“If money were the most important thing, I would’ve stayed at MIT,” Greg Becker states. In that one sentence he separates himself from your average songwriter. A product of Boston, Becker attended high school in the shadow of Berklee’s campus, but graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in neuropsychology. From there, he took a lab job at MIT. But after enrolling at Berklee, Becker changed the trajectory of a career path in the sciences to music.
Since arriving in Nashville in 1995, Becker has still made his living by getting inside people’s heads. But instead of doing so as a doctor, he’s been doing it as one of the more successful songwriters in Nashville. In a town where publishing deals are few and far between, Becker has had eight publishing deals and penned songs that have sold more than 20 million units. Some the biggest names in country music have sung his words, including Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Alan Jackson, Brett Eldredge, and LeAnn Rimes. His songs have been in movies such as Country Strong.
“I came to Nashville because I have passion for lyrics,” Becker shares. “When I got here, everyone was complaining that the industry was dying, writers couldn’t get deals, no outside songs were being recorded, etc. It’s the same thing people are saying about today’s Nashville. But I just keep writing.”
Becker follows a strict, daily routine that’s been key to his sustained success. “Every morning I go into my space, do some writing exercises, and then get to work,” he says. He makes it a point to never be out of reach of a pen and paper in case inspiration may strike. It’s all about the craft rather than the business of songwriting for Becker. He explains, “As writers, we don’t need publishing deals or royalty checks to do our job. Just a pen and maybe some coffee.” It’s an approach that has served him well for more than two decades.
Recently, Becker became focused on a different medium. “The two genres I’ve found that appreciate a great lyric are country and musical theater,” he says. “I did country first, and now I’m doing musical theater.” Becker’s current passion is a musical he’s written titled Wonder Women. It’s the crazy, yet true story of the origins of the Wonder Woman comic book character. The back story is as fantastic as any invisible plane.
Becker describes his show this way: “It’s a golden-age, jazz-style musical about three women who lived with William Marston, the inventor of the lie detector test, and how they combined their passions for early feminism with his propensity for BDSM [bondage, dominance, sadomasochism] fetish to create Wonder Woman.” It took Becker four years to research and write the book, music, and lyrics. He has worked on the script with dramaturgs from the Guthrie Theater and the Nashville Repertory Theatre.
Wonder Women had its first reading in August at the Atlanta Musical Theatre Festival and has been named an official selection for the 2019 Chicago Musical Festival. He’s also preparing to bring it to the Big Apple for the 2019 New York Musical Festival next summer and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre next fall.
Whether because of his grounded personality or disciplined work ethic, the changing landscape of the current industry hasn’t fazed Becker. “When my royalty checks started drying up—thanks to online streaming—I never paid a lot of attention to it,” he admits. “I just always keep trying to write better songs and find better ideas. No matter how the money is collected, the world still needs great songs. I never did this for the money.” Imagine a world where more people had that view.