STEVEN DALE JONES had a story to tell when he was only 11 years old. He cannot quite remember it now, but he remembers his parents helped him tell it, driving him 45 minutes away to drop his first song in the mailbox of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
At the time, FAME was owned by Rick Hall, responsible for producing such acts as Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Otis Redding.
Getting a song recorded by someone under a contract with Hall — or anyone for that matter — was a dream for Jones. Though that dream would take years to materialize, the tradition of dropping songs in mailboxes helped the young songwriter develop a respect for the industry early on.
At about the same time, another love affair in Jones’ life began to develop – a love for Auburn. Through a friend from his hometown of Hamilton, Ala., Jones met with some of the players after his first Auburn football game, while still in his early teens.
“That experience was all I needed to want to go to Auburn,” he said. “From then on I wanted to be a ‘War Eagle’ and dreamed of someday playing football there.”
The gridiron was not where Jones’ story played out, but it did bring him to Auburn. He knew he wanted a career in the music industry, but he “figured a finance degree might come in handy in getting a regular job.” While at Auburn, Jones played guitar and sang at the on-campus Quad Kitchen and the legendary War Eagle Supper Club, still continuing to drop songs into FAME’s mailbox.
After graduating in 1979, he worked at banks in Auburn and Muscle Shoals, saving up for studio time at FAME to record songs he planned on sending out. As luck would have it, a sound engineer overheard him in the booth. Suddenly Jones had a five-year songwriting contract and a chance to learn under Rick Hall himself.
Between his first song, 1986’s “Paintin’ the Town Blue” by T.G. Sheppard, to his full-time transition to the music industry in 1991, Jones wrote hundreds of songs, even earning a gold record with Billy Dean’s song “Only a Woman Knows.”
In 1996, he hit an all-time high when country artist Mindy McCready released Jones’ song, “Ten Thousand Angels.” It sold two million copies and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in “no time,” he said.
As Jones’ reputation grew, so did his portfolio. Cuts by big-name artists like Tanya Tucker and Pam Tillis were played nationwide, while artists and fellow songwriters wanting to work together steadily filled his schedule.
In October 2000, the Diamond Rio song “One More Day” gave Jones and co-writer Bobby Tomberlin two awards in both the country and pop categories in consecutive years from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), a 2002 Grammy nomination, as well as nominations for Song of the Year by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.
Since then, Jones has earned seven more ASCAPs and a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association, writing for diverse artists as Bonnie Raitt, George Strait, Alabama, Reba McIntire and more.
In addition to his most recent work — the 2018 No. 1 hit “Singles You Up” by country artists Brett Young and Jordan Davis — Jones has written and composed two solo EPs of his own. His latest, “Music & Lyrics,” is currently available on iTunes and Spotify.
Jones writes and performs regularly at hotspots in Nashville, where he lives with his wife, Janet. Jones’ son, Chandler, a 2014 graduate, recently recorded his own album in Nashville. His other son, Tyler, 30, has a successful career in the film industry while his youngest, Dylan, 14, is beginning to learn the guitar.
“Being an Auburn man, making my way in this ever-changing industry over 30 years, there are no words to explain how grateful I am for those opportunities,” Jones said. “But being a father, watching your children grow and pursue what they are passionate about, that’s the best song I’ve ever written.”