picture. Little did either of them know that Tucker would later score hits with the then-unknown country songwriter’s work. Inspired by Tucker, he quit his job the next day and drove to Nashville in his brother’s 1968 Ford Fairlane with a laundry basket full of clothes, ten songs he had written, and a guitar. Country stardom was still a long way off, so Overstreet got a job in a Nashville water heater factory. He worked blue collar jobs by day and played in country bands at night.
Over time, Overstreet began to get more attention as a songwriter than as a singer. He would eventually write more than 25 top ten songs for other artists, his first being “Same Ole Me” for George Jones in 1982, which went to number five. Other country artists who have recorded his songs include Randy Travis, who scored hits with “On the Other Hand,” the Grammy-winning “Forever and Ever, Amen,” and “Diggin’ Up Bones,” Travis’ first number one hit; the Forester Sisters, who went to number one with “I Fell in Love Again Last Night;” and Tucker, who topped the charts with “One Love at a Time,” “My Arms Stay Open All Night,” and “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love.” The late Keith Whitley recorded the hit “When You Say Nothing At All,” which was later re-recorded by Alison Krauss and again by the British pop group Boyzone for the soundtrack to the film Notting Hill. Overstreet won a Grammy Award in 1992 for “Love Can Build A Bridge,” performed by the Judds.
Overstreet released his first charting single in 1982 with “Beautiful Baby,” which made it to number 76. Four years later, he teamed with Thorn Schuyler and Fred Knobloch to form SKO and released the number one hit “Baby’s Got a New Baby.” Overstreet’s debut solo album, Sowin’ Love, was released in 1989. It made it into the top 40 and spawned a few hits. Overstreet stayed on the charts for almost a year with his 1991 album Heroes, which Los Angeles Times critic Randy Lewis noted for its movement away from country music’s “overwhelming dependence on dysfunctional relationships.” His third release, 1992’s Love is
Born on March 17, 1955, in Newton, MS; married Julie; children: Nash, Summer, Chord, Harmony, Skye, and Charity Joy.
Moved to Nashville, TN, after graduation from high school, 1973; first top ten song, “Same Ole Me,” performed by George Jones, 1982; scored number one hit with “Baby’s Got a New Baby” with SKO group, 1986; wrote major hit for Randy Travis, “For Ever and Ever, Amen,” 1987; released debut solo album, Sowin’ Love, 1989; released Heroes, 1991; released Love is Strong, 1992; released Living by the Book, 2001; published book, Forever and Ever, Amen, 2001.
Awards: ACM (Academy of Country Music) Song of the Year Award for “On The Other Hand,” 1986; ACM Song of the Year Award for “Forever And Ever, Amen,” 1987; BMI Songwriter of the Year, 1987-91; CMA (Country Music Association) Song of the Year Award for “On The Other Hand,” 1987; CMA Song of the Year Award for “Forever And Ever, Amen,” 1988; Grammy Award for “Forever And Ever, Amen,” 1988; Grammy Award for “Love Can Build A Bridge,” 1992; Dove Award, Country Recorded Song of the Year Award for “Seein’ My Father In Me,” 1991; Dove Award, Country Recorded Album of the Year Award for Love Is Strong, 1992; Christian Country Music Association (CCMA) Country Songwriter of the Year, 1993; CCMA Mainstream Artist of the Year, 1994; Dove Award, Country Recorded Song of the Year Award for “There But For The Grace Of God Go I,” 1994.
Addresses: Record company —Scarlet Moon Records, P.O. Box 320, Pegram, TN 37143, (615) 952-3999.Website —Paul Overstreet Official Website:http://www.pauloverstreet.com.
Strong, was not commercially or critically successful.Entertainment Weekly critic Alanna Nash called the album “saccharine and simplistic.” After its release, Overstreet turned to Christian songwriting, performing, producing, and book writing. He produced, co-wrote, and sung a duet on an album that topped the Christian country charts and launched the career of Susie Luchsinger, sister of country star Reba McEntire.
After recording with Luchsinger and working with her label, Integrity, a modest Christian imprint, Overstreet turned down an offer to record with a major country label. A devout Christian, the artist chose to record with Integrity instead. “I enjoyed working with Integrity,” Overstreet told Billboard. “It was fun, and at that point I was really tired of having a corporate decision made on my life. I liked the way these people treated their artists.” Integrity created a sub-label with Overstreet called Scarlet Moon Records, which promoted Over-street’s brand of “positive country,” a term given by Billboard, to both country and Christian markets.
A committed family man, Overstreet’s songs are known for being family-values oriented. He turned away from some of the temptations he faced as a successful country singer and songwriter. Instead, he chose to stay close to his family and farm in a rural town outside Nashville where he also has a recording studio. Over-street has six children whom he and his wife, Julie, chose to home school. When he is not on the farm or performing, Overstreet gives his time to a charity called Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief ministry that tends to the spiritual and physical needs of people in crisis worldwide. Samaritan’s Purse is run by his good friend Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, with whom he regularly performs.
Overstreet is featured as songwriter, singer, musician, and producer on his own 2000 release, A Songwriter’s Project, Vol. 1. The album features Overstreet singing and playing the hits he has written for other artists and includes a few new tracks as well. In 2001, he issued the Christian CD Living by the Book. Also that year, Overstreet debuted as an author. His book, Forever and Ever, Amen, features the fan-inspired stories behind some of his hits.
Sowin’ Love, RCA, 1989.
Heroes, RCA, 1991.
Love Is Strong, RCA, 1992.
The Best of Paul Overstreet, RCA, 1994.
Time, Integrity/Scarlet Moon Records, 1996.
A Songwriter’s Project, Vol. 1, Scarlet Moon Records, 2000.
Living by the Book, Scarlet Moon Records, 2001.
Billboard, January 6, 1996, p. 76; February 3, 1996, p. 14; April 6, 1996, p. 95; May 18, 1996, p. 70.
Entertainment Weekly, October 30, 1992, p. 87.
Knight-Ridde/Tribune News Service, March 24, 1994.
Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1991, p. 67.
“Paul Overstreet,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 24, 2001).
Paul Overstreet Official Website, http://www.pauloverstreet.com (April 24, 2001).
Additional information was provided by the Scarlet Moon Records publicity department, 2001.
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