CHURCH HILL — Volunteer High School students were treated to a performance and songwriting tips from Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Kathy Louvin on Monday.
Music got the students’ attention, and then Louvin hit home with her real message for the day. She said music and alcohol were inseparable in her family, but the alcohol took away most of the blessings that the music should have brought into her life.
Louvin — daughter of legendary Grand Ole Opry performer Ira Louvin of the Louvin Brothers — has two No. 1 country hits of her own as well as two Grammy Awards. She has written songs recorded by artists including Randy Travis, Ricky Van Shelton, Confederate Railroad, Martina McBride, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless and Rhonda Vincent.
Some other statistics she’s not so proud of include 12 DUI arrests, multiple divorces, and 12 trips to rehab.
Sprinkled between performances of her hit songs Monday in the VHS auditorium, Louvin wanted to instill in students that regardless of what’s going on around them with family and friends, each has a choice whether or not to keep alcohol and drugs out of their lives.
Both of Louvin’s parents were alcoholics, she was surrounded by alcohol and bad influences throughout her childhood, and her father was killed in a car accident when she was only 7 years old.
She lost her mother to cancer when she was 16.
Louvin told students that she drank to dull the pain, and by the time she was arrested for her 12th DUI on June 12, 2006, she was drinking from the time she woke up in the morning until she went to bed at night. She hasn’t had a drink since that last arrest.
Louvin said it wasn’t the stays in rehab that saved her, but turning to God.
“If statistics are right, then at least one out of four of you sitting here today have been affected by alcohol,” Louvin told students. “It’s about breaking the chains and taking control of your own lives because you’re all individuals, perfect and beautiful in God’s eyes. And you have the power to make your own choice. It’s called free will. Free will can save your life your life or end it.”
Louvin added, “I had come to the place in my life where I really just had to stop being mad at God and start to pursue an intimate relationship with him. What happened after that is he showed me what he could do for me.”
One thing God did for her was keep her out of prison. After her last arrest she was facing two to five years. The day before her trial the attorney general unexpectedly offered her “time served.”
She believes God kept her free to spread her message to others. The title of Louvin’s testimony is “Time Served.”
“You don’t have to go down that road,” Louvin told students. “For many, many years I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol in it in some form. That’s the way my family was. That’s the way I was raised. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to have that in my life, and I had a choice.”
But Louvin’s visit to VHS Monday wasn’t just about preaching the evils of drink and drugs. She was also there to preach the joy of creating music.
Aside from singing some of her own hits, Louvin offered a songwriting seminar for a few smaller classes and took time to answer questions from students about her creative process and how to get songs published.
Among the songs she performed was her first big hit as a songwriter, a song called “Oh What a Silent Night” she’d written for Randy Travis’ only Christmas album.
She also performed her first No. 1 hit, “Keep it Between the Lines,” which was recorded by Ricky Van Shelton; her second No. 1 hit “Queen of Memphis” recorded by Confederate Railroad; and a song recorded as a duet by Dwight Yoakam and Patty Loveless called “Send a Message to My Heart.”
Louvin’s two Grammys came in 2004 for her work as co-executive producer and performer on a tribute album to her father and uncle titled, “Living, Loving, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers.”