Credit: Jessica Steddom
Songwriting Session is a 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, Nicolle Galyon shares what she has learned as a songwriter.
There’s a very good chance when you turn on the radio one of Nicolle Galyon’s songs will be playing. Ten years since signing her first publishing deal, the songwriter currently has five singles at country radio including Kenny Chesney’s “All the Pretty Girls,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heart Break,” RaeLynn’s “Lonely Call,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth” and Lee Brice’s “Boy.”
The Kansas native’s songwriting journey is more than a decade in the making as she moved to Nashville in 2002 with the plan to pursue a career in artist management. During her time as a student at Belmont she worked as a personal assistant for Greg Oswald at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME) where she was frequently surrounded by music and industry professionals. She recalls being mesmerized while attending guitar pulls her first year in Music City and it’s there that she was first hit with the songwriting bug.
“I was like, ‘Wait, this is a job? You can do this? I think this is actually what I should be doing,’” Galyon says over the phone.
Galyon grew up around music and played classical piano. Her real passion was country music though and somewhere between classes and acting as a personal assistant, songwriting spread like wildfire in her heart and overtook all the things she previously thought she’d pursue. By the time she graduated from Belmont her dream of a career as an artist manager changed to becoming a songwriter. She took all the lessons from working for a booking agent with her and admits that one of the most important things she learned was to have thick skin.
“It really taught me to not take anything personally and to have a thick skin and to see behind the curtain of how deals get done and how business really goes down,” she explains of her time shadowing Oswald. “That perspective has really helped me, even as a songwriter, when something doesn’t go my way or my song isn’t a single or my song doesn’t make a record. That job gave me the 30,000-foot perspective to realize it’s not all about you and it’s not about the song. There’s a lot of moving parts here that has to go right in order for something to happen.”
Her time as Oswald’s assistant frequently had her in the presence of other songwriters, publishers and producers. Galyon vividly remembers parties where she’d be cleaning up and someone would ask her to play them a song she wrote. She says it was in these moments that she earned her stripes in bravery and thanks to Paul Worley, one of the people in the room that heard her songs, she was introduced to BJ Hill from Warner/Chappell Nashville where she signed in 2007.
“I met so many people through that job,” Galyon reflects. “I say I got my degree from Belmont, but my education from working for Greg Oswald.”
In 2013, Galyon saw her first taste of success when Keith Urban recorded “We Were Us,” a song she co-wrote with longtime collaborators Jimmy Robbins and Jon Nite. Galyon recalls writing the No. 1 song shortly after she came back from her 10-year high school reunion. Robbins and Nite had written with Thomas Rhett earlier that day and played her an idea that they didn’t wind up using. She says they had the beginning of the song’s chorus, “Back when that song was a song I could sing along.”
“They had the top of the chorus written, but they didn’t know what the title would be. There was really no idea yet. Because I had just come back from my hometown, this little rural farm town in Kansas, all of this small town imagery started coming out of my mouth. Then I started singing some of the verses,” she recalls. “I was really nostalgic thinking about my whole class because I had just seen all my classmates. We’re all married and some are pregnant and have kids and I’m just looking at us going, ‘Man, that’s when we were us. Now we’ll never be us again, me and my class. You can never go back to that time.’”
For more of my chat with Nicolle Galyon, visit Sounds Like Nashville.