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31 Days of Women: Cam

Credit: Dennis Leupold

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Cam several times over the years. In October 2020, we caught up and discussed her excellent sophomore album The Otherside. The singer has lived a lot of life since the release of her major label debut album Untamed in 2015. She got married, switched labels from Sony Nashville to RCA in New York, and had her first child, Lucy. Her many highs and lows, and life changes throughout the past five years, are all reflected within the memorable 11 tracks of The Otherside. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.

“The past five years since Untamed and ‘Burning House’ I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot and I feel like I’m on the other side of learning some stuff,” Cam said via livestream ahead of playing title track “The Otherside” during an album release show from Nashville’s The Bluebird Cafe Oct. 30. “It feels so right to be playing this. I’m so grateful we get to sing something that’s so magical in the spirit of someone who inspired us so much.”

Cam penned the tune with the late Swedish DJ Avicii (Tim Bergling), Hillary Lindsey and Tyler Johnson. She credits Bergling’s “next level songwriting” and detailed vision for the song as inspiring and says not having him around to finish “The Otherside” had some added pressure.

“It put a drive in me to make sure that I lived up to his perfectionism and genius to try and give his family and his fans something that they could all enjoy again,” she tells me. “That was heavy. Even with Harry [Styles] and Sam [Smith] too — taking songs that they had written — I felt like I really wanted to make sure I do right by them and have them feel good about it. I could see myself in [the songs]. That’s why I choose them because I trust them [and] I recognized the ache in the songwriting.”

Other songs on The Otherside are more personal to Cam as she lived through some of the experiences she sings about. Songs like the autobiographical “Redwood Tree” and sweeping “Like a Movie” strike a chord with both Cam and the listener.

“I think because I came from a psychology background I always think of songwriting as pulling out something from the subconscious,” she says. “That’s something that I feel in my gut. I have to say it, I have to wrap it up in a story so that I can face it and heal from it. ‘Redwood Tree’ is definitely poignant right now with how you spend your limited time here, what amount of that you get with your parents and your family.”

Other songs, like “Classic” and “Like a Movie,” were inspired by her husband, Adam. As Cam explains, shortly after they got married, she asked her husband how he knew to wait for her and how he knew it was her he was meant to be with and not someone else.

“He was like, ‘When I met you it was like a movie.’ It was just so sweet. Even in that song, there’s a little bit of sadness because there’s all these times when it doesn’t work out. You’re afraid to think that it might be the right one,” she explains. “Every song is really important. I try to wrap them up in really cool production so that you start to get lost in a song a little bit and then maybe, sneakily, the words work their way into your heart.”

On “Like a Movie,” Cam went to Capitol Studios in Los Angeles to record the string accompaniment. She enlisted the help of David Campbell (Mulan, Rent, Dreamgirls) who arranged and conducted an orchestra for the song. Cam says she told Campbell that she wanted the feeling of a 50s or 60s romantic film where there is tension and he knew exactly what she was looking for.

“It was perfect,” she says of the arrangement. “I always feel like I’m caught in the rain on a movie set right before they kiss. It’s so sweet.”

For more of my interview with Cam, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

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31 Days of Women: Rissi Palmer

Credit: Chris Charles

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Rissi Palmer, host of Apple Music Country’s “Color Me Country” show, launched a grant fund in December to support BIPOC artists in country music. The fund, which takes its name from Palmer’s “Color Me Country” show, was created in partnership with fellow Apple Music Country host Kelly McCartney’s The Rainey Day Fund.

I chatted with Palmer in December about the decision to start the Color Me Country Artist Fund for Country Insider. Palmer says she remembers a time when she was choosing between paying rent or getting a demo done and hopes the fund will help struggling musicians continue their career. An excerpt of our chat is below.

“I know what those life choices are when you choose music as your journey,” Palmer tells me. “Even more so with artists of color, there’s not always a publishing deal. There’s not always a record deal when you’re out there pursuing music. We’re not as represented in country music. I want to make sure that nobody gives up on doing this and pursuing this because they can’t afford it.”

There is no specific criteria to apply for the fund. The grant will provide artists with cash gifts up to $1,000 and can be used for whatever the artist deems necessary. Palmer has contributed to the fund herself and asks others who are willing to donate to do so directly to the fund.

“If you want to see change — especially in the country music industry — then you have to start in pretty basic places. I think that this is a very basic place because this fund is for artists that aren’t signed and that are doing it on their own,” she says. “What better way to keep the music going and to encourage diversity than to help artists at the very beginning at the ground floor?

“More than changing someone’s entire financial situation, I think you give some hope. When you’re in the throes of being a musician, sometimes that’s the thing that keeps you going.”

For more of my interview with Rissi Palmer, visit Country Insider. The singer’s “Color Me Country” show airs live every other Sunday on Apple Music Country  at 7 p.m. ET.

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31 Days of Women: Britnee Kellogg

Courtesy: Britnee Kellogg

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Britnee Kellogg pours her past experience with an abusive ex into her autobiographical single, “Back of My Mind,” out today. An anthemic song that has the Washington native reflecting on a cheating ex, “Back of My Mind” has the singer also empathizing with his new girlfriend.

“Shouldn’t feel bad for you/ But I do/ In the back of my mind,” she belts alongside soaring production, a slick beat and shimmering guitar parts.

Kellogg first previewed “Back of My Mind” on TikTok last month. In a clip she tells followers, “Do you ever feel sorry for your ex’s new lover in the back of your mind? I wrote a song for you.” The song instantly resonated with listeners and has since been viewed more than 1 million times.

“I have been writing songs and performing for almost my entire life,” Kellogg says. “And I have always shared a bit of myself online, but recently in a moment of vulnerability, I posted a demo of ‘Back of My Mind’ on my TikTok account. The positive response I received from almost 10,000 fans was overwhelming.”

Kellogg wrote “Back of My Mind” about a past relationship that ended with infidelity. Penned in 2019 with producers Autumn McEntire and Eric Wikman, “Back of My Mind” has the singer reflecting on the situation after learning that another woman may be in the same position she found herself in with her ex. Instead of coming from a resentful place, she is sympathetic with her ex’s new girlfriend.

Listen to “Back of My Mind” below on YouTube or your preferred streaming platform here.

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31 Days of Women: Suzie Brown

Credit: Alex Berger

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Suzie Brown has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic for a year as a cardiologist at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Brown specializes in advanced heart failure and heart transplantation. The work entails confronting mortality on a daily basis with her patients and with Covid-19, that risk has heightened.

“It’s been tough for everyone, but Covid has made my job a lot more stressful, both because of my worrying about my personal safety and the safety of my family,” she tells me. “Then also seeing terrible things happening to our patients. Heartbreaking, horrible stories that I wouldn’t even want to tell you. It’s added a whole other layer of anxiety and sadness to an already really difficult year.”

Brown works at the hospital part-time and when she’s not at Vanderbilt, the mother of two is also a singer-songwriter. While she usually turns to songwriting as an escape, Brown admits that it took her a while after lockdown to be creative.

One of her early songs during the pandemic was “Another New Normal,” which Brown released this month. She says she’s not a religious person but found herself praying on her long walks. Some of her prayers included surviving the pandemic and not exposing her family.

“As I reflected I realized this is a big, seismic shift in the world. People were throwing around that phrase, new normal. Then I was thinking, ‘I’ve had so many new normals in my life,’” she says. “I was reflecting that life is full of new normals and that we’re always adjusting. I’ve had that feeling so many times like, ‘Wow, I was just starting to feel like I’m in a groove and now I have to make this huge change.’ I think to be successful in life, you have to be willing and able to adjust to all these new normals.”

For more of my interview with Suzie Brown, visit Forbes.

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31 Days of Women: Maddie & Tae

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Maddie & Tae countless times over the past six years. While we’ve talked at great lengths about their Nashville journey and the ups and downs of label deals, one of my favorite features on them was 2019’s Songs That Defined the Decade for Billboard. We discussed their breakthrough hit “Girl In a Country Song,” which they wrote seven years ago on St. Patrick’s Day. Below is an excerpt of our chat.

When Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye sat down with songwriter Aaron Scherz on St. Patrick’s Day 2014, they had no idea they’d be creating history and giving a voice to females within the country genre. The single they wrote together, “Girl In a Country Song,” was a bold track that called out country radio and the men on the airwaves for painting women the exact same way: as an accessory in their truck with cut-off jeans and nothing to say.

Throughout the tune, Maddie & Tae call out contemporary hits by Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Brantley Gilbert, Tyler Farr and Blake Shelton, all of which featured stereotypical supermodel-like women in their songs and videos. While it ruffled some feathers — with FGL’s Brian Kelley telling the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t know one girl who doesn’t want to be a girl in a country song” — Maddie & Tae never apologized for the truth heard within their lyrics.

“There was no reason for us to apologize and we totally understood that some people were offended, but to us it wasn’t for the men,” Dye explains. “It was for the women. It was to empower women. It wasn’t to bash men.”

All writers for Big Machine Music at the time, the three collaborators considered pitching the song to other artists. But when Maddie & Tae performed it at a Tin Pan South showcase later that year, it became obvious that it was best suited for them.

For Maddie & Tae, “Girl In a Country Song” remains a timeless statement on the importance of there being diverse portrayals of women in music and entertainment.

“There’s this role [women] got in these songs where we’re supposed to look this certain way,” Marlow says. “There’s this one type of woman that’s shown in every single video and it’s like, ‘Well, what about the petite girls? What about the curvy girls? What about girls that have their own job and aren’t just trying to ride some dude’s coattails?’ It just wasn’t representative of all women and so it was cool to get to say, ‘Hey there’s more to us than just looking beautiful. We run companies, too.'”

Watch the video for Maddie & Tae’s No. 1 hit “Girl In a Country Song” below. For more of my interview with the duo, visit Billboard.

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31 Days of Women: Jesslee

Credit: Dieter Spears

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

During a year of much uncertainty, Jesslee turned to music. Her 21 Jump Start EP, out today, has the Florida native covering uplifting songs by Miley Cyrus (“The Climb”), Rachel Platten (“Fight Song”) and Katy Perry (“Rise)” as a way to give hope to listeners.

“Although making music is an outlet for me as a human being, this record is not about me,” she says. “It is about YOU, it is about anyone that needs a little kick in the pants to know that no matter what we face as human beings we have the power to rise and overcome. We are stronger than we think and sometimes just need a little motivation and love to see exactly how strong we are.”

21 Jump Start has Jesslee showcasing her vocal prowess, further demonstrating why Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson both turned their chairs for the singer when she competed on Season 14 of “The Voice.” While the project has Jesslee reinventing several pop hits, she manages to put a unique spin on each while her vocal runs impress.

In addition to three cover songs, Jesslee offers a powerful original with opening track “Strong.” On “Strong,” Jesslee urges listeners not to compete with others and instead to embrace their uniqueness. “You know you don’t need their approval to be who you want to be,” she sings.

The track embodies the message of her 501C, The S.T.R.O.N.G. Program, which teaches children throughout their teens to be confident in mind, body and spirit. An anthem for women everywhere, especially during Women’s History Month, “Strong” has Jesslee sharing her light with others.

Listen to 21 Jump Start on Spotify below. 21 Jump Start is available on all streaming platforms here.

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31 Days of Women: Brandi Carlile

Credit: Jai Lennard

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Brandi Carlile has had a successful career as a solo artist, songwriter and producer. Whether she’s taking the stage with her name on the bill or sharing the spotlight with The Highwomen, throughout her career she’s always made a point to lift up the women around her.

On Sunday, Carlile won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song for “Crowded Table” performed by The Highwomen. She penned the song with Natalie Hemby and Lori McKenna and during her acceptance speech praised her co-writers as “my heroes.”

“We just wanted to see women in country music embraced,” she said during her virtual acceptance speech. “We’re seeing that more and more.”

During the pre-show event on Grammy.com Carlile spoke of receiving recognition from the Recording Academy and her peers. “Nothing feels better than getting recognized by other people that you admire and getting to show other people that you admire that you’re recognizing their work in any given year,” she said.

I interviewed Carlile 11 years ago ahead of her performance in New Jersey. During our chat, she discussed how Lilith Fair shaped her life musically and socially, her songwriting process and advice on achieving success. 

“Women’s music is not a genre. It’s equivalent in every way to men’s music and it has a place,” she said at the time. “The strongest thing that you can do is to form a community around you. A community of musicians, artists, writers, free thinkers, activists. That will elevate you. You can always succeed with a community around you.”

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31 Days of Women: Mickey Guyton

Credit: Phylicia J.L. Munn

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Mickey Guyton made her Grammy debut at tonight’s Grammy Awards. The singer earned a nod for Best Country Solo Performance for “Black Like Me,” making Guyton the first solo Black woman nominated in any country category. While she ultimately lost to Vince Gill and his song, “When My Amy Prays,” the singer won over the audience with a powerful performance of “Black Like Me.”

During a set that highlighted the women of country music, Guyton commanded the stage with the stirring and autobiographical song as backing singers gave the feel of a gospel choir. Donning a floor-length gold gown, Guyton captivated with emotive vocals alongside delicate piano, wavering pedal steel and string accompaniment. Fellow Grammy nominees Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris looked on before they followed with their respective one-song sets.

Ahead of the broadcast, Guyton said in an interview with Grammy.com that she wrote “Black Like Me” nearly three years ago. She penned the song after news broke about the murder of Botham Jean in his home in Dallas, Texas.

“I was so affected by that and when I wrote this song I never thought that it would see the light of day,” she said. “I wrote a song being like, ‘Life may be easy for some people but there’s other people it’s not.’ I wrote this song based off of the book Black Like Me that I read in college. It’s about a white man who darkened his skin to make him look like a Black man in the 1960s and went to the deep South to see what it was like to be Black in America.

“I was just writing a song from my heart and my own experience and it turns out to be so many people’s experiences and it’s not just Black people,” she continued. “I’m thinking of all the people that I know have had a difficult time. My husband has experienced police brutality and I saw it for myself. In thinking about my son, I want life to be easier for him than it was for me. Just like what my parents did for me so I’m going to channel that in this performance.”

“Black Like Me” is featured on Guyton’s 2020 Bridges EP. Listen to the project below on Spotify or on your preferred platform.

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31 Days of Women: Miranda Lambert

Credit: Ben Tusi

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Miranda Lambert is nominated for three Grammy Awards tomorrow evening for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song for “Bluebird” and Best Country Album for Wildcard. She’ll also be performing during the broadcast, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

I interviewed Lambert in 2019 ahead of the release of “It All Comes Out In the Wash,” the first single off her Grammy-nominated album Wildcard. Lambert wrote “It All Comes Out in the Wash” with Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, a songwriter collective known as the Love Junkies who have penned hits like Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Carrie Underwood’s “Cry Pretty,” among others. Below is an excerpt from our chat.

“It All Comes Out in the Wash” is your first new single in 15 months. What was it about the song that lent itself to be the lead track of your next album?

I think it was just kind of classic me. I think that it’s got some sarcasm to it, but it’s very honest. I haven’t had a single out in a long time, and I’m just ready to have new music. I’m in a new phase of my life and ready to have new music out there that represents that. This one just felt perfect as far as the vibe of it. It’s fun and lighthearted and I’m really excited about it.

How did the song come to be? Was there a certain lyric you had that kicked off the track?

I actually had the title for a while, and I took it to the Love Junkies. They’re some of my favorite people to write with and one day I walked in and I was like, “You know what? Everything’s fine. No matter what happens, it all comes out in the wash,” which is something my mom and grandma always would say — and it’s true. Everything finds a resolve, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. My last record went through a lot of the trials to tribulations I had been going through personally, and I feel like I’m kind of over the hump and this song represents that in a really great way.

Is there one line you’re especially proud of?

I kind of love “The Tide stick will get it.” [Laughs] That’s one of my favorites. I remember we were writing the song and just having fun writing it. Really, we were just talking about scenarios that had either happened to us as a group or someone we know, and the Tide stick came up and we all cracked up. The funny part is, I remember being at Target the next week and finding a whole bin of Tide sticks. I was like, “Yup, gonna have to need one of those.”

Is there a specific lyric that comes from your own personal experience?

Not really. I think every girl has been through moments [in the song]. Staining something important or calling someone you shouldn’t, all of it. There’s little things in life that you do that you go, “Ah, I probably shouldn’t have done that,” and it’s fine. Everybody gets past it.

What was it like writing with the Love Junkies?

It’s fun. We always have fun. It’s a bunch of girls that are willing to get in a room and be honest and it just feels like that. It feels very exciting and fun. Everybody lets their guard down, and I think that’s important: When you’re going to a songwriting session to come in and be open-minded and open-hearted and be ready to lay your shit out.

For more of my interview with Miranda Lambert, visit Billboard.

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31 Days of Women: Tiera

Credit: Kamren Kennedy

Editor’s Note: In celebration of Women’s History Month, You Sing I Write is highlighting female country artists and songwriters throughout March.

Independent singer-songwriter Tiera released her self-titled debut EP today. The Alabama native’s new project showcases her unique brand of country music and memorable storytelling.

The five-track EP was all co-written by Tiera, who is signed to Nicolle Galyon’s female-focused publishing company Songs & Daughters. Tiera’s warm vocals combined with R&B, pop and country elements have the singer leaving her distinct mark on the music scene.

Tiera kicks off with the sultry “Found It In You” and has the singer belting of a powerful kind of love that gives her confidence and happiness. Soaring electric guitar parts, slick beats and an infectious chorus make “Found It In You” an obvious radio hit.

The sassy “Not Your Girl” follows “Found It In You” and has Tiera boldly saying she doesn’t fit the mold and won’t change for any man. “Laid Back,” the most stripped down track on the release, highlights Tiera’s versatility as a singer alongside delicate strums of an acoustic guitar and a soft R&B beat while “Shut It Down” ups the ante with club-ready beats bound to liven up any party.

“Miles” featuring Breland is a feel-good ballad of a growing love that only gets better with time. With a throwback Motown feel, “Miles” has Tiera transporting the listener back in time with her soulful vocals and gospel-like backing choir. Breland’s rapid-fire singing swiftly brings the song back to the present while his vocals complement Tiera for a standout collaboration.

“When I put out ‘Found It In You’ I hadn’t planned to release a full EP, but as my fans grasped onto the single I decided to release this whole collection of songs,” Tiera says in a release. “It was really important for me to release my first full project independently because I wanted to make my stamp on country music in my own way.

“This is my way of introducing everyone to who I am as an artist,” she continues. “I wrote all of the songs with my friends and favorite collaborators; it is 100% true to me and I hope people have just as much fun listening to these songs as we did writing them.” 

Tiera’s EP is available now. For more, stream it below on Spotify or choose your preferred service to listen.