- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 9, 2002

RICHMOND, Va — Tim Mensy was rummaging through a file cabinet when he came across an old photo of himself as a boy, sitting on a pony. For a fleeting moment, he was once again a 12-year-old mandolin virtuoso brimming with confidence that someday he would be singing and playing for big audiences just like his heroes Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash.

"You think all dreams are attainable at that age," Mr. Mensy says. "The realistic factors aren't there at all. In my case, I thought 40 years old was ancient and that by then, I would have been singing my songs for years instead of being a successful songwriter."

Staring at the picture, Mr. Mensy was struck by the difference between the life he envisioned as a boy and the one he has lived. The result was "He Turned Into Me," one of 15 tracks on Mr. Mensy's new self-titled CD.

Mr. Mensy, 42, wrote or co-wrote every song on the CD, including two that were hits for other artists: "Mama Knows" for Shenandoah and "I Just Wanted You To Know" for Mark Chesnutt. The CD is available on Mr. Mensy's Web site. (www.Timmensy.com)

Although he didn't turn into a big star in country music, Mr. Mensy has no complaints. The Mechanicsville, Va., native has carved out a nice songwriting career in Nashville, penning songs for such giants as Tammy Wynette, Randy Travis and Reba McEntire.

Among his high-profile friends are Trisha Yearwood, Joe Diffie and Shenandoah lead singer Marty Raybon, who provided backup vocals for some of the songs on Mensy's new album.

"I knew all those guys before they were successful," Mr. Mensy says. "Trisha used to sing my demos."

Mr. Mensy has two other solo albums to his credit, the last being "This Ol' Heart" in 1992. Now the homogenization of country music for the radio-listening masses has sent Mr. Mensy back to the recording studio.

"The narrowing of country music frustrated me a little bit in that a lot of subjects you can write about have been lopped off," Mr. Mensy says in a telephone interview. "We didn't really point this album toward what radio is wanting."

He said the songs on his new CD cover a variety of human relationships. For example, "One Doesn't Want to Let Go" is about a father who still sees his soon-to-be-wed daughter as his little girl.

"The way he writes and sings, it's intelligent country music," says Ed Seay, who co-produced the album with Mr. Mensy. "It's not what I would call 'goober' music. He's a great lyricist."


Mr. Mensy started his career at age 3, performing in his family's band in the Old Dominion Barn Dance, a now-defunct country music revue in Richmond. Despite a severe hearing impairment that required several surgeries to correct, Mr. Mensy became a state champion mandolin player at 12 before taking up the guitar.

There was never any doubt that Mr. Mensy would make his living in music, says his mother, Janet Menzies of Caroline County. " Yes, he was so serious about it," she says.

That certainty helped him through the awkward years when peer approval is usually so important, says Mr. Mensy, who chose a different spelling of his surname to use professionally.

"The blessing of my childhood is that I never wondered about what I would do or what I wanted to do," he says. "In an odd way, it allowed me not to put much importance on being socially successful in school."

Mr. Mensy graduated from high school a year early and toured with his family's band and other groups in the late '70s. He spent a few months at a guitar institute in California but dropped out because he didn't feel they were teaching him anything, his mother says.

"I think the bottom line is that he was homesick, but he wouldn't say that," Mrs. Menzies says. "We felt if he wasn't going to the institute, he should stop by Nashville for a while."

With his parents' encouragement, he landed in the country music capital in 1980 and started picking up some gigs as a studio musician. He's lived there ever since, although he spent a good bit of time on the road in the early '80s as a member of the band Bandana.

Mr. Mensy's wife, Brenda, a native of Ettrick, Va., gave birth to their son in 1985, and Mr. Mensy gave up touring to stay home and focus on family and songwriting.

"He's really a homebody, and I think that's why he fell into writing," Mrs. Menzies says. "He could stay there and write every day."

Mr. Mensy says that now that his son is almost grown, he wouldn't mind performing more. He still remembers those Old Dominion Barn Dance audiences, and he's sure country music fans haven't changed much.

"What I remember most is how the audience felt a personal relationship with the acts," Mr. Mensy says. "Even as a child, I knew that was special."

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