A Canadian songwriter named Connor Shaw wants you to consider his case of a stolen song. The Edmonton-based composer penned and recorded a demo-style version of a song called “Easy” that he uploaded on YouTube in November of 2016, and the song happens to sound eerily similar to the massive Jason Aldean single “You Make It Easy.” Jason Aldean recently went #1 on the American country music radio charts with “You Make It Easy,” and the song is credited to Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, along with Morgan Wallen and Jordan Schmidt as the songwriters.
Listening to the two songs side by side (see bottom), there most certainly are some immediate similarities between the two songs even novice music listeners can pick up on, the most obvious being the 6/8 time signature and similar title. Also the two songs have the same basic “Easy” hook. There are other similarities as well, like what the verses say in similar moments of the song, though the lyrics aren’t word for word, nor are the cord progression or structure of the two songs exact. “You Make It Easy” and “Easy” are certainly similar, but they’re not straight parallel with each other.
After exhausting all legal avenues (according Connor Shaw), the songwriter decided to take to Twitter on May 15th to plead his case and litigate the matter in the court of public opinion. His thread has since gone viral, and drawn the attention of multiple media outlets.
“The #1 song in country music right now is a song that was stolen from me. Think that sounds crazy? Check out this thread,” Connor Shaw begins. Then his tweets go on,
The song under question is Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy” which is said to have been written for him by the members of Florida Georgia Line and another prominent country songwriter by the name of Morgan Wallen.
This is false. It’s actually mine. In 2015 I wrote and recorded a song titled “Easy” At the time, I was an amateur songwriter who was mainly writing and recording for classes in my music degree.
This particular song ended up being quite well-received by the instructor in one of my songwriting courses, so I chose to post the song online (YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, etc.)
My song was by no means well recorded or even finished by my personal standards, but it was something I could post online for the enjoyment of my friends and family. Cut to a year later.
I received a message on Facebook from a family friend who is also a singer/songwriter from Nashville. She says she’s seen my posts on Facebook and she loves my music. She then asks me to send her any demos I might have so she can send them around. The song I sent was “Easy”
We had that exchange in October of 2017. All is quiet for a few months. On February 8 of 2018 I was checking out all of the new Music that was released for that week and I stumbled upon a new song titled “You Make It Easy” by Jason Aldean
I thought “Hmm, that’s funny. My song uses that as the hook for the chorus, I wonder what this sounds like” After listening for the first minute of the song I came to the shocking realization that “You Make It Easy” uses the same hook and melody as my song.
After listening to the song over and over again, I started to notice a striking number of lyrical similarities as well. In short: the musical structure, lyrical content, and instrumentation used in his song are in a lot of ways identical to what is featured in my song.
I did an incredible amount of digging on this song to try and understand how this happened. Throughout different interviews he outlines the fact that the song was “written” some time in January by the members of FGL and was given to him at his request.
After sharing some concerns on my personal Facebook I was eventually put in touch with a Canadian entertainment lawyer who did his best to help my find a case in this situation.
We put together a compelling argument and sent a cease and desist to the lawyer of Florida Georgia Line. (I won’t post any of our exchanges because I’d be walking on eggshells)
Essentially their lawyer responded with a long-winded and incredibly condescending letter informing us that no matter what we did we would never have enough money to out-lawyer their team. (They strong-armed me by calling out my financial situation).
Beyond that their isn’t much I can do other than watch the song I wrote gain an unbelievable amount of popularity. And for those wondering, I did reach out to my family friend to ask who she sent the song to and she wouldn’t tell me. (Sketchy, right?)
I’m almost certain that I sound crazy. I just can’t shake this feeling that my song was taken from me and I can’t do anything about it. In 2018, David gets his ass kicked by Goliath.
I’m sure I missed a bunch of details, but it’s late and I’m tired, so I hope you found this as interesting as I find it infuriating. Well played, Jason Aldean. Well played. Have fun with my #1 song.
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For the record, even if “You Make It Easy” was outright stolen from Connor Shaw, Jason Aldean would not be the one to blame. The blame would be on songwriters Brian Kelley, Tyler Hubbard, Morgan Wallen, and Jordan Schmidt. According to Jason Aldean, while he was trying to find songs for his latest album Rearview Town, he called Tyler Hubbard up to his house to see if there were any songs Florida Georgia Line wanted to contribute. The duo had also contributed songs to Aldean’s previous two records, so this was par for the course. Hubbard presented a demo of “You Make It Easy” which had just been written earlier that week, and Aldean said he wanted to cut it.
According to songwriter Morgan Wallen, Tyler Hubbard was the originator of the song, and it was inspired by his wife, Hayley. Morgan Wallen told Taste of Country on January 30th:
Tyler said that he had looked at Hayley and how he figured, you know, it was kind of hard with his job and everything that he has to do—how it might be hard to love me. He just told her that she makes it easy, so we all just kind of like, ‘Damn, well that sounds like a song right there, man, why don’t we just write that?’ And so we did. It was just a pretty natural feeling song, just pretty straight forward. The idea came from Tyler and Hayley Hubbard.
We had the hook to start it off with … we just started off right there at the top and just wrote the rest of it. I think we wrote the first verse, then most of the chorus including the hook, and then we wrote the second verse and then we came back and kind of got the rest of the chorus to go along with it.
So was “You Make It Easy” truly written by Tyler Hubbard with an assist from others, or taken from Connor Shaw via a family friend you passed the song to Hubbard or someone else in Nashville?
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Saving Country Music’s Conclusion:
There is no outlet on planet Earth that would love to accuse Florida Georgia Line and Morgan Wallen of ripping off some poor Canadian’s song more than Saving Country Music. But the evidence here is circumstantial at best, the motive is non-existent, and the timeline presented by Connor Shaw doesn’t add up at all. The only way you could prove that “You Make It Easy” was an outright ripoff of Connor Shaw’s “Easy” is if this family friend in Nashville that Connor Shaw texted about “Easy” was willing to come forward and explain very specifically how the song went from Shaw to Tyler Hubbard.
Though the two songs most definitely sound similar, there is just not enough similarity to call Jason Aldean’s “You Make It Easy” a direct ripoff of Connor Shaw’s “Easy” that would ever pass the burden of proof in a court of law. One of the reasons the two songs are similar is because they’re both rather cliche. Connor Shaw admits this himself in his explanation, and as Saving Country Music said in it’s review of “You Make It Easy,” “The lyrics are where Aldean’s ‘You Make It Easy’ fail to impress … It’s just a sex-infused love song, pretty generic …”
There are so many songs out there and so many people writing and recording them, it is very plausible this is nothing more than a case of coincidence. Or possibly Tyler Hubbard did her the song from Connor Shaw’s contact in Nashville, and inadvertently mirrored some of it’s elements when writing his own. Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley seem to have little or no taste when it comes to writing and recording “country” music, but they have never shown a tendency to be untruthful or unethical. They are songwriters too, and some of the most prolific songwriters in Nashville. If someone presented them a song they thought was so good they needed to finish it and record a demo of it, their first instinct would be to either include or credit the original songwriter in the process.
There is a code of ethics between songwriters that even some of the most spurious actors in the business adhere to. Because if you don’t adhere to those long-established and universally-recognized rules, you will never find any work in country music, or be able to place any songs. The songwriting system dating back to Acuff/Rose has been refined to protect creators for nearly 80 years. And even if it was found that somehow Tyler Hubbard took Connor Shaw’s song and re-imagined it in his own words, all that Shaw would have coming to him at the absolute most would be 1/5th of the claim to the publishing under Nashville’s long-established “third for a word” rule which gives all contributors equal shares of rights, regardless of who the originator was. The only way Connor Shaw gets 100% credit is if the song is an exact replica, which even by Shaw’s estimation, it isn’t.
When songwriters feel they’ve been ripped off, it’s a highly emotional situation, and for understandable reasons. If you were in Connor Shaw’s shoes, you would probably be very angry as well, but that doesn’t mean you would be right. It’s worth recalling the time when Jason Isbell accused Dierks Bentley of ripping off his song “In A Razor Town” with “Home” in 2012. Just like Connor Shaw, Jason Isbell took to Twitter ranting and raving, looking to draw blood on Dierks. What was the result of the confrontation? Isbell eventually withdrew his claim, and after the counsel of some close friends including Ryan Adams, he got sober. Isbell’s loss of perspective in the conflict with Dierks is what made him decided to change his lifestyle.
There are lawyers who specialize in these very matters, audio experts who advise them and the courts, judges who hear these kinds of cases all the time, case law that helps dictate the outcomes, and a clear cut legal process to determine whether a songwriter is worthy of a claim to rights on a song or not. Connor Shaw is saying that his shallow pockets are the reason he can’t bring the case forward, but if he had clear cut evidence the song was ripped off, he would have more lawyers contacting him than he’d know what to do with. The problem is there’s no smoking gun, or a motive. Does Tyler Hubbard really need to rip of some poor Canadian songwriter when he’s got a catalog of hundreds of songwriting credits, and can make a million dollars from composing the kind of refuse Florida Georgia Line releases regularly?
There are further issues with Connor Shaw’s claims. In his initial Twitter rant, he said that the Florida Georgia Line lawyers dismissed his claim not by discharging its merits, but by strong arming him due to the fact that he couldn’t pay a lawyer to bring the case. But that’s not true. As can be seen from the response of Florida Georgia Line’s lawyers (see below), the lawyers went line by line against Shaw’s claim, and didn’t chide Connor Shaw about the money it might take to litigate the claim, only that they would vigorously defend their clients, which is their job.
The timeline is very important here as well. Connor Shaw claims “You Make It Easy” was brought to Jason Aldean by Tyler Hubbard in January of 2018. It had to be early January 2018 as well, because Aldean was interviewed about the song’s origin on January 26th by iHeartMedia. The song was then released to the public on February 5th as a single. Except for extreme cases, there is no song that gets selected for inclusion on a major label album—especially as a lead single—that is written, demoed, pitched, recorded, mixed, mastered, and focus grouped to be declared as a single in three weeks or less.
It often takes nine months or more for a song to go through the major label process, if not longer. The timeline Connor Shaw is presenting where he sent “Easy” to the family friend in Nashville in October of 2017, and by February 5th of 2018 it was released to the public, is virtually impossible.
Still the two songs are similar enough, perhaps Connor Shaw was truly was ripped off in some capacity. It can’t be completely discounted as a possibility. And if that’s the case, he has a right to fair compensation as much as anybody. But Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen, and Jason Aldean also deserve at least some benefit of the doubt, and the right to not be tried by the kangaroo court which is Twitter. At this point, Connor Shaw’s claim has become a meme, and people who love to get whipped up in a frenzy on Twitter and take their torches and pitchforks against anybody they feel might be guilty of anything have joined in without any rational thought process behind the action, or true knowledge of the music business.
I have no doubt that Connor Shaw believes he’s been ripped off. It also doesn’t appear Shaw is simply after money. He’s after compensation for injury. But this is not a situation any of us are qualified to litigate. Instead, Shaw should try to raise the necessary funds to pursue his legal action (someone has set up a Go Fund Me), and let the facts come out in the discovery process or trial to find out if he has a rightful claim. Otherwise this is simply a matter of a Twitter lynch mob trying to go after famous people they hate that they have no evidence did anything wrong.
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Find the two songs, and the legal letters back and forth between the respective lawyers below.