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Songwriting Session: CMA Week Edition
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

nashville postcard

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, I feature interviews from 15 Nashville songwriters from the SESAC Awards Red Carpet and the Songwriter of the Year After-Party during CMA Awards week. I asked each songwriter what was the best advice on songwriting they’ve ever received. Here’s what they told me:


Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott: “My first publishing deal was with Victoria Shaw. I was a young writer when I started working with her. She would always say, ‘Just dare to suck.’ I think that’s so important when you go into a writing room with people you know or maybe it’s new people you’ve never worked with before. I think it’s so important to just . . . if you throw out a line, even if it’s terrible it might lead someone else next to you to the right one. You can always be that catalyst and give them alley-oop to get to the right line. It’s a funny quote but that would be mine. Don’t be afraid to suck. [Songwriting] is truly a muscle. I can tell you, touring as much as we toured, we don’t write as often. It’s not as much a routine. It really needs to be like going to the gym. It’s a fitness that you have to get to. It’s important to have that frequency with it because you start to be able to gauge, ‘That was good. That wasn’t as good. This was awesome. This has potential.’ Whenever you write a line or two it gives you that perspective.

Lee Brice: I had someone tell me, take every line and if it don’t make sense then work on it. It’s not worth doing it if it’s just good. Keep working on it and make sure every word, every line, every nuance works. You either put in the work or you don’t. It’s never not hard.

Ashley Gorley: I’ve received a lot of different types of advice. One of them is write every day, it’s a workout. Not to wait on inspiration but just go do it, make it a job. Pre-writing and rewriting are part of writing. Some people forget and they just throw out whatever they think of. The brainstorm process and rewriting process. One of the most important things I was taught early on, don’t be afraid to throw a song away. Don’t waste a day or a week or a month or a year or a career writing decent songs, writing good songs. Everyone wants you for the few great ones, not the million good ones. The willingness to start over daily. Several songs that I’ve gotten an award for, even this week, got written after three hours we spent on something that we all thought were average and then we tossed it in the trash and wrote a new one. I think that separates the successful writers from the non-successful. The willingness to admit that you suck and to try to do better. You gotta go for it.

Bobby Pinson: The best advice I ever got on songwriting was to write what you love. The rules of songwriting change day to day and year to year. What’s cool now may not be cool next year. Write the songs that you love, be true to yourself and those songs will be true to you down the road. I experience it all the time, I’m an old man in this town but I’ve followed that advice and I write what I think I wanted to hear when I first starting loving it. I still do that every day. At some point that’ll be popular again. Just be true to what you love. I have the distinct advantage in creating music. A lot of people don’t create.

Lindi Ortega: I find that the songs that I love to sing and perform the most are the ones that come from my experience. I think those are the most poignant because they’re real and people can relate to them because it’s a genuine, real experience that you had. To be really honest in your songwriting, it might hurt to let some of that stuff out but know that if you do it might help somebody else feel better. If you’re going to write a dark song maybe you’re helping somebody realize that they’re not alienated in their dark experience.

Joe Nichols: Make it believable. Catchy is good. Clever is good, but believable is always better.

Larry McCoy: The best advice I’ve ever received was from a guy named Richard Leigh. He wrote ‘Gonna Make Your Brown Eyes Blue.’ He said, ‘Remember, we’re writing for people who don’t want to think. They just want to listen.’ It was a really good thing for him to say.

Jamie Floyd: Write what you know. Any time you get stuck or don’t feel inspired check in with yourself and go with the emotion that’s most real to you. If you follow that, it may take a while but it usually leads you to a song that is real and relatable. If it’s real to you, it usually trickles down and is the same way with others.

Jerry Salley: The best advice I received probably wasn’t being told face to face. When I first moved to town, a guy named Bob McDill, who is probably one of the greatest songwriters in country music history. I read an interview with him and he talked of how he came in every day whether he felt like it or not, whether he had an idea or not and he would show up and work 9-5 like a regular job. I took that to heart and I show up. You can’t win if you don’t show up. There’s days you stare at a blank piece of paper, there’s days you come up with one great line but it took the day, and there’s times you write a whole song in a couple hours. I never forget reading that and the idea of showing up and being prepared. you gotta be ready when inspiration does hit.

Cary Barlowe: This is kind of a cliche thing to say but I’ve always heard dare to suck. Every day is a new song and don’t overthink it. If it feels good it’s probably right. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. There’s a lot of times you overthink it so much. I think a lot of songwriters can say, ‘Don’t beat it with a dead horse.’ You gotta know when to move on.

Craig Campbell: To write songs. I didn’t write songs when I moved to Nashville but I got some advice from a buddy of mine, he said I needed to be writing songs and I ran with it and he was right. It was some of the best advice I was ever given. It helps me define who I am as an artist, it allows me to tell my stories the way I want to tell them and it lets people know who I am. I love it.

Lance Miller: Songwriting is a craft. You gotta pay attention to the ones that are a lot better than you are, which are a lot in this town. Always be a chameleon. I’m a traditionalist at heart and it [country music] moves around a lot. You get stuck in a rut and write the same old stuff. It’s a moving target.

Rob Hatch: Just keep working. The next song is the best song

Jim Lauderdale: Harlan Howard, when I was writing with him one time, of course I had already been through a lot. He said, ‘I tell these young writers who come to town, I say take some woman to a cheap motel with a case of beer, get your heart broken and then you’ll know how to write.’ I find a lot of guys that I’ve written with, because I have been able to write with Harlan, Robert Hunter, for me a lot of time it’s being in the presence if it’s a co-write and I take a lot away from that. My advice is perseverance. There aren’t enough opportunities for all the songs we write. You just have to wait and keep trying to top your last song that you thought was your best song. You just have to think, ‘And now I have to write 10 more of those.’ As far as a songwriter it never ends. As long as you want to keep doing it you have to keep challenging yourself the rest of your career.

Maggie Rose: Put your ego aside. You might not have a fully formed idea to offer but if you’re honest and uninhibited you might influence the way the song ends up because you’re throwing an experience out there that’s going to be relatable. If it resonates with them it will resonate with a stranger. Don’t have an ego, throw it out there. No inhibitions.

November 22, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Jenn Bostic
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Jenn Bostic

(Credit: Michael Ernst)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Jenn Bostic shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Minnesota native Jenn Bostic made her way to Nashville after studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. The singer-songwriter says after several visits to Music City throughout college, Nashville felt like the right choice.

“The more I came to Nashville it felt like home,” she tells me at Nashville’s Frothy Monkey. “I’m from a small town in Minnesota and Nashville felt like a place where I could fit in and find my spots whereas New York and L.A. overwhelmed me a little bit.”

Jenn has more than found her spot in Nashville, she’s made a name for herself in the music scene here and abroad thanks to her No. 1 song “Jealous of the Angels” which helped launch her career in the UK. “Jealous of the Angels” was co-written by Jenn and was a form of therapy for the singer as the song details losing her father when she was 10 years old.

“I started to play the song live and people were really connecting. They were coming up to me in tears saying, ‘This is everything I wanted to say for this family member or this friend,'” she recalls. “I kept thinking, ‘This is insane. There’s no way you could have told me when I was in high school wanting to be the next Carrie Underwood that I was going to end up telling my story about my dad and be vulnerable like this on stage.'”


Unbeknownst to Jenn, a woman found the music video for the song and sent it to a radio station in the UK who then played the song on-air. The phone lines blew up with listeners requesting the song and wanting to learn more about the singer.

“It’s something so much bigger than me. Pretty soon I was doing interviews from Nashville streaming to the UK and when I was on a tour over there it went to No. 1,” she says with a smile, still in disbelief. “It’s just this crazy journey of one minute I’m trying to have somebody hear my song to the next minute watching it go No. 1.”

Before the success of “Jealous of the Angels,” Jenn was struggling to find her sound. She released and recorded her debut album Jealous in 2013 and when she’d bring it to labels and publishers she was told she was too pop for country and too country for pop. Wanting to find her voice and knowing that she needed to tour to support the record, she decided to book her own tour in the Midwest with a friend, playing music at coffee shops for tips.

“My first tour was all cold calling. I wanted to be touring and since no one else was booking it for me I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to figure it out.’ I continued to do those runs where it was a week or two until I started to build a rapport with certain venues,” she explains. “Now I can call up venues and say, ‘I’ll be in town this date, can I have it?'”

Just like booking her own tour, Jenn’s publishing deal came about by putting herself out there and entering countless songwriting competitions. She won a European based songwriting competition called We Are Listening and for the competition that followed, her song was sent to the judges so they were aware of the type of song they were looking for. One of those judges, Jay Frank, happened to work at CMT and liked what he heard and reached out to Jenn.

“I was very hesitant because my songs are precious to me. He said he would love to start playing my songs for people and if somebody cut one we would figure out the details,” she explains. “A year past and he was becoming my mentor and giving me a lot of artist and songwriting advice. He was the first person in the industry who really believed in me.”

Jenn signed with DigPub a year after working with Jay and has been with the company for five years now. She admits she never knew that a publishing deal existed when she was growing up, dreaming of a career in music. She has since seen success with her music placed on television shows and cut by up-and-coming artists.

“To be able to know that my bills are paid to write songs every day, it’s incredible,” she adds with a big smile. “I love the writing so much but I also love singing the songs I’m writing. I don’t think you have to choose one or the other. There’s a lot of different ways to go about a publishing deal. Each deal is it’s own thing. The best way for me to do that was to get the music out there and increase my chances of that happening. I’ve played so many writer’s rounds, entered so many competitions. You have to get your songs out there so people know what you’re doing.”

While Jenn has seen success as a songwriter and as an artist, she admits that she has had her fair share of doubts just like any other artist. Her song “Counterfeit” off her latest album, Faithful, discusses what she calls “mind monsters” that often hold us back.


“Whether it’s people in your life trying to drag you down and telling you you’re not good enough to do things or your own voice in your head saying, ‘Well, you can’t do that,'” she explains. “As an artist, it’s an emotional roller coaster. You write a chorus to the song and your brain is telling you, ‘That’s terrible.’ And the other part is telling you, ‘That’s great!’ It’s constantly a back and forth with that.”

She adds: “For me, that song started with silencing those voices and silencing any negative thought that enters your brain. You want your true self to come out in the songs too. I’ve heard from friends that it happens in relationships as well. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who that song is not about.”

Jenn wrote the song with Lauren Christy, a Grammy nominee and co-creator of The Matrix writing/production team (Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Rihanna), and says she came in with the melody and Lauren immediately said she had been saving the title “Counterfeit” for so long and it was exactly what she wanted to write about.

Other standout songs on Faithful include the title track, where Jenn looks back on the success she had with her last album and asks herself what type of person she wants to be.

“I think who you are when nobody’s looking, whether that’s scrolling to see what number on the chart you are, or whatever it is, that’s who you are,” she says. “My pastor said that to me one Sunday and I thought, ‘That is so true.’ I felt encouraged. What are we focusing on? How high is it on the chart or creating the next song that’s going to touch somebody’s life?”


While she says seeing radio success was fun and something she celebrated and is grateful for, Jenn still has more work to do.

“When push comes to shove, who are you? Finding that for myself through this whole artist process has been great. When I step on stage I know my brand and who I am and what I’ll say and what I won’t, what I’m okay with and what I’m not.”

Jenn Bostic will be playing Nashville’s The Bluebird Café this Friday, Nov. 20. For more on Jenn, visit her Website.

November 15, 2015 | | (1) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Kaylee Rose
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Kaylee Rose

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Kaylee Rose shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Kaylee Rose is doing things her own way. The 20 year old Florida native moved to Nashville to pursue a career as an artist and has shared the stage with Grammy award winning songwriters, always able to hold her own with her rapid fire lyrics and unique storytelling.

Kaylee grew up in Miami and was a hip-hop dancer and cheerleader before music became her calling. In middle school, her family moved to St. Augustine. Not having many friends at first, she picked up the guitar and taught herself how to play.

“When I was 14 my dad tricked me,” she recalls over tacos at Nashville’s Taco Mamacita. “He had my guitar in the car and instead of picking me up and taking me home he took me to a bar on my first day of high school to play a show. I went in and played a show and I got hired right there. I was like, ‘You can get paid to do this?'”

From that very first gig Kaylee was hooked. She’d play two to four nights a week for four hours at a bar, her parents always in attendance.

“I didn’t realize how much of a blessing it was, all the shows I did. I only took off homecoming and prom in high school,” she recalls. “Every other weekend I would play two to four shows Saturday through Sunday. At the time I kept thinking, ‘Why would I say no?’ I would feel so guilty when I would pass up an opportunity for a show. I thought everybody had that work ethic.”

Kaylee attended the University of North Florida for a semester but had her sights on Nashville so she moved home after she finished her first semester and played a gig every night for six months straight to save enough money for the move to Music City.

“I played over a thousand shows before I moved here. I thought everybody had that experience,” she says. “I didn’t realize all those shows would help me so much. All the four hour shows where I set up all my equipment and broke it down.”

I caught Kaylee’s performance at Nashville’s famed The Bluebird Café in October where she was in a round with country hit makers Chris DeStefano (Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean) and JT Harding (Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney). When I ask her how she maintains her cool sitting alongside songwriters of that caliber she says she simply just does it.

“I try not to get intimidated. Obviously it is intimidating to be on the stage with people who have written some of my favorite songs that have won Grammys but at the same time, I’ve trained so long. I’ve been playing so many shows, I don’t have any right to get nervous,” she asserts. “I’ve worked too hard to let myself get nervous in those situations.”

She adds: “The biggest thing that I keep realizing that I do is that I treat this like athletes treat sports. The only way an athlete can be good at what they do and get to the top is if they practice every single day, no days off. I treat it like that. That’s why I play a show every day because I’m only going to get better. I know what people want to hear, what they don’t want to hear. I know how to work a crowd. When I do get those moments when I play with those hit writers I don’t choke up. That’s why I do that, just like athletes do. I’m proud that I work really hard. You have to in this town. Nothing is going to get handed to you. There are too many people with great talent. You can’t just be talented.”

Kaylee credits the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) for helping her form relationships with co-writers and get situated into the Nashville community. She crossed paths with NSAI’s Bart Herbison who saw something in her and set her up with co-writers.

“He really took me under his wing and we started meeting once a week and started building relationships with all the other people at NSAI,” she says. “I really took advantage of the fact that they hear so many songs so they know what sounds good and what Music Row needs and the level I need to be at. They’ve been really good at critiquing my songs and helping me become the best writer and artist I can be.”

Kaylee explains how it’s often easy to feel like the underdog in Nashville and the roller coaster of emotions life as a musician can bring. Having gone through the experience firsthand, she discusses her new song “Underdog,” which she co-wrote with Rachel Hutcheson and sings about these frustrations in detail.

“I hope ‘Underdog’ captures some people’s hearts,” she says. “I have to sing it to myself, ‘Okay, Kaylee, it’s okay. Nobody fights as strong as the underdog.’ I love this town, I love Nashville but it does get hard. When you have those hard times and you get back up, that’s the best part about it. Your heart won’t let you quit.”


When listening to Kaylee’s music, especially songs like “Underdog,” it’s easy to compare her hip-hop influence to that of Sam Hunt. Kaylee has been writing raps long before she moved to Music City though and admits her first songs, written when she was just 13 years old, included raps.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I was a hip-hop dancer before I picked up the guitar. And I’m from Miami so I’ve grown up listening to all types of music,” she explains. “When I first started writing songs I remember adding raps to them. And that was the biggest struggle, that’s why I didn’t know if I could move to Nashville. I was considering Atlanta because I thought I wasn’t country enough for this town.”

While Kaylee grew up listening to Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks, she wasn’t sure her music would fit into the Nashville country scene because of its blend of pop and hip-hop. She credits Florida Georgia Line’s collaboration with Nelly and Sam Hunt for opening the doors of the genre.

“In Atlanta and in Nashville people in the industry were telling me, ‘You can’t be a bunch of things, you can only be one. You can only be country or pop. You can’t do both.’ That’s why it took me a long time to move here because I wanted to do both but there wasn’t a place for it.”

Kaylee Rose has since found her place in the Nashville music scene and refuses to compromise her style of music.

“I’m glad I always stuck with my gut. I could have just gone down that path of doing what everyone else told me to do and I never would have tapped into the style that I do now. When Sam Hunt did come out I was like, ‘Good there is finally a place for this now.'”

Kaylee Rose performs at The Listening Room in Nashville on Tuesday (Nov. 10). For more on Kaylee, visit her website and SoundCloud.

November 8, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Chris Janson
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Chris Janson

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Chris Janson shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


Chris Janson has been grinding away in the Nashville music scene for over a decade. One of the most respected artists and songwriters in the business, he saw his biggest success earlier this year when his single “Buy Me a Boat” went to No. 1. After years of getting his songs cut by other artists (Tim McGraw, Justin Moore, Hank Williams Jr., Frankie Ballard, Randy Houser and Joe Nichols to name a few), he released his debut album of the same name on Friday (Oct. 30). I was fortunate to chat with him months ago for CBS while he was promoting his single, which had just hit the Top 20. In our discussion, he shared his journey as a country artist and songwriter.

“I decided I was gonna do [music] professionally when I got to be about 18 or 19,” he tells me, but he’s quick to admit that he has been playing music his entire life as a hobby. “I never wrote songs until I moved to Nashville and got in that scene. I just never thought about that side of things, I just wanted to play music. When I started writing, it was a whole other thing.”

Chris says Nashville is a town that’s built on songs and there is a big community for it. While he’s had his fair share of ups and downs over the years having been dropped from two labels, he says he never considered giving up.

“I’ve had to work real hard at it, but it’s finally paying off,” he says. “I just figured if I had a guitar and harmonica that I can probably just do it on any platform or level, and it just goes to show that persistence pays off.”

Chris adds that it’s important to him that his songs are relatable and that he always writes from a real place. When I ask him if he’s ever afraid to reveal too much of his life in his songs, he admits that’s a question he has never been asked before.

“Good question. I don’t think so. No. The answer would be no.” He pauses for a moment. “This is the beauty of being a songwriter: I can reveal as much as I want to and as little as I want to. So I try to keep a good meter on it, but I’m a pretty open book. What you see is what you get. We live an honest lifestyle and just try to be good people. I think that’s important. As far as my fan base is concerned, it always has been real people in the American working world, and I think they gravitate towards real songs and real stories and dudes that they can relate with that are singing.”

He’s quick to add that being a hard working man and an honest songwriter is very important to him and he won’t be chasing radio hits.

“I don’t ever want to record, write, or cut anything that’s just a hit song, per se. It has to be something that I can identify with myself and something that I can get up and pull my boots on in the morning and say, ‘Yup, that’s me singing it.’ I’m real happy to be the ‘Buy Me a Boat’ guy. Not only is it on the radio, but I really like the song.”



When I share with him a fan’s question on what he would tell a struggling artist he admits that he gets the question a lot.

“First of all if you’re gonna do music for real and take it serious, you gotta move to where the music’s at, where there’s a scene, like Nashville,” he asserts. “If you wanna do country music, you need to go to Nashville.”

He adds: “I definitely encourage people to do it their own way and never fold into what anybody else thinks they should do. That’s the number one thing. Take it from a guy who’s seen it from all walks of life, and I’ve had every up and down you could imagine. ‘Buy Me a Boat,’ that song came out independently. My wife and I did it right out of the house, and just kind of made that happen by the grace of God, and we did it our way. And we’re still doing it that way even with a brand new record label, it’s pretty awesome. So I guess bottom line would be just do it your way and don’t ever budge from it.”

Read my complete interview with Chris Janson on Buy Me a Boat is available now on iTunes.

November 1, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Jess Mosby and David Evans
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

David Evans and Jess Mosby cowrite

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, David Evans and Jess Mosby take us into their co-write in Nashville.


Nashville is a community of collaboration and songwriting is no different. In fact, it is very rare to find a songwriter who writes solely by himself. After talking with Jess Mosby earlier in the month, she invited me to her co-write with her frequent writing partner David Evans.

“We’re both from Indiana so we give each other a lot of sass,” she tells me weeks ago over coffee at Edgehill Café. “We’ve written together once a week for the past four to five months. We have good writing chemistry. If I have an idea, I text him at 2 a.m. and he’ll respond. David has 101 unused ideas in my phone because I trust him with an idea.”

Jess admits going into a co-writing situation for the first time with someone she doesn’t know can be awkward. Luckily, both she and David are outgoing which makes things much easier.

“It created a level of comfort,” she says. “You’re locked in a room for anywhere from two to five hours where you really have to make sure those two hours are worth your time. We both are laidback about the process and respectful about the topic.”

Jess explains that it’s important for songwriters to let go and let the writing process happen naturally, something that works extremely well for her and David in their co-writes. Their writing sessions quickly transformed into a friendship of support and encouragement.

“Even if you have the worst idea ever, just shoot it off and he’s not going to judge,” she says of David. “I write on the regular with about seven to eight people. Co-writing is like developing a relationship. I spend more time with my cowriters than I do with my family most weeks because we’re all working towards something. It’s such a cool, fun process.”

Jess and David are hoping to secure a co-publishing deal since the two write so well together. While Jess says their catalog of songs is different then what’s heard on today’s country radio, the listener can instantly tell it is a Jess Mosby and David Evans song. I see this come to life firsthand when I spend two hours with them in a co-write.

I meet Jess and David at The Workshop, a writing space on Music Row, where they frequently write together. The room they’re writing in is a comfortable space set up with two couches, a table and chair, and instruments line the walls. David has already settled on one couch with his guitar while Jess takes a spot on the floor as they decide what they want to write about.

“I’m going back to the list of Mosby ideas,” David says as he scrolls through his phone.

Jess begins looking through her phone, too. She currently has 101 ideas in her phone for David, with additional notes for each songwriter she writes with sectioned off.

“We have that wedding song idea. I remember that off the top of my head,” she recalls as she recites back some of the lyrics. “Something about that moment when she’s walking down the aisle. God made me wait but it was worth my while.”

Liking the idea, David tells Jess he wants to keep going with the song. As he starts strumming the guitar to remember their original melody he tells me, “If you’re bored, you don’t have to stay the whole time.” My second time in the writing room with two songwriters, I am far from bored.

David, dressed in a Chris Janson shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, then begins singing “Buy Me a Boat.”

“Is the shirt making you do this?” Jess laughs.

“Yes,” he says, informing me that Jess gave him the shirt. “He seems like the coolest dude.”

He then tells me that he and Jess already wrote part of the song that he’s trying to remember. She texted him more ideas for it after their co-write but they can’t seem to find those lines. Jess then tries to sing a part for him as he fiddles on guitar, but neither come up with their lost lines so David decides to make up a new melody as he plays a few different chords.

“What about, ‘It’s more than three little words that can make me feel like I said too much when I say I love you . . . or when saying I love you just ain’t enough.’ Something like that?” he asks after humming the melody to himself for a few minutes. “Oh, that was it. Wasn’t it? I think it was that chord though.”

“Take your time, peaches!” Jess urges. She then warns me of some of David’s hand movements during a write. “If David starts to do this in a write [motioning her arms] he’s not having a seizure. Do not get scared. I was like, ‘Oh no, what happened?’ and then he came back to life.”

While David continues fiddling on guitar and humming the lyrics he realizes he’s stealing Steven Curtis Chapman’s melody for “Cinderella” and quickly apologizes.


He sings the verse they came up with again, having Jess ask, “Doesn’t his voice make you want to cry?” It does.

Something ’bout that moment, she’s walking down that aisle ’cause God made me wait but she was worth my while,” he sings, humming towards the end as he tries to figure out what lyrics come next.

She put her lips on mine,” Jess suggests.

“I need to record this so I don’t forget,” Dave admits.

We’re only 20 minutes in but the first verse and chorus are almost done. Though, the more David sings back the lines, he’s not completely sold on what he and Jess have come up with.

Just three little words, the only thing in this world that could make me feel like I said too much when saying I love you isn’t saying enough,” he sings once more. “More than just three little words. The only thing in this world that can make me feel I’ve said too much.”

“What are you thinking now? What to say next?” Jess asks.

“I’m thinking of the second line. ‘The only thing in this world.’ I’m trying to think of a better way to say it and an easier way to sing it,” he explains as he continues humming for the next few minutes.

Eventually happy with what he and Jess have come up with, they move onto the next verse as Jess offers up an idea to move the song along.

“For some reason I’m thinking, ‘When she placed her hands in mine’ or something like that. I don’t want to say gold ring on because your other song [has that.] Something about when she placed her hands in mine…something something time. Something, something life. It never felt like this before. You know where I’m going with that? I’m trying to think of what you do after you walk down the aisle. Lips on my lips. That’s been done before. Hands in mine.”

Dave likes what he hears and offers another suggestion as he sings: “When she puts her hands in mine, gets me every time. Something about that moment when she’s walking down the aisle. God made me wait but she was worth my while. She puts her hands in mine yeah it gets me every time.”

Jess likes it and offers another idea: something about forever.

When she puts her hands in mine yeah it gets me every time and now I know how forever feels,” he sings. “Or, get to know how forever feels?”

Get to know how forever feels. I didn’t hate that,” Jess says.

After a few minutes they’re confident with the first verse and chorus and now it’s time for the second verse. The story changes from a woman walking down the aisle looking at her husband to a father dancing with his daughter and soon Chuck Wicks’ “Stealing Cinderella” comes to mind, but both don’t want to make that comparison in their song since it has been done before. Another idea vetoed is the concept of being her prince at the ball.


“You said you want to make a song that makes people cry so we’re doing it,” David tells Jess before he segues into playing John Mayer songs on guitar. “When I started playing guitar, he’s the guy that I knew all of his songs. I couldn’t play them like him, I faked my way through.”

A few tangents later, David admits, “I like playing Cinderella even though it’s been used a few times but not since Chuck Wicks.”

Jess stands strong on her veto though. “I just feel like we’d get too much slack for that.”

So, David offers another idea: “She’s my little princess I don’t want to let her go. She don’t know, she don’t know. Wife is first, daughter second. Can we do mother, is that okay? Can she be passing away? Or maybe not?”

Jess says it’s fine by her and David is quick to conclude that they’re going to make everybody cry. Listen to the song below in its entirety and see if they succeed.

For more on Jess Mosby, visit her SoundCloud. David Evans’ latest EP Something About a Love Song is available on iTunes now. On Tuesday (Oct. 27), songwriters will pay tribute to Mosby by performing the songs she has written at Whiskey Rhythm Saloon in Nashville from 6:30-9:30. David’s set begins at 8:30.


Isn’t Saying Enough

Verse 1
There’s something about a moment
When she’s walking down the aisle
God made me wait
And she was worth my while
When she puts her hands in mine
It still gets me every time
She don’t know, no she don’t know

It’s more then just three little words
She’s the only thing in my world
That can make me feel like I’ve said too much
When saying I love you, isn’t saying enough

Verse 2
There’s something about a prayer
When you’re running out of time
And the words you wanna say
Are the ones that you can’t find
But Jesus is calling
And he’s come to take her home
Before she goes I hope she knows

Verse 3
She looks just like her mama
With her little hands in mine
We spin around the room and she says daddy one more time
She’s my little angel and I don’t wanna let her go
She don’t know, one day she’ll know

October 25, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Jess Mosby
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Jess Mosby

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Jess Mosby shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Jess Mosby is a rare breed in Nashville. Solely a lyricist, the Indiana native brings her talent and ease for words and rhyme into every co-write. Writing songs is something she’s been doing since she moved to Nashville nearly two years ago but dates back to when she was 15 being raised by her grandfather, who was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. During her junior year of college at Purdue University, she enrolled in a creative writing class that soon became a much needed outlet.

“I wrote a lot of dark stuff but through that I realized that writing was very therapeutic,” she explains while sitting at Edgehill Café in Nashville. “I would get great reviews from my teacher.”

One of her assignments included writing a poem based on a classmate’s story. Jess wrote a poem called “Monster” after a student revealed that she had been raped.

“It actually got published in a book and the girl was so overwhelmed that someone would be bold enough to write about her story and be able to do her justice,” Jess recalls. “The fact that she thanked me after it was a motivating factor that I could tell people’s stories.”

Since that poem, Jess dabbled in writing for magazines but says it wasn’t creative enough for her. It is when she learned about songwriting that she discovered her true passion and ability as a lyricist.

“I’ve learned the power that I have is that other people are going to tell you what they’re going through and trust that you’re going to do it justice by pieceing their thoughts and feelings together in a lyrical aspect,” she explains. “A lot of singer-songwriters know how to come up with a melody with what they’re feeling but they can’t put it to words. That’s where it all started and gave me that motivating thing to realize, ‘Hey, I have a gift that affects people.'”

Soon after, she moved to Music City to pursue songwriting and get her Masters in Music Business. One day when Jess was at Starbucks someone suggested she check out singer-songwriter David Evans, who also recently moved to Nashville from Indiana.


“Nashville was hard for me because you’re so intimidated because there’s so much talent here. It was hard to find my voice at first,” she explains over coffee. “I’ve always been a person with a big voice and once I discovered that your voice matters in Nashville I started speaking up and talking about what I wanted to do.”

The two budding songwriters got together after Jess reached out to him on Facebook. After writing a few songs together, Jess says they got into a groove and she realized how unique their songs were, which only helped fuel their co-writes even more.

“They weren’t like anything you heard on the radio,” she explains. “I realized I was ready for the next step.”

So, Jess did her research and made connections and began to form relationships with industry professionals, something she says is one of the most important things a songwriter can do in Music City. Along the way, she learned that most publishers can’t take any song that is unsolicited so she had to get involved with performing rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP and SESAC before she started knocking on doors.

“I had a really good relationship with someone at BMI who put me into the hands of someone who pushed for me and gave me a list of publishers and made me email them myself so I had to think of, ‘How am I going to sell myself to someone who doesn’t know me over email?'”


While all her hard work eventually did lead to a publishing deal, it wasn’t the right one for her so she turned it town.

“Sometimes you’ll get offers that aren’t necessarily for you,” she explains. “Now it’s looking for the right one and with the right person or the right company. A lot of it is that Nashville is a relationship town and you have to make good relationships with people–even people you don’t want to sometimes.”

While making a career as a songwriter sometimes seems like a far off goal, Jess says she never thinks about songwriting in terms of making money.

“The end goal is to get your songs heard because they’re good songs and you want people to hear what you spent two hours creating turned into three minutes,” she stresses. “I think everyone thinks money would be nice but it’s a really small reason why I want to do these things. When I got into songwriting and music it wasn’t to make a bunch of money. And, I’m not making any money now and I love doing it and I still do it so there’s gotta be something to it.”

Jess Mosby’s 5 Goals When Writing a Song

1. Celebration

“I want something to celebrate so if I want to write a fun drinking song I want to make sure it’s fun and not bro. Matt Bell and I have a song, ‘Glass For Every Beer.’ I want people to have fun and laugh.”

2. Healing

“I want people to feel. I either want people to heal or I want them to cry or I want you to think.”

3. Fall In Love

“I want people to fall in love and to have that song that makes you think about love differently. Love is universal. And [to have] the justice of afterwards you to want to find your soulmate and it tugs on your heart.”

4. Relieve Aggression

“I want people to let out their aggression or anger. I have a song called ‘Short Fuse.’ I was just mad that day. I was like, ‘I have a short fuse. I dare someone to set me off. This tickin’ time bomb’s about to go off and explode. So strike a match and watch me go up in smoke.’ That’s the chorus.”

5. Make Babies

“I want people to . . . this is going to sound inappropriate. I want people to get pregnant. I have a couple of baby making songs that you want people to be embraced in that feeling.”

Jess concludes: “I go into my writes with one of those five things in mind. The whole thing is I want people to relate.”


For more songs that Jess Mosby has written, visit her SoundCloud.

October 11, 2015 | | (5) comment comment
Album Review: City and Colour’s ‘If I Should Go Before You’

City and Colour

City and Colour, better known as singer-songwriter Dallas Green, released his fifth album today (Oct. 9). If I Should Go Before You is the follow-up to Green’s 2013 album The Hurry and The Harm, and encompasses 11 tracks of atmospheric folk songs that beg to be heard.

The album begins with “Woman,” an eight minute song with nearly one-and-a-half minutes of instrumentals before Green’s soothing voice is heard. Alongside distinct guitar fuzz, he holds the listener’s attention with intrigue.

Meanwhile, on “Mizzy C” the character within the song is struggling with a life out of focus and attempting to change direction in hopes to find what he’s looking for. A tale of perseverance, it’s hard not to root for the man in the song.

The title track “If I Should Go Before You” transports the listener back in time to the ’50s and ’60s when soul music was at the forefront. The slow pace of the song combined with the sweet sentiment of not wanting to leave the earth without his loved one strikes a chord. While many of the songs ease the listener in, there are plenty of upbeat songs with a memorable groove that lighten up the mood, including “Killing Time” and “Wasted Love.”



Where the title track had elements of soul music, “Runaway” and “Friends” embody a slight country feel with pedal steel and slide guitar respectively. And when he sings, “I want to live where the wild wind blows,” it’s hard not to agree.

While each track on the release stands on its own, it is Green’s first single “Lover Come Back,” a beautiful yet heartbreaking ballad, that leaves the greatest mark. It’s hard to believe he wrote the track while on vacation with his wife, but sometimes it is when we take a break from it all that the greatest inspiration strikes.



City and Colour’s new album If I Should Go Before You is available now.

October 9, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Leigh Nash
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Leigh Nash

(Credit: Alysse Gafkjen)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, Leigh Nash shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


After spending over a decade with Sixpence None the Richer and years honing her sound as a solo artist, Leigh Nash released her debut country album The State I’m In last month. On the 12-track release, Leigh co-wrote each song and says writing was a pretty big leap as it was often difficult for her.

“I love to write but the issue for me is having the confidence in yourself,” she admits, speaking softly as we sit at Nashville’s Headquarters Coffee on album release day.

Throughout the writing process, Leigh would often question if she was capable of writing material that people would want to hear. Having grown up listening to Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves, she wanted to keep their melodies and style of music alive within her album.

“The way they wrote songs, I really love it and that was my school as far as songwriting goes, by listening to those old classic songs,” she adds.

So how did she get over her lack of confidence with songwriting?

“Just by doing it,” she explains. “I’ll get my guitar out and come up with something I feel like is a strong story and a good solid melody and I want to finish it.”

Leigh looked to friend and songwriter Jesse Hall to help her craft some of the songs on her new album. He’s someone she says is like a brother to her. When she played him her ideas and he wasn’t bored and didn’t shy away from the project, she knew she had a partner in the project.

“He helped me make it exactly what I dreamed of in my head. Him loving it gave me confidence,” she adds. “As you go and more people hear it, it drew more out of me. It fed off of itself. Now I have immense confidence in my writing abilities. It took exercising the muscles enough.”

Some of the more vulnerable moments on the album come in the form of songs Leigh wrote with her husband, musician Steven Wilson, including “Tell Me Now Tennessee” and “High Is Better.” She stresses that vulnerability is the key to everything in life, especially in songwriting.

“If you can be vulnerable, I think a lot of good things will come to you,” she adds. “That’s when we’re the softest and our ears are the most open.”



While Leigh admits to having had some arguments with her husband during the writing process, ultimately the songs that made the album were written together from true life, relationship struggles and things she had said to her mom on the phone.

“We both have to be in the right mood,” she says of writing with her husband. “I think it’s hard to write with your spouse because they’re the ones that get your worst. I would never say to a friend, ‘I don’t like that chord.’ I get real cutting. If we’re in a good space we work off that. I love writing with him. Subject-wise, we do a good job. It helps when we’re writing something we’re both excited about.”

Leigh Nash’s album The State I’m In is out now. Read more of my interview with her on Taste of Country.

October 4, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Win Tickets to Maddie & Tae In New York


Maddie & Tae will kick off their first headlining tour next Wednesday in New York and you can be there. You Sing, I Write has a pair of tickets to give away for their concert at Highline Ballroom. To enter for your chance to win, simply follow @yousingiwrite on Twitter with the message: “Send me to Maddie & Tae live in NYC” and I’ll enter you in the raffle. The winner will be notified by EOD on Monday. Good luck!

“Giving girls a voice is so special to both of us and we just feel blessed to do that,” Maddie Marlow told me earlier this year. “There’s all different types of songs on our record, all different types of stories. ‘Girl in a Country Song’ was one where we were like, ‘We know other people feel this way, and we’re gonna hold the torch for this message.’ And it worked.”


The duo’s debut single, “Girl In a Country Song” went to No. 1 on the country charts and helped launch Maddie & Tae’s career. The song called out the men on the radio for singing about girls in the passenger seat. Watch the music video for “Girl In a Country Song” below.


October 1, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session: Country Edition
CATEGORIES: Features, Songwriting Session

Dierks Bentley

(Dierks Bentley/Courtesy: The Green Room)

Songwriting Session is a new weekly column that goes behind-the-scenes with artists and songwriters. Each Sunday, a new songwriter will share their journey and provide lessons they’ve learned along the way. This week, country artists Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves and Charlie Worsham share what they have learned as songwriters.


Charlie Worsham admits that songwriting is “just a switch you can’t turn off.” He is quick to explain that it’s something that never leaves him.

“I’m always jotting something down on an airplane,” he says. “It’s this thing that keeps you up at night. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, it gets you up early. You just can’t shut it off. You can’t ever put the pen down. It’s constantly gnawing at you in an excruciatingly beautiful way.”

Stuck on a chorus or song idea? Charlie suggests stating a universal truth.

“Some of the best advice I ever got on chorus writing was listen to the Beatles and Tom Petty,” he admits. “If you listen to their choruses, ‘And I’m free. Free fallin.’ ‘All you need is love.’ If it’s a really powerful truth sometimes all you need to do is say it and then repeat it two more times.”

Most of the artists I’ve spoken with in the past have said the best songs often come from something he or she has experienced firsthand, Kacey Musgraves being no exception.

“The best songs for me come from things that I have actually experienced or have some kind of insight on,” she says. “It all has to resonate somewhere within me. It can’t be completely fabricated. It always starts from me and that’s my favorite kind of music. You can tell it’s truthful.”



So you want to be a songwriter? The most important advice Dierks Bentley has for an aspiring songwriter is to write every day.

“One guy said to me, ‘You know what? You need to write about 500 songs, and just put them all in a drawer. When you get done doing that, call me up and I’ll write with you,’” he recalls. “I thought he was being a dick, but basically what he was saying was—you can’t be precious with your songs—you just got to write ’em and file ’em.”

He continues: “You want to be a songwriter? Write every day. 500 songs is a lot, but I got what he was saying. Don’t type them up on a nice sheet of paper and put ’em in a three ring binder. Just write ’em up, then go on to the next one. Keep writing.”

For more tips from country songwriters, visit my article on

September 27, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
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