An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | June 13, 2012

'Off to war': Charleston pilot writes country music hit

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Country music legend Johnny Cash is renowned for his impact to the entertainment industry. However, before Johnny Cash was dressed in black, he wore Air Force blues. Other prior military musicians include Willie Nelson, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley.

One Joint Base Charleston pilot may be added to that elite list of famous songwriting servicemembers.

For Maj. Pete Reddan, a pilot with the 437th Airlift Wing, heading off to deployed locations, such as combat zones, is just another part of the job. But, in addition to soaring through the skies piloting aircraft, Reddan is also an accomplished country music songwriter.

Reddan's military inspired tune, 'Off to War,' was recently produced and performed by Nashville recording artist, Brad Anderson. The song was inspired by his experiences during deployments, as well as the experiences of the men and women Reddan serves with.

"Deployments can be emotional for everyone," said Reddan. "From the moment you step onto a plane or ship leaving for a deployed location, until the moment you return from that location, it's common to experience a wide-range of emotions; nervousness, excitement, fear and of course, missing the ones you leave behind."

Reddan is a self-titled 'campfire songwriter' and doesn't write music for fame or fortune; to him it's a creative hobby. Reddan prefers to perform his music among friends, while enjoying their company around a beachside campfire. He also uses his peers for new songwriting ideas.

It was during these campfire sessions that 'Off to War' was born.

His personal experiences of deploying, feeling both excitement and nervousness, gave Reddan the inspiration to write, 'Off to War.' However, it was the overwhelming positive response of his Airmen that gave him the courage to take the song to the professional level.

"I don't consider myself a professional songwriter," said Reddan. "'Off to War' was originally a song I wrote to perform for my friends and family to enjoy."

Long-time friend, Joe Morris, former Army Special Forces and current road manager for country music recording artist Darryl Worley, not only provided positive feedback to the song but also, according to Reddan, mentored the songwriting pilot during the copyrighting process and helped Reddan get his foot in the door to country music.

"To me, the creative process of songwriting is a rewarding adventure," said Reddan. "Creating something out of nothing is a rewarding aspect of songwriting. The positive response to my music has been incredible, but being able to simply sit down and compose something fresh, to me, is the most rewarding part of this adventure."

According to Reddan, with the help of Morris, the 'adventure' led the song to the doorsteps of country music industry insider, Dave McAfee, owner of Dave McAfee Productions. McAfee has toured overseas to Southwest Asia for more than 10 years with recording artist, Toby Keith during his United Service Organization trips and has flown on many military aircraft, including C-17's.

McAfee's history of leaving his loved ones behind and traveling to Southwest Asia helps connect him to Reddan's song. According to McAfee, he was honored to work with Reddan and felt the pilot's military service provided deeper sincerity to the lyrics. McAfee, along with the help of experienced music maker, Greg Perkins, elevated Reddan's campfire ballad and turned it into a country music hit single.

All they needed was the right voice for the song.

"It took time to find the right singer for the song," said Reddan. "But, when we heard Brad Anderson, I knew he was our guy. Brad has a weary, but strong voice."

"Brad Anderson is an up-and-coming musician," said Reddan. "It's an honor he chose my song to launch himself into the country music spotlight. Having a complete stranger not only enjoy my song, but taking it and gambling their career with it shows a lot of risk on his part, but also shows the confidence he has in the song."

Reddan felt the singer's voice captured the essence of the strength found in the men and women he serves with. The song was recorded by McAfee and Perkins and the track was the solo single released by Anderson.

According to Anderson, his initial reaction to the song was simply, "We have a hit here."

"The finished project speaks volumes about what it takes for our armed forces men and women to keep doing their job," said McAfee. "I look forward to working with Pete again in the future!"

Reddan never imagined his military tune would travel from the campfires of the Lowcountry to the music industry of Nashville, but it has. This summer, Brad Anderson is scheduled to release his first country album and Reddan, his first songwriter, is planning on attending the album's release party. However, Reddan is making no plans to be a full-time songwriter.

"Songwriting is only a hobby," said Reddan. "I'll keep writing, but I'm an Airman first. My hope is when other service members deploy, they can listen to the song and know they're not alone. Going off to war isn't meant to be easy, but sometimes, it's got to be done. Hopefully my song will remind service members they can overcome the anxieties of deploying and get through the emotions."