After 25 No. 1 hits, Baylor alum named to Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
After more than two decades of songwriting success — including No. 1 hits for such artists as Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride — Baylor alum Brett James (BS ’91) is being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Even if his name isn’t familiar, you’ve heard James’ work. He wrote or co-wrote such hits as “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (Underwood), “Blessed” (McBride), “Who I Am” (Jessica Andrews), “It’s America” (Rodney Atkins), and “The Truth” (Jason Aldean). Outside of country music, he’s also had his songs recorded by such diverse performers as Chicago, the Backstreet Boys, Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson.
All told, James — who might be better remembered by his BU classmates as Brett James Cornelius — has written 25 No. 1 hits, earned a Grammy and three CMA Triple Play Awards, and has been named ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year twice.
The road to success began when James was a student at Baylor, when his parents gave him a $90 pawn shop guitar for Christmas. “As soon as I learned three chords, I just thought it’d be fun to write a song with ’em,” he told The Oklahoman. “I just kind of did it for fun, and I certainly never dreamed it would be a job.”
It didn’t come easy for James. After graduating from Baylor, he dropped out of medical school at Oklahoma to pursue a recording career. When that didn’t work out, he returned to med school — which is where he was when Faith Hill and others began recording some of his work. After a year of double-duty, he left med school a second time to focus on on his songwriting; the second go-round clicked, and here we are, two decades later.
“I’m a very proud Baylor graduate,” he told the Lariat back in 1995 as he was beginning his career. “I tell everyone about it… For me, Baylor was the perfect school.”
Sic ’em, Brett James!