The People's Tribune

Guitarist Ronnie Stoops Talks Songwriting and Recent Success

Ronnie Stoops posing at Henderson Park with the new Champ Clark bridge.

In October, we featured singer Kathryn Washington-Shipley’s journey into country/gospel music and her song, “This Will Always Be My Town.”  

The music video for the song featured Shipley and the song’s writer, Ronnie Stoops, in various locations around Louisiana.   

The song itself won the duo two Josie Awards, made it through the first round of Grammy selections, and topped the charts at NashVegas Radio.  

Part of the song and subsequent music video’s success stems from the incredible visuals provided by Dylan Hetelle of Peak Media Video Productions and the efforts of its producer Daniel Dennis of Prime Cut Studios in Nashville.  

The other aspect is the phenomenal vocals and hard work of Shipley who is driven to continue promoting the song that has struck a chord with listeners and the indie music scene.   

Even after a year, the song remains on charts such as NashVegas Indie Radio and Global Music Video Hits. Another part of the song’s success lies with the scores of people from small communities that can relate to it.   

This week, the Tribune has an exclusive interview with the man behind the lyrics as the retired heavy equipment operator talks about the awards, his influences, and his songwriting process.  

Ronnie, a 1981 graduate of Louisiana High, was born knows the small-town life well. Although he now lives in the Troy area, part of what drove him to write the song was his fond memories of his hometown.   

“It was a great place to have spent my childhood,” he reminisced. “I learned small-town values of being there for your family, friends, and neighbors when they were in need. I received a good education, made lifelong friends, met my first true love there, and learned how to fish and hunt in those woods.”   

He went on to laugh about learning to drive in the sixth grade.  

“Country folk know about driving at an early age.”  

One of his early memories also set him off on his musical journey.  

“I knew the guitar was going to be my instrument when I heard my dad strum a few chords on an acoustic guitar and sang just a short line of a country-sounding vocal line,” Ronnie told the Tribune. “I was instantly hooked. It was that powerful of message for me.”  

Shortly after, he started guitar lessons at the age of 9.  

Although Ronnie worked as an operator to support his family, he continued to pursue his musical dreams. He later performed with, wrote, and co-wrote several songs for the Christian band named ONESEVENTEEN.  

“We produced an album with 11 songs of which I wrote four and co-wrote another,” Ronnie explained. “We led worship with those songs and other Christian music covers at church events throughout Missouri and Illinois.”  

Unfortunately, life intervened for all the band members, and they could no longer continue as a band.  

“It was a great time with great Christian men who were all very talented. I love them all.”   

He was also part of another album with a former Oneseventeen bandmate, Brian Ames. “Brian was writing and recording this album in Chicago called Myth and Truth and asked if I would do some of the guitar work.”  

His answer was yes.   

That willingness to work with other performers opened doors for him which ultimately led to him collaborating with Shipley for Louisiana’s 200th Anniversary.   

“Kathryn and I agreed to do an acoustic set of Christian songs together at the sesquicentennial celebration,” he said. “We did 5 or 6 songs before the First Baptist band played and that started everything off.”  

Later Shipley asked if he would perform the National Anthem at the 2019 Josie Awards show. According to Ronnie, performing the anthem in front of a large audience was a huge honor.  

“Getting the opportunity to play our National Anthem there was a highlight for me as a guitar player. I always dreamt of playing the anthem in front of a large crowd, but to actually play it in front of all the veterans who served and those still serving was such a special moment for me and my family.”  

Ronnie explained one reason it was so important was that his son had served six years in the Air Force. “It was an important memory and an honor.”  

During that weekend, Ronnie’s wife, Stacey Carr Stoops, mentioned that he and Shipley should write a song about Louisiana.  

He immediately got to work writing.  

“I usually write a guitar part first, and once I am pleased with the music, I slowly start adding lyrics a verse at a time,” he continued by talking about his process and how the chorus and bridge or ‘the hook’ of the song always takes the longest to write. “I feel like it’s the part that grabs people’s attention the most. The hook has to have great lyrics and music to support it.”   

As for the Josie Awards and Grammy selection process, he says they’ve got been almost unbelievable “wow” moments.  

“It was an honor as the songwriter and having the pleasure of standing side by side with my dear friend Kathryn in the video with her stunning lead vocals on our song in addition to winning the 2020 Josie Award video of the year! It was an amazing day!”   

With the Grammy consideration still ongoing, he hoping it continues further. “I can only pray that it continues to climb further within the Grammy voters’ hearts but just getting considered and making the first cut is a pretty big deal within itself.”  

But hasn’t always been easy. The life of any creative at any level is often wrought with obstacles.   

“Sadly, enough one of the bigger obstacles might be money and sacrifice,” he said of what a potential musician might have to overcome. “Being a guitar player/musician is not cheap it can get rather expensive. The other obstacle is sacrificing time away from your family and friends.”  

He admitted that a professional touring musician might have many more sacrifices. “I’m not there in my musical journey but would love to join a touring band. It’s still something I would love to do if the opportunity presented itself.”  

Until then, Ronnie isn’t slowing down. He’s working on another song and wants to keep the momentum from his recent success to keep moving.  

“I just want to keep pushing forward with the gift of music God has given me and use it to inspire young people that might hear my song, my story. Hopefully, it leads them to dream big, reach for their goals, and finding themselves even more capable of accomplishing all their hopes and dreams.”  

For now, he’s going to work on his future release and enjoy time with his grandchildren, and maybe tell them stories of Louisiana.   

“It molded me into the person I am today. It was a blessing growing up there, and I think others will agree to that.” 

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