Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Rachael Turner

Rachael Turner

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, Rachael Turner shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Rachael Turner caught the music bug at an early age. While growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, she began singing in a children’s choir at church and by the time she was 11 years old she had the solos. She began taking voice lessons as a teen and her passion for music led her to study at Nashville’s Belmont University where she received her degree in Commercial and Music Performance.

“I loved every second of it,” she says of her time at Belmont over coffee at Nashville’s Edgehill Cafe. “I think that really grew my love for music in general and it was a really great place to cultivate [my] style and who I was, because for a while I struggled.”

As Rachael explains, she wasn’t sure the genre of music she wanted to pursue. She grew up listening to country music but loved both the pop and country genres.

“There was never anything on the radio but country growing up,” she adds with a smile. “Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, I wore those records out. My mom was probably tired of listening to me sing in the car, but yeah, Belmont helped me experiment and decide.”

At Belmont, Rachael discovered that she loved country too much to stray from it. “That’s where my heart and soul is,” she explains.

In 2012 while a senior at Belmont, Rachael signed with Rustic Records and has since released four singles while trying her hand at songwriting and working on her debut album. She says her degree from Belmont has helped her communicate with the musicians she works with and her producers, allowing her to speak their language and gain insight into the industry as a whole.

Her previous singles have been written by well established songwriters including Brandy Clark, Jeff Cohen and Lance Carpenter. While Turner doesn’t have a writing credit yet, she says she is learning the importance of co-writing within the Nashville community.

“I come up with great concepts and ideas and every now and then I’ve got some great little one liners or a good melody piece, but I’m not the strongest of pulling it all together in the best way possible,” she admits. “I’ve come to really value extra opinions and other ideas to help weave the fabric together.”

She adds that she loves being able to bounce ideas off her co-writers because it keeps things fresh and allows her songs to come to life. Rachael says she plans to co-write more often in the coming year with the goal to make her music relatable to listeners.

“I really think that will help solidify who I am as far as what music I make,” she explains. “There’s something about having something you wrote that came from your heart. I only sing about things that I can personally relate to. I want people to get to know me and my music and also be able to emote though music as well, because music is the best therapy. You can lock yourself in your car and sing at the top of your lungs and let all of that emotion go in song. That’s what I want people to do with my songs.”

Rachael’s previous single “I Don’t Love You,” written by Brandy Clark, does just this. As she explains, she heard the song years ago but had trouble relating to it herself. After going through a difficult breakup, she stumbled back upon the song and her entire perspective on the song changed.


“The very first time I heard the song I knew there was something special about it, but it didn’t strike a chord with me,” she recalls. “A couple months down the road, a boy broke my heart, and I just remember going through the CDs again and I heard that song again and I was like, ‘This is my life right now.’ I was in a place where at night I would go to sleep and I couldn’t sleep. Just this constant loop of, ‘What did I do wrong? Was there somebody else? Why didn’t this work out?’ All these questions and self doubt, [my] broken heart talking. Everybody’s been there.”

Rachael says recording the song helped her move on from the heartbreak and she hopes it will have the same effect on her listeners. More recently, she released her new song “Aftershock” to country radio. It tells the story of the end of a relationship and just like on “I Don’t Love You,” her emotion shines through as she sings of trying to pick back up the pieces after a heartbreak.

Rachael is currently working on her debut album with producer Chuck Ainlay (Miranda Lambert’s Platinum, David Nail’s I’m a Fire) and says what is most important to her is showing her authentic self throughout her music. Additionally, she hopes her music shows her versatility.

“I want to be real. I want people to able to reach out and touch me and touch my music. I just want to be an open book for people,” she concedes.

For more on Rachael Turner, visit her website.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Danae


Photo by Sarin, Text Design by Brad Wolf

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, Danae shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Danae is living out the lyrics of her debut pop single, “Direction.”

For the past 10 years, Tiffany Danae Thompson has been refining her sound and as she sings on “Direction,” she has “got a new direction,” both figuratively and literally. A recent Nashville transplant from D.C., the former singer-songwriter is leaving this genre for her new pop project, which is a blend of what she loves musically.

“I’m pulling the intimacy of being a singer-songwriter into the pop space with songs that are personal but also larger than my own life,” Thompson explains. She looks to Chris Martin and Bono as champions of this type of music, and as inspiration for her writing style. Their lyrics are “often poetic and vague, but the songs still tell us stories about their lives,” Thompson explains.

Thompson says a quote she lives by is “what is most personal is also what is most universal.” Her latest songs reflect this motto, as the lyrics tell her heart’s stories with words that could be describing any number of situations. In her song “Prove,” Thompson writes, “I’ve got nothing left to prove / Couldn’t walk away if I wanted to / I’ve got something left to say / My fire for you won’t fade away.” Perhaps it’s about love or maybe it’s about a dream; the listener gets to choose.

Coming from her singer-songwriter background, Danae’s music is not only influenced by EDM (Electronic Dance Music), but also jazz, folk and rock.

“I’m excited that each track on my first EP sounds different. ‘Prove’ and ‘Direction’ might remind you of Katy Perry or Coldplay; while ‘Gold in the Dirt’ reminds me of Imagine Dragons. I’ve started a few songs and immediately thought, ‘This isn’t a Danae song.’ I know what I want my new music to feel like; so I’ve been leaning into that,” Thompson says. “I want it to leave people feeling encouraged and with a sense of momentum. That doesn’t mean all sunshine and flowers, but I want to make sure each song is in some way an echo of my core.”

Since her move to Nashville a year ago, Thompson has been collaborating with her executive producer, Sarin Kuruvilla. During their first co-write, he asked if she had any titles in mind and she immediately cited the title of what would become her first single under Danae – “New Direction.”

Over the next six months Kuruvilla and Thompson brainstormed melodies and verses while thinking about the overarching question in the song: “what does it mean to have a new direction?” Thompson said that after several sessions it was clear the lyrics were more than just a one off song, they were describing her evolution as an artist.

Danae 'Direction' music video

Danae’s first music video was shot in Nashville with the help of a motorcycle, an old truck and a friend’s minivan

As Thompson continues to find her own momentum for the new music coming out this year, she encourages other songwriters who are questioning a genre change not to be scared.

“Going in a new direction, being vulnerable in a place where you are unfamiliar is intimidating. But, if you’re being called to a creative adventure, you have to just do it,” she urges. “I don’t know what the next year or five or 10 years hold for me, but I know I’m growing and excited to be in this new season.”

Thompson adds: “Don’t let where you’re at today limit where you can go tomorrow.”

While jumping out of your comfort zone may be scary, Thompson explains it’s more terrifying to not push yourself, at least in her mind. “A mentor once told me, if you never fail at anything you are probably not taking enough risks,” she says. “Change is risky. But I believe we were created to grow and change. Isn’t that why they call life a journey?”

To get an exclusive pre-release download of “Direction” visit For more on Danae, visit Instagram and Facebook.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Jeff Cohen

jeff cohen

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, Jeff Cohen shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


Jeff Cohen left what many would call a dream job at BMI in New York as Senior Director, where he had a hand in discovering and signing Jeff Buckley, Kara DioGuardi, Lisa Loeb, Joan Osborne, Ani DiFranco, Spin Doctors, Wilco and many other artists, to pursue a career as a songwriter.

“My attitude was, ‘If I think you’re good, I trust my instincts. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. And if you’re willing to work hard I’ll work with you and we’ll try to get this going,'” he says of his time scouting bands at BMI over lunch at Nashville’s J. Alexander’s.

After nearly a decade at BMI, a serious illness caused Jeff to take some time off and he says while in the hospital he came to realize that his favorite time of day was at midnight when he’d be home with SportsCenter on the TV and pick up his acoustic guitar and write songs.

“I said, ‘You know what? I may not be the best songwriter in the world but I don’t want to be 40 years old and never show anyone these songs,'” he recalls. “I had just been writing for fun where I’d write four or five songs a year at two in the morning or on a Saturday about some girl I had a crush on or someone who wouldn’t date me. I never showed anyone. My close friends knew, my sisters, I’d make cassettes for them. I never pitched anything. My job was to help other writers and other bands. I was very focused on that and very conscious of not having anyone think I wasn’t doing anything but that. I didn’t want people thinking, ‘He’s up there behind a big desk and a big salary doing his own shit.'”

So, the then 33-year-old Jeff Cohen took a major leap and quit his job to pursue songwriting. “BMI was the greatest company to work for but I needed to prove to myself that I could do this,” he explains over tortilla soup and salad.

Jeff’s vision was to go full speed ahead writing songs and not looking back until he was 40. He survived on slices of pizza and turkey sandwiches while he got his start. The first thing he did was make a CD of 10 songs he wrote which he passed around to friends. As fate would have it, a friend in Los Angeles passed along the CD to Roxanne Lippel who worked at the WB television network, and she wanted to use two of his songs in a pilot. He edited one song down to 40 seconds and it became the theme song to television series Jack and Jill.

Jeff’s songs then found homes in films and television shows including Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Stuart Little 2, The Exes, Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five, One Tree Hill, The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live, among others. Meanwhile, Jeff continued to try and get work in New York and L.A. writing with bands, but also decided to go to Europe for co-writes, focused on his own project, Pancho’s Lament, and continued to write music for television and film.

Along the way, he came in contact with Jaron Lowenstein of Evan and Jaron and the two wrote “Crazy for This Girl,” which would rise to No. 3 on the Billboard chart in 2000.


The song hit radio a little over a year after Jeff left BMI and he admits he got lucky with the success of the song. Two years later, a friend called him from Nashville and said a co-write fell through in New York with two unsigned artists and asked if he was available to write that day. He was and that duo was Big Kenny and John Rich of Big and Rich. The guys sat down and wrote what would become “Holy Water,” Big and Rich’s third single and the song that helped land them a record deal.

“We wrote what I thought was a really good song but would have been a song that was on a cassette in my storage if they hadn’t demoed it,” Jeff admits. “I didn’t know how good it was. If they had not demoed that song no one in the world would have ever heard ‘Holy Water.’ They demoed it and combined with ‘Save a Horse’ got a record deal and that was my first Nashville cut in 2004.”

Jeff was living in New York when “Holy Water” began getting airplay on country radio and admits he regrets not taking advantage of the momentum and not traveling to Nashville to write more often.

“I didn’t take advantage of the momentum from ‘Holy Water’ even though we were Top 10. I probably could have worked with a lot of people at an early level but I didn’t know.”


Jeff says there are pros and cons to not having a publisher or manager. Sometimes, those cons mean the songwriter doesn’t get asked on as many projects. However, Jeff has made the best of the opportunities he has had. He came to Nashville frequently in the 2000s and eventually bought a place in 2005 while he continued to split his time between Nashville and New York. It wasn’t until 2010 that he finally called Nashville home. In that time, he realized Nashville was the place he wanted to live and write songs when he was in his 40s and 50s. He has had cuts with many artists including Sugarland, The Band Perry, Josh Groban, Laura Bell Bundy, Macy Gray, Nick Lachey, Mandy Moore, Marc Broussard, Spin Doctors, and many others.

“I think there’s a lot of integrity in a lot of the writing [in Nashville] and the direction that I naturally write,” he says of his move to Music City. “Go to Nashville, get to the back of the line and try to work your way up and try to earn the good work. No one cares what I did in TV, film or pop. I have to earn it in country. I was lucky to have good songs with Sugarland, The Band Perry, Laura Bell Bundy, Big and Rich and I’ve tried to put my time in and do good work.”


One of his frequent co-writers is Kristian Bush of Sugarland. Jeff has seven songs he wrote with Kristian on his debut solo album Southern Gravity released last year and the writing began simply as something to do for fun. Kristian and Jennifer were taking a break from Sugarland so Jeff invited Kristian along with him to Europe to join on some co-writes.

“Next thing I knew we had all these songs and he’s like, ‘I’m gonna do a record.’ When we wrote, we were just writing to write great songs. We just had fun writing. He works so hard that I’m so happy for all of his success,” Jeff says. “I think he proved to people that he’s amazing live and he’s a great talent.”

Two years ago Jeff started his own company, Nashville International Music, where he works with songwriters and artists in Nashville and abroad.

“I think when it comes to co-writing the most underestimated facet of it is chemistry. Think about it, on a date why can you sit with someone and talk all night effortlessly and not even think about it and you’re so attracted to someone and you don’t know what it is? And then there are some people that you really actually like but you don’t have a great conversation. It’s the same thing with songwriting. Just because you have two No. 1 hit songwriters doesn’t mean they’re going to write well together. You don’t know until you try. That’s why it never hurts to get in a room and spend a day writing a song with someone. If it works, it works and if it doesn’t it’s not personal.”

Jeff adds that the secret to writing a good song is that a lot of times your first instincts are your right instincts. Most of the time when he writes alone 75 percent of the song flows out of him while the remaining 25 percent he says will make or break the song.

“That’s when I roll my sleeves up and rip a song apart to piece it together. Certain songs I’ve worked on for years. To me there’s no rule that you have to write a song in four hours in a room.”

He concludes: “I just want to try to figure out a way to keep doing this the rest of my life. It’s about evolving with the ever changing industry. To me, you have two choices in life: you can complain about something or do something about it. The way the old industry was working for us as songwriters is not working anymore. It’s our responsibility to be creative and not just in creating songs. It’s a business so we have to find more outlets for our music. There is a way to do it, we just have to figure it out.”

For more on Jeff Cohen, visit his website. He’ll be performing throughout Nashville in the coming weeks, February dates below.

Feb. 6 @ Country Music Hall of Fame 11am
Feb. 6 @ The Bluebird Cafe 6:30pm
Feb. 17 @ The Bluebird Cafe 9pm
Feb. 27 @ Puckett’s Franklin 8pm

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Robyn Collins

Robyn Collins

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, Robyn Collins shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Robyn Collins has been writing for the better part of 20 years but it wasn’t until four years ago that she wrote her first song. After years as a journalist, Robyn decided to try her hand at songwriting but she couldn’t find anyone who would take a chance with a new writer. In conversation on the back porch of her home in Hendersonville, Tenn. in between a day of co-writes, Robyn opens up about her path into songwriting and shares the lessons she’s learned along the way.

After a mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti, friend and songwriter Gerald Trottman encouraged Robyn to write about her experience. She wrote down everything that happened during her visit working in an orphanage and the two came up with her very first song sitting in the airport. Titled “Who I’ve Been,” the song details how she traveled to Haiti thinking she would help change lives but in the end the people she met helped her and gave her a new perspective on life.

“It was my first song and it was the moment when Gerald told me, ‘You are a writer,'” she recalls with a smile. “He’s told me that this entire four years. That has been super encouraging.”

While writing with other co-writers, Robyn says she learned the value of painting a picture in her songs. She quickly got the songwriting bug and in her day job as a children’s creative director at Long Hollow Church she started creating reasons where she would need a song so she could ask people to write with her. Songwriter Jordan Reynolds, who was a worship leader at the same church, became an early collaborator and the two would go on to write “Give the Love You Need,” “Sweeter” and “Love Is Like Rain,” which won a songwriting contest through SongTown USA garnering them a spotlight in Guitar World Magazine. The prize awarded them a co-write with hit Nashville songwriters Marty Dodson and Clay Mills and Robyn instantly knew songwriting was something she had to continue to pursue. Later, she’d win another songwriting contest for a song called “Magic In a Mason Jar.”

Robyn says her time as a journalist has made its way into her co-writes as she asks a lot of questions in each write to her fellow songwriters.

“Throughout the process, you ask, ‘Well, what did it feel like when this happened? Do you remember her saying anything? Where were you?’ Things like that all the time,” she shares. “Honestly, it feels like I’m interviewing when I’m in a write because I’m constantly asking questions. As a writer, you may write the best article in the world and someone’s only going to read it once. Maybe twice. They might bookmark your page because they want to remember one point. But if you write a great song somebody will listen to it 100 times. It’s such a blessing.”

She has several songs on hold by A-list country artists to record, but no definitive “yes” yet. However, Robyn says it’s these small milestones that she has learned to celebrate.

“At this point, there are little milestones. At least someone’s hearing my name again for a second time,” she says optimistically. “When you don’t have any other way to track your progress and your success you have to find these small victories where you go, ‘OK, I’m on the right track.’ You can’t get bitter.”

Robyn likens Nashville to a city of dreamers where everyone believes that something will happen because they’re investing their entire lives into their careers. Friend circles often include fellow dreamers and anywhere you go in town you find yourself among songwriters and performers.

“Most people come here with a dream. There is no city in the world like Nashville,” she explains. “I think an important thing to remember is as you’re struggling, that something good for someone else doesn’t equal something bad for you. There’s not a limit to how many songs can be written. Every day there are new artists coming to town needing new songs. The hard part is finding someone who believes in you. You want someone who believes in your message and your cause. Most of the time you have to be your own cheerleader.”

Robyn says she loves that songwriting allows her to trap the emotions of life within a song so that feeling is preserved. While she often draws from things she has experienced, she also looks to her friends and family for song ideas. One song idea, “Wow,” came from a story her cousin told her about her son’s best friend. His friend calls his girlfriend “Wow.” She says she had to write a song about that and then she sent it to him.

“I loved sending that song to the guy who’s story it was,” she says. “You immortalize memories and a lot of times people have gone through similar things so it will connect with their heart too. That’s my favorite part about it. It’s so fun to be in a room with someone where you walk into a room and have nothing and leave and you have something that matters and you touch someone’s heart.”

She adds: “You can write something that helps somebody else walk through whatever they’re feeling. Music is so emotional. It’s the most emotional way to use your writing gifts. It transports you. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? It’s such a privilege to get to do it. It’s by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

For more on Robyn Collins, follow her on Facebook and SoundCloud.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Phil Barton

Phil Barton

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, Phil Barton shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


Phil Barton is as animated as they come as far as performers go. A staple in Nashville’s songwriting community, he can be found playing writers rounds multiple nights a week and in co-writes three times a day. It’s this dedication to his craft that has made Phil as successful as he is, having many of his songs cut by artists like Sara Evans, Eli Young Band, Jana Kramer, David Nail, Eric Paslay and Mickey Guyton, not to mention a No. 1 for Lee Brice with “A Woman Like You.”

Phil got his start writing and performing children’s music in Australia while he was in college, which he explains was great training for his move to Nashville.

“The kids music thing gave me a grounding in writing catchy little songs and melodies that stuck with people,” he explains over coffee at Nashville’s Frothy Monkey. “Honestly, when you do a show for kids they get bored so quick that it was a real training ground for everything. The songs have to be great, the shows have to be amazing or people are going to get bored. That was a really good education for moving to Nashville.”

Phil Barton, Jeff Cohen and JT Harding perform at Nashville's The Listening Room Cafe
Phil Barton, Jeff Cohen and JT Harding perform at Nashville’s The Listening Room Cafe

He soon signed a record deal with ABC Records in Australia and made a name for himself as a songwriter as some of his songs were performed on children’s television shows like Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine. He’d play close to 400 shows a year, many days driving to two towns in one day to play for as many as 30,000 people where kids would hang on his every word.

ABC Records also had a country label in addition to its children’s label and this is how Phil was introduced to the country genre, soon making friends with then up-and-comer Keith Urban.

“I got to meet everyone who was doing country music in Australia and became friends with them and started going to country music festivals and was loving the music. I met people like Keith Urban and watched him succeed,” he recalls with a smile. “I remember the times when we were getting emails from Keith Urban saying, ‘Oh, my song is 38 on the charts in America, this is so amazing. Keep believing in me!’ And then the next week it would go to 36. It was such a big deal for us Australians. When ‘But For the Grace of God’ went No. 1 it opened my eyes and it was like, ‘Oh man, I should go and check out this Nashville place.’ It seemed like this amazing world and you could do something amazing over in America.”

phil barton

In 2005, four years after Keith’s single hit No. 1, Phil packed his bags to visit Nashville for the first time and immediately knew he had to move.

“It just felt like home flying in. It was the weirdest feeling ever,” he admits. “The first time I walked down Music Row I was shaking my head in disbelief. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was even better. It’s just such a moment. I knew my whole life would change in that moment just walking down Music Row. I knew everything I wanted, everywhere I wanted to be.”

For the next few years Phil would spent three months in America and three months in Australia since he didn’t have a visa. While in Nashville, he’d make friends at writer’s rounds and open-mic nights and began co-writing in Music City. When he was in Australia, he’d continue writing children’s songs and music for Australian pop stars to save enough money to come back to Nashville. He likens it to having two separate lives. Eventually, he acquired a three year visa and thanks to the success of his No. 1 song in 2011 with “A Woman Like You,” he finally received his green card.


“A Woman Like You” was special for Phil because all the songwriters involved — Phil, Jon Stone and Johnny Bulford — as well as Lee Brice, shared their first No. 1 together.

“It was a big moment for everyone, really. It got us nominated for Song of the Year at the ACM Awards, ACA Awards, sold 1.5 million. Got us a lot of awards,” he says. “Me and Johnny won Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year on Music Row that year which is pretty prestigious when you look at who won that award, the Kimberly Perry’s and Chris Young’s, just some amazing writers. It was something special. It’s also great to have a No. 1 with your friends.”

So how does one even get a No. 1 song? Years of writing and embracing every opportunity. Phil says once he was living in Nashville full-time he took a writing boot camp held by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Steele. Steele’s advice to him: If he could write day in and day out he’ll have a hit.

“I worked my little butt off just trying to be a part of it; breaking into Nashville, trying to write with everyone. I write three times a day. I jump on every opportunity I can,” he explains. “When I first was here I would never say no. You never know when you’re going to meet the right person that’s the right co-writer for you, the right song. I would never have expected ‘A Woman Like You’ on that day but it happened and it changed my life. You just have to say yes to everything.”


Currently, Phil writes for Liz Rose Music and he said his publishing deal came after years of writing, friendships, studying the great songwriters and most importantly, producing good songs. But that’s not to say he hasn’t had his share of struggles.

“It’s hard,” he says of making a career as a songwriter. “You just want it to happen straight away and you start wondering why you can’t get these writes. People are going to cancel because they might not know you when you get to town. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged by that. It’s a part of it. Know it will happen again and you might have to wait two or three months.”

He adds: “Try and write the best song you can write every day with all different kinds of people. You really never know. If you don’t enjoy a write, don’t rebook. It’s not like you have to say yes to everything.”

Phil further explains that being headstrong that he was going to have a hit in America kept him going during the more difficult moments. He says there was no way he’d go back to Australia without making something of himself.

“I was so focused on it. It was never not going to happen. It just had to happen so I’d do anything to make it happen. Along the way you have to be patient and know that the time will come and just be ready for when the time comes,” he adds. “I just had passion for Nashville and wanting to be a part of the community and writing hit songs with all these people who are writing hit songs. It’s kind of a drug. It’s definitely a drug once you have a No. 1. You just want more. You’re super focused on that. You know how great it feels to have success.”


Follow Phil on Twitter where he frequently posts about the shows he’s playing around Nashville.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Sarah Aili

Sarah Aili

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, Sarah Aili shares what she has learned as a songwriter.


Music runs in the family for singer-songwriter Sarah Aili, who moved to Nashville nearly two years ago after living in New York and California.

“I grew up in the theater,” Sarah says over a cappuccino at East Nashville’s Ugly Mugs. “My grandmother was a singer. She grew up in New York City and she taught me to sing when I was really young. I always heard her stories about New York and being in shows so I did that because I fell in love with her and the whole thing.”

From an early age, Sarah took piano, dance and vocal lessons and was involved in community theater and musical theater. Once she hit high school she found herself in the lead roles of her school musicals and the fire of being on Broadway was lit. It wasn’t forever, though.

“My uncle who’s in the music business gave me my first guitar at 14 and he said, ‘You’re a songwriter, but you don’t know it yet,'” she recalls with a smile. “He’s always been a huge support and comrade in music for me.”

Once she got to college, Sarah began co-writing when a production house was interested in her and signed her. Things went fast and at 21 she performed her first big show at a festival at The Warfield, San Francisco’s historic rock venue which had acts like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin perform years prior. It freaked her out so she took a break from music for a few years, eventually moving to New York to pursue theater again full-time.

“I don’t think I was ready for whatever reason,” she admits.

Fast forward years later. Sarah’s living in Brooklyn and acting but once again gets the music bug. She recorded two EPs by the time she meets Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Amanda Williams, who urges her to get involved in a songwriting program she was running which eventually took Sarah to Nashville.

“It was amazing,” she says of her first experience in Nashville. “That was the first time I stepped into the music business with songwriting. That weekend, Amanda gave out three awards and I received the 2nd place award for most original songwriting which got me a meeting with a publisher and record label, a recording session and a photo session. All of the sudden, Nashville was on my radar. I must have heard, “you oughta move to Nashville a dozen times that weekend. So I opened myself up to the universe. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and I thought, ‘I will listen for the signs.'”

Three months later, those signs spoke loudly and Sarah found herself driving cross country to move to Nashville in January of 2014. Her move was prompted by the desire to learn the craft of songwriting. Since then she’s written over 100 songs, 11 of which appear on her new album Sessions which was released yesterday (Dec. 12).

“I co-wrote every day and worked the muscle. The first year [in Nashville] I wrote and this last year was about being in the studio and it’s been awesome. Playing shows, seeing what the business is about, having meetings with publishers. I’m still independent and looking at the idea of maybe a publishing deal.”

So what’s Sarah’s advice to aspiring songwriters?

“I’ve always heard, just write. Write, write, write. It’s so true. It’s like going to the gym,” she explains. “The blocks that I had before when I moved here a year and a half ago, I don’t have those blocks anymore. I know that I will always be writing. It’s just write, write, write. It’s like building a muscle and learning yourself how you want to speak and how to be honest.”

She adds: “It’s about finding your strength and letting that lead everything else. My voice is what led me to songwriting and led me to the stage and to dance even and the people I know. I think that’s the most important thing.”

Sarah says every song on her new album is “truthful and meaningful and written with people I love and adore.” One of those songs is the powerful “Arsonist” which is about her last relationship.

“When we broke up there was a lot of juice to fuel my songwriting. A lot of the songs on the album are inspired by this particular emotional journey,” she explains. “What I love about music is you can go into an emotion fully and create a world out of it and move from it and keep on moving in your life but that moment is captured within a song. It’s defining but we all change. It hurt and felt like a major, major burn. But at the same time with fire, when something burns down something else is built from that.”

Sarah says that revealing so much of herself in her music is a welcomed change from her musical theater days. No longer is she hiding behind someone else’s words. Instead, she’s speaking her own truth.

“It was scary at first to be so honest but I can never not write honestly. My relationships with people are honest. I’m a thinker and a feeler. I don’t know how to make myself other than that because music is from the heart and that’s a step that helps us through,” she says.

By Sarah allowing herself to be so honest in her songwriting, she often has fans share their stories with her. One song in particular is “Vacancy,” which she wrote about her brother’s addiction.

“People who’ve heard it I’ve had conversations about their family members. That’s the stuff that really moves me. I share the human condition and connecting at the heart and connecting at the mind,” she says. “Music is amazing. There are some things you cannot say, but when you say them in a song for three to four minutes you don’t have to say anything, you just feel. I hope to make music like that.”

“I like when songs do something,” she continues. “There’s something to be said of songs on the radio that make you feel good. Look at the Adele record, it slays me. It makes me feel.”

Before our chat comes to a close, Sarah explains that there’s often a stigma about people coming over from the theater world into the music world but there shouldn’t be. She says her background in theater has only helped her become a better artist.

“I studied storytelling for a long time so when I write a song, I see the music video in my head like a scene in a play and that helps me tell the story. Also, in a performance, the talking between the songs, I love talking to an audience. I’m used to being onstage looking at the audience and doing my thing. I love seeing artists being personal with their audience. You gotta love what you’re doing because it’s going to be a long road if you don’t.”

Sarah Aili’s new album Sessions is available on iTunes.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with David Evans

Processed with Rookie Cam

(Credit: Becca Heup)

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 shares what he has learned as a songwriter.


It’s rare to find a song that can make both men and women cry but Nashville based singer-songwriter David Evans accomplishes just this on his poignant song “Taking the Long Way Home” off his latest EP Something About a Love Song. A song that walks the listener through the lifespan of a relationship, “Taking the Long Way Home” was an idea David says he’s had for years but in a co-write with Addison Johnson the song came alive.

“I had that idea for a really long time,” David says over coffee at East Nashville’s Barista Parlor. “I knew what I wanted to do with it, the story I set up. I threw the idea out at a few writes but nobody had bit on it so I just held onto it. Then I went to write with somebody for the very first time, his name is Addison Johnson. Personally, I think he is one the best writers in town. He’s not signed or anything but if you sit with him for five minutes, he’ll write the whole song in his head and spit it out. I had seen him play out a few times so when we sat down to write, I wanted to have something good.”

David says after he suggested a few song options that Addison passed on he told him about “Taking the Long Way Home” and he agreed that’s the song they should be writing. The two songwriters wrote the majority of the song but decided to take a break at the last verse because it had to be “really good.” David recalls Addison saying that it’s a song that separates the big boys from the newbies and when they came back to finish it a week later the verse came together quickly.

“I played it that next week at the Commodore Grill and it does make men cry too,” he explains. “I almost couldn’t hold it together on stage. I think that last verse rings true because I’ve had a lot of family pass away from cancer and I think that’s what’s cool about country music, that you can talk about that stuff. Talk about the real stuff that connects with people. I knew when I couldn’t keep it together — I had to close my eyes during the song so I couldn’t look at people — but when I looked up I had three tables of women in front of me crying and I was like, ‘Okay, that songs works.’ Ever since then, it’s been one of my favorites to play out just because people can connect with it.”



It took many years of writing for David to get to “Taking the Long Way Home.” The Indiana native began writing songs when he was 14. While he admits sports was what he was most passionate about at the time, after playing basketball throughout middle school and high school he was getting burnt out and that’s when he turned to music. When he was a junior in high school his English teacher convinced him to try out for the musical and after initial resistance, he agreed and got hooked on theater. He joined the school’s choir that year and in his senior year transferred to a public school with a good music program. From there, David began private voice lessons which helped him get accepted to Anderson University’s School of Music where he studied music, theater and opera. A study abroad program sent him to Nashville for a semester and he immediately knew it was the place for him.

“That got me acclimated to Nashville. I really liked it and I figured my way around town. While I was there I started playing open mic nights too. I played the Bluebird open mic night a couple times,” he recalls.

Encouraged to make the move to Nashville after he graduated, David spent the summer working to save money for the move and he’s been here since August of 2013.

“I feel like in two years I’ve accomplished a lot. I think it’s going great so far,” he says with a smile. “I came down here for a reason and I feel like I’m doing pretty good at it.”



David released his EP Something About a Love Song in October and made waves as it went to No. 29 on the iTunes chart. For an unsigned artist this is a great feat and something even David was surprised by.

“My goal was to get it to chart on iTunes to create a buzz. It kept going up and up the charts and it got all the way to 29 which blew my mind. I was hoping to get close to 50,” he says. “I think for never doing a tour, that showed me that I have a lot of people who are supportive of what I do behind me and that was a big eye opener. Now my goal is trying to book shows for the spring and summer. I really want to get out there and show the people who bought my EP what I do. Pay it forward and give it back to them.”

David says the success of his EP release had a lot to do with word of mouth as well as his blue collar way of reaching out to everyone he knew to tell them about the project.

“I called people. I texted everybody I knew. I spent two straight days on my laptop from when I woke up until I went to bed of Facebook messaging people and letting them know what was going on,” he recalls. “Through that, it lit a spark and people shared it on Facebook. I tried to make everyone I knew aware of what was going on. It was cool too because I moved to Nashville and it was a way to show them what I have been working on. It’s my project to show them that it’s not for nothing. I moved down here for a reason.”

It’s this work ethic that David takes into his daily life. Currently, he works in retail which has him up at 5 a.m. every day so he can continue pursuing his dream of making music full-time in Nashville.

“I’m really trying to move out of that and I think that’s definitely possible with my EP doing well. I think this is the time, especially with booking shows and trying to make it my main income,” he explains. “I want to move to making music full-time and making a living doing it. Another thing I want to pursue is a publishing deal and I think that’s in the future. I’ll always have room to grow but I also think that I have really good songs.”

As with any career, there are rejections and missed opportunities that often have us doubting ourselves but David chooses to look at those moments optimistically.

“The cool thing about opportunity is that even if it didn’t work out, you have to remember that it was an opportunity. Another thing is looking back,” he explains. “When I first moved to town, I would sit at an open mic. I remember specifically I sat an open mic for five hours and I was the last one to play. I went from that to playing a venue where people pay me to play now. You have to look at where you’ve come from. Just be grateful. I think being grateful helps you push on.”



David advises every songwriter to find out what his or her best strengths are and to surround themselves with people to learn from.

“You need to write with people who are better than you, too. I think that’s huge, because you do learn from them. That’s what helped me, too,” he says. “Writing with people who are different than you, too. You need to work on exercising that muscle. It’s cool if you know what songs you write well and the style but it’s going to be all the same after a while. You need to stretch yourself. Knowing what you do well going into a write is huge.”

David Evans’ new EP Something About a Love Song is out now. Catch him live in Nashville at Fontanel on Dec. 22.


Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session: CMA Week Edition

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.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Jenn Bostic

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.

Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Kaylee Rose

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.