When Shane Profitt received the potentially career-elevating opportunity to have his first co-writing session with “Done” hitmaker Chris Janson last year, there was one person standing in Profitt’s way — his boss.
Profitt’s day job at the time was bush hogging grass in the road medians for the City of Columbia, an hour outside of Nashville.
“All your buddies would be driving by, honking at you. It’s like, ‘Man, this sucks,’” Profitt tells Billboard. “But it did give me time to come up with song ideas.”
Profitt had met Janson and his family by chance a few weeks earlier at a Nashville sushi restaurant. Janson and Profitt ended up talking about music for over an hour that evening, and exchanged numbers. Janson later called Profitt early on a Wednesday morning to see if they could write together later that day.
Profitt recalls, “He said, “I know you’re a real outdoorsman, like I am. I have this song idea called ‘The Reel Bass Pro,’ and I want you to be a writer on it. Can you get off work today?’ I called my boss, and he said, ‘No way’.”
So Profitt devised a plan.
“I didn’t want to have to call one of my musical heroes back and tell him I couldn’t write a song with him, so I asked if we could write over FaceTime, and we wrote it over FaceTime on my lunch break,” Profitt says. That song, “The Reel Bass Pro,” ended up on Janson’s 2022 album All In, as did a subsequent co-write, “My American World.”
Profitt quit his day job last November and has since inked a co-label deal with BMLG Records and Janson’s Harpeth 60 Records, signed a co-publishing deal with Anthem Entertainment and Janson’s Old Tom Music Publishing, played the Grand Ole Opry, and opened tour dates for Janson. But Profitt’s blue-collar roots remain clearly evident on his debut EP Maury County Line, including his current top 30 Billboard Country Airplay song “How It Oughta Be.”
Billboard caught up with Profitt to discuss his rapid journey from cutting grass to cutting hit songs.
In a year, you’ve gone from working a day job to signing publishing and label deals, touring with Chris Janson and having a song rising on country radio.
It’s been crazy. When I quit my old job, at the time I had only ever been to four states. Now, a year later with the Chris tour and radio tours and everything, I’m up to 44 states.
You are just getting your big break, but you’ve played music since you were a kid.
I played banjo a bit when I was about eight years old, and later dobro. My parents were part of a bluegrass band. I picked up guitar when I was 18; my granddad taught me some basic chords and from there, I started watching YouTube videos to learn how to play different songs. Maybe a year or so later, I started trying to write songs.
You wrote “The Reel Bass Pro” with Chris Janson, who is also signed with Big Machine. How did that lead to your publishing and label deals?
About a week after we wrote “The Reel Bass Pro,” I went deer hunting with Chris and his son and when we got back, we wrote another “My American World,” in person, this time. He’s got a guitar in just about every room in his house and we wrote that song in about 30 minutes. After that, he offered the publishing deal and asked me to open shows on his Halfway to Crazy tour. When I opened for Chris at the Ryman Auditorium, [Big Machine Label Group founder/president/CEO] Scott Borchetta came backstage and offered me a label deal.
“How It Oughta Be” is a rising hit. From the lyrics, it seems family is super important to you.
My parents have been so supportive of anything I’ve wanted to do. My mom would cook supper every night when I was growing up and my parents thought it was important that we sit at the table every night and spend that time together. I feel like if everybody in today’s world had more of that family life going on, the world wouldn’t be quite so crazy. I have an older sister and she’s about to have a baby. It’s my parents’ first grandchild, so they are excited. We’re all excited. It’s a boy, Luke, and my present to him will be a lifetime hunting and fishing license here in Tennessee.
You wrote every song on your EP. Who else would you love to write songs with?
My dream co-writer would be Hank Williams, Jr., and I wish I could have written a song with Waylon Jennings, Keith Whitley or Merle Haggard.
If you could see anybody, living or dead, in concert, who would it be?
Merle Haggard, hands down. “Misery and Gin” is probably my favorite song in the whole world.
What TV show or movie could you watch repeatedly and still enjoy?
O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line. Absolutely love both of those.
Favorite music-related book or podcast?
I don’t really listen to many podcasts or anything, but I was on the [Bobby Bones’] BobbyCast, and I’ve listened to it. I love that it is longer and it gives him more time to delve deeper into things.
What else is on your bucket list?
Just to grow as an artist and to grow my fanbase. “How It Oughta Be” is getting heard in so many places. I was in the Baltimore airport the other day, and someone came up to me and asked for my picture. That just made my day.
What is your favorite story of meeting a fan?
I got to go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital a few months ago and I met some of the patients. Just seeing the smiles on their faces. They are real survivors and a few of them were talking about how they loved “How It Oughta Be.” That in itself — there were some tears shed, for sure. Just getting to talk with them and their families, and help take their minds off what they are going through for a little bit. I’d say that has been the highlight of my career, because the ultimate goal as an artist and songwriter is for people to use music as therapy.