Wyatt Durrette, Co-Writer of ‘Colder Weather,’ Recalls Falling in Love With Music and First Meeting Zac Brown
Wyatt Durrette is having another great week in his songwriting career as he sits at the top of the charts with his sixth No. 1 song, ‘Colder Weather,’ recorded by the Zac Brown Band. The Georgia based band relies on Durrette’s unique way to tell a story with his powerful lyrics and creative mind. The craft is something he’s perfected over time, as he’s had plenty of experience to help him find what a meaningful country song is supposed to be about.
His road to success has been a long journey, but the Virginia native has been focusing on songwriting since his pre-teens. As a child, Durrette grew up listening to old school country, such as the Statler Brothers, the Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
"My dad had a big ol' Cadillac, and I'd ride in the back of it to soccer games or whatever, and we’d just rock out to country music," Durrette tells Taste of Country. "I just fell in love with music and the writer’s ability to tell a story in such a short amount of time."
Durrette wrote his first song at age 11 and knew it was an outlet he enjoyed exploring. "My first song was called 'To Be in Love,' of all things," he says with laughter. "Like I had any idea what that was, but I sure thought I did!"
By the time he turned 13, Durrette’s passion for songwriting intensified after seeing Jimmy Buffett in concert. "That just completely opened my world up to that style of writing about paradise, getting away and escapism. He had such an ability to tell a story. I just fell in love with it all over again. I really fell in love with the power of music and how he made everybody feel good at his concert. Nothing else mattered. Then with Bob Marley, I fell in love with him. He changed governments. He brought governments together who haven’t spoken in 50 years. I fell in love with the power of music and how much it can mean -- whether it makes you happy, sad, brings you back 30 years to a particular day where you can smell, taste, touch, whatever it may be. I loved that, and I still do."
After moving to Atlanta after college, Durrette began working as a bartender and manager of the Dixie Tavern. Among his duties were booking the bands who played in the bar. It was then when he met local singer-songwriter Zac Brown.
"The second time he played there, somebody asked me to get up and sing with him," Durrette recalls. "Afterward, I was like, 'Hey man, I write songs. I’ve got melodies and words -- lots of them! Why don’t we get together and see what we can come up with?' That following Sunday, we sat down and wrote four or five songs … something crazy like that. Automatically, we clicked as friends and as writers. We come from the same kind of musical background as far as what we listen to and what we grew up on. We kind of share the same brain as far as what we want out of a song. I don’t have to tell him. He knows where I want to go, and vice versa."
Watch the Zac Brown Band 'Colder Weather' Video
As Brown’s popularity grew, so did the friendship and bond between him and Durrette. "He was slowly assembling his band," Durrette says of the time spent with Brown, which spanned over a 10-year period. "I’ve seen a lot of players come and go as far as the band goes, but he knew what he wanted. We slowly readied the music and kept writing and doing our thing. We kept hoping that it would eventually happen. I quit bartending not even four years ago."
Those past four years for Durrette have consisted of six chart-toppers for the Zac Brown Band: 'Chicken Fried,' 'Whatever It Is,' 'Toes,' 'Highway 20 Ride,' 'As She’s Walking Away' and, of course, 'Colder Weather.'
Durrette is now one of Nashville’s most sought after songwriters, and he spends much of his downtime in Music City writing with the likes of James Otto, Luke Bryan, the Dirt Drifters, Tim James, D. Vincent Williams and others. But no matter who he collaborates with, Brown will always remain his favorite co-writer, as they have a unique writing relationship that even Durrette says is hard to explain.
"We’re like brothers," Durrette says. "We finish each other’s sentences and all that kind of stuff. It’s weird. When I’m writing ... I don’t need to tell him where I think it should go, he just knows. He knows me and he knows what I like musically and he knows what I want from a song. I think it’s what makes us gel so well. Every guy in the band comes from different places, but everybody just has a really, really deep, deep love of music and respects each other so much, as I do Zac, and I think he does me. As artists, we’re really open to anything. When Zac and I write, you’ll never hear the word 'no' being used. You never hear anything negative. If I don't like something and he says a line or whatever, you just kind of nod and write it down, but there’s never any negativity. We all know we’re after the same goal, and that's to make music and make people happier or make them feel something. I think that’s what it really comes down to."
"In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than those guys as people and as musicians," Durrette says of his newfound family in the Zac Brown Band. "They truly love what they do and they work hard every day to get better at it. They make me want to be better at what I do. I couldn’t ask for better people to be singing my stuff. That’s apple pie right there!"
Durrette will soon be on his way to scoring another hit song as the Zac Brown Band ready their third single from their ‘You Get What You Give’ album, ‘Knee Deep,’ which ironically enough is a duet with Jimmy Buffett.