Boys Like Girls Guitarist Is Now a Rising Country Songwriter-Producer

Paul DiGiovanni
Dallas Wilson

Paul DiGiovanni 

Paul DiGiovanni made a great escape to Nashville and already has a No. 1 (Dan+Shay's "How Not To") under his belt.

Paul DiGiovanni, a rising star in the country music world, recently had a life-changing experience he describes as "surreal." Between the time he walked into the Music Row offices of Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) Nashville to write a song and the time he walked back out a couple of hours later, the celebratory banner outside the building had been changed, with the new one lauding his first No. 1 as a writer, Dan + Shay's "How Not To."

"I'm still really digesting it," the songwriter-producer says of having a chart-topping song (written with Kevin Bard and Adam Hambrick). "It's the biggest dream of mine coming true, and I'm just waiting for it to all to sink in."

He may be new to the top of the charts, but DiGiovanni is hardly new to music. He first gained fame as the lead guitarist in the pop-rock band Boys Like Girls, which formed in Massachusetts when he was just 17 and scored a record deal with Columbia. He left high school to tour with the band, which remained active until 2012. During that time, he got his first taste of the country music world when his group recorded the song "Two Is Better Than One" with Taylor Swift for its second album, Love Drunk, in 2009.

Now living in Nashville for a little more than three years, DiGiovanni is fully immersed in the format and poised to become a very familiar name. He's producing the debut albums for new Universal Music Group Nashville artists Jordan Davis and Brandon Lay, and also produced Jackie Lee's current single, "Getting Over You." He has songwriting credits on projects from Lee, Dustin Lynch and Chase Bryant, as well as multiple cuts from Davis and Lay, and a new cut on the next Dan + Shay album.

Additionally, he has become a go-to collaborator for producer Scott Hendricks, who tapped him to do the programming (including loops, synths and overall polish) on several Warner Music Nashville albums from artists including Blake SheltonChris Janson and Michael Ray. It's a great partnership, says DiGiovanni, because Hendricks encourages him to "be daring instead of too conservative. I don't have to be afraid [that an idea] is too crazy."

DiGiovanni's success in country music has come under the guidance and nurturing of UMPG Nashville, which signed him to his first publishing deal in September 2015. Despite his obvious potential, UMPG Nashville executive vp/GM Kent Earls says even his team has been astonished by DiGiovanni's fast ride in a music community generally known as "a seven-to-10-year town." Senior creative director Missy Roberts brought DiGiovanni into the fold, and Earls says she "has done a tremendous job with Paul. Together, as a team, they have taken things to a new level very quickly.

"For a new writer to come in and have the success that Paul's had already is amazing," says Earls, who anticipates that several more of Paul's songs will climb the charts in the next 12 months. "He's got incredible co-writes coming up out on the road with some of our biggest artists, [and] he's already writing with a lot of the biggest writers in town like Ashley GorleyBen HayslipJonathan Singleton and Rhett Akins." Earls confidently predicts, "We'll end up with two or three [more] No. 1s in the next year" from DiGiovanni.

In the video for "How Not To," director Patrick Tracy took the storyline in a completely different direction than the one DiGiovanni and his co-writers intended, with a poignant plot about a young couple who separately hit rock bottom, get introduced at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and then turn their lives around with each other's support. DiGiovanni was not only onboard with the new storyline, he and his girlfriend — professional actress and American Idol alum Katie Stevens — appear in the video. Stevens takes the lead role, while DiGiovanni has a cameo as the boyfriend she's with while she's still drinking.

"I have an embarrassing, stupid little 10-second cameo," he says. Look for DiGiovanni in the scene where "she's screaming, and it cuts to my face, and I do this epic eye roll and she throws a lamp at the floor and smashes it."

While more acting may not be in his future, there's little doubt DiGiovanni is destined to become one of Nashville's behind-the-scenes superstars.