31 Days of Women: Carrie Underwood

Credit: Jeremy Cowart

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

Carrie Underwood released her first gospel album, My Savior, today. The singer celebrated the release with a Q&A with fans and performance on Instagram. On Easter Sunday, she’ll return to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium for “My Savior: Live From The Ryman.” The virtual live concert will stream globally on her Facebook page at 11am Central with donations benefiting Save the Children.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness Underwood several times in concert as well as interview her. Below is an excerpt of my chat with Underwood following her two wins at the 2019 CMT Awards for Female Video of the Year for “Love Wins” and Video of the Year for “Cry Pretty.”

Following her performance at Nashville’s The Parthenon, Underwood returned to the Bridgestone Arena to speak with me and shared her gratitude for her fans backstage after the fan-voted awards show.

“I love what I do, and my fans have always been super supportive,” she says. “It means a lot that they take the time — their time is precious — and they take their time and they vote and they spread the word and they show up at the Parthenon.”

A month into her Cry Pretty Tour 360 the country super star says the trek, which includes openers Maddie & Tae and Runaway June, is going well and the venues are full of energy each night.

“Maddie and Tae and Runaway June are a pleasure to be around and so talented, so professional. I love listening to them every night. They get me fired up to go on stage,” she says. “I definitely have favorite parts [of the show] but all for different reasons, like interacting with different band members at different times. I love when we do ‘The Champion’ because I get to encourage somebody else when they’re on stage and I see somebody who has never done anything like that before get up on stage and conquer a fear and the crowd’s going crazy.”

She adds, “The women’s medley is such a fun moment in the show not only because I get to sing with the other ladies, but we get to honor people that we genuinely admire. It just makes me sad I couldn’t make that an hour medley. It was really hard whittling it down to a few songs.”

For more of my interview with Carrie Underwood, visit Billboard. My recap of her Birmingham, Alabama performance at Legacy Arena at the BJCC tour stop of the Cry Pretty Tour 360 is here.


31 Days of Women: Kalie Shorr

Credit: Catherine Powell

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

Kalie Shorr’s 2019 self-financed debut album Open Book landed on countless year-end lists and was named The New York Times’ No. 7 best album of the year. On Dec. 4, she released the deluxe version, Open Book: Unabridged, which includes four new tracks. The project marks a new chapter for the longtime independent artist as it’s her first album release since signing with New York-based label TMWRK Records in October.

“From the minute I picked the songs for Open Book I was like, ‘I really want to do a deluxe version,’” she says. “I wanted to make the album successful enough that I could justify doing that and putting extra songs on it because, in a way, it is a concept album: It’s written chronologically, it’s all autobiographical, they’re all real stories, there’s no embellishments. It’s my perspective on people and events so I wanted to live in that world a little bit more because I don’t think my next album is going to be nearly as conceptual.”

The project’s first single is the bold “My Voice” where Shorr calls out country radio for not playing enough women. “If you want the radio to play ya/ Make it sweet like a cherry Life Saver/ But they’ll probably never play me cause I’m not a boy/ And guess what I can’t change the sound of my voice,” she sings in the first verse. Shorr admits she almost didn’t send the song to her new label for inclusion on the record.

“That song was so much more of a cathartic thing than it was me writing with the intent to cut it. I wrote it the week before we went into record Open Book April of 2019,” she says. “I’d already picked the songs for Open Book so I was just writing. We weren’t thinking about what other people were going to think … the mindset of that song and having written it, it gave me more confidence going into record Open Book because when I went to record I hadn’t had any of the validation for it yet. Now, in retrospect, I’m so proud of it. I sing the songs differently. That song was a huge part of me getting that first wave of confidence to go record the record.”

An outspoken advocate for equal representation within country music, Shorr has been sharing her perspective on the matter since she released “Fight Like a Girl” in 2015. While Shorr says the genre has had big moments recently with the success of Gabby Barrett’s No. 1 single “I Hope” and Ingrid Andress’ GRAMMY-nominated “More Hearts Than Mine,” there is still more to be done.

“I don’t think we’ve had a complete overturn of the system that’s been oppressing women and especially Black artists. I always want to mention that these days because of the facts and figures surrounding that are 10 times worse than anything having to do with white women,” she says. “I think that probably one of the places that has really, really improved is artists being able to talk about it. That is probably the biggest area of improvement I see when it comes to advocating for women in Nashville.”

For more of my interview with Kalie Shorr, visit Forbes. Her new single, “Amy,” is out now.


31 Days of Women: Gabby Barrett

Credit: Robby Klein

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

Gabby Barrett’s debut single “I Hope” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart last April. On the publication’s Hot Country Songs Chart, “I Hope” continues its reign, charting for 98 weeks and earning the top spot for 27 weeks. 

The singer’s second single “The Good Ones,” currently Top 5 at country radio, is poised to do the same. I spoke with Barrett last summer for Forbes ahead of the release of her her debut album Goldmine. Below is an excerpt of our chat.

In 2020, Barrett made history as “I Hope” became the first debut single by a woman to top Billboard’s Country Streaming chart since the chart’s April 2013 inception. “I Hope” continued to break records last May when it became the first song by a female country artist to garner more than 10 million on-demand streams in one week. At a time when female artists are struggling at country radio, Barrett is breaking through.

“I cannot believe what this song has done,” Barrett tells me. “As a songwriter writing songs, even if you think that they’re good, you never know how others are going to perceive the song. I feel very blessed and very grateful because there’s so many wonderful things happening in my life, especially the past two years. The record that it recently broke was that it went over 11.3 million streams in one week. I was the first ever female to do that which is crazy to me.

“I grew up with some great women on the radio and great songs. I think that there’s room for both boys and girls,” the ACM Awards New Female Artist of the Year nominee adds. “I’m just glad to be making country music in this generation right now and I’m thankful that everybody’s been very supportive towards me.”

While “I Hope” has seen success at country radio, the song has been introduced to a new audience thanks to the help of Charlie Puth. Last year, Barrett noticed that the pop singer shared the song on his Instagram Stories saying it was “amazing.” When Barrett reached out to thank Puth, he asked if he could remix the song.

“I thought he would do it and make it into a club remix type of thing,” Barrett says of Puth’s version, also included on the album. “He ended up sending me a version with vocals on it three days later and he was singing on the second verse. Our teams got together, and now we have a new version of the song that’ll reach an even broader audience.”

Album highlights include heartfelt single “The Good Ones” — an ode to Barrett’s husband, the clever pop tune “Rose Needs a Jack” inspired by the main characters in James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic, and the swampy “Jesus and My Mama.” Throughout the 13 tracks — 12 of which Barrett co-wrote — Goldmine highlights the singer-songwriter’s wide-ranging influences and she hopes the listener finds her music relatable.

“You can’t redo your debut album, so I wanted to make sure this album was very me,” Barrett says. “It has a large variety of music: you get a little bit of pop, some country, R&B, a Christian song. It shows people that I grew up being influenced by all of these different types of music and they’ve made me the person I am today. I wanted it to be something that I’d be proud of looking back on and I think I will be.”

For more of my interview with Gabby Barrett, visit Forbes.


31 Days of Women: Tigirlily

Credit: Jared Olson

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 been lucky enough to volunteer with Tigirlily at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as part of Musicians On Call, which brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. As a musician guide to the duo, I witnessed the power of their sibling harmonies live as they sang to children and parents at the Nashville hospital.

Last month Monument Records announced Tigirlily’s record deal, one day after the duo released their new song, “Somebody Does.” Sisters Krista and Kendra Slaubaugh shared the news on their socials with a video of a FaceTime conversation with Monument GM Katie McCartney.

“We’ve been dreaming of this moment for so many years,” Tigirlily writes. “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but dreams DO come true.”

Tigerlily began touring through their home state of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota as teenagers before moving to Nashville in 2017. They wrote the uplifting “Somebody Does” with Zarni DeVette. The song is produced by GRAMMY winner Shane McAnally and Louis Newman.

“With the heaviness of the world, we wanted to write something that changed the course of someone’s day for the better,” Kendra said in a release about the song. “We all have days when we don’t feel good enough, and this song is a reminder that every single person on this earth matters deeply and is enough exactly how they are.”

Adds Krista: “As humans, we are all extremely different, but the one thing that connects us all is the desire to love & be loved by others. ‘Somebody Does’ was written to convey that every person is worthy of love beyond what they can even imagine. It’s a cry while you sing it at the top of your lungs kinda song.”

Tigirlily is expected to release new music in the coming months. An acoustic version of “Somebody Does” is below. To listen to the song on your preferred streaming platform, click here.


31 Days of Women: Malin Pettersen

Credit: Jonathan Vivaas Kise

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

Malin Pettersen grew up in Oslo, Norway, listening to country acts like Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and George Jones. She says she found these voices mysterious and often connected with the emotions within country songs. Her father was a musician and she began playing country music with his band at an early age. Pettersen soon had her heart set on Austin, Texas after a chance meeting with Brennen Leigh at a music festival in Norway when she was 17. Leigh talked of playing there and Pettersen recalled stories from her father performing in Texas too.

“I was 17 and everything I wanted was to go to the States and play music,” she says. “But my dad was like, ‘You won’t get into any of the shows until you’re 21. So wait to go until you’re 21.’” She eventually did make it to Austin at 21 and found a kinship with the musicians she met, who also knew her favorite country artists. “Coming to Austin where everybody had the same reference that I did times a thousand, it was a very magical time,” she adds.

Wildhorse embraces Pettersen’s love of American country music and America itself. Songs like the sweeping and vivid “California” place the listener in the Golden State with mesmerizing pedal steel and Pettersen’s delicate vocals. The song was written on a road trip with her family there and serves as a reflection on what she was seeing. Having never been to California before, she was in awe of the state’s diverse landscape and likened it to several different countries.

“The beach, but also the mountains and everything in between, it really made an impact,” she says. “There were so many places that we went where I felt like a piece of American history was very present. The nature is so overwhelming and it was very easy to picture the America that was there before America was America. It was very easy to see the wilderness and think what maybe it was like before. It felt like a new world.”

Unbeknownst to her at the time, Pettersen says the album ended up being about journeys. One song in particular, “Let’s Go Out,” has changed in meaning due to the current racial climate around the world.

“The topic of race is getting more and more talked about not just in the States, but in Europe too. It took on a whole new meaning for me. ‘Let’s Go Out’ suddenly was about, ‘Let’s go out into the streets and not stop until things actually change, until people actually listen and actually make these changes to our own lives, but also on a society level,’” she says. “The more literal meaning is a lot clearer to me now.”

Pettersen recorded Wildhorse in February and September 2019, flying from Norway to Nashville on both occasions. She enlisted the help of Nashville’s ace musicians including Aaron Goodrich (Colter Wall), Misa Arriaga (Kacey Musgraves, Lillie Mae), Ryan A. Keith (Rayland Baxter), and Eddy Dunlap (Luke Bryan, the Grand Ole Opry house band), with contributions from Logan Ledger, Dennis Crouch, Ben Sanders, Mike Eli and Emily Keith. Pettersen recorded the album live and Wildhorse currently serves as a time capsule of her trips to Nashville until she can return.

“The people who I made this album with are people who I am so proud and thankful to have worked with and friends for life. I got on that plane and I had sent them songs. We didn’t know if it was going to be an album or a couple of songs,” she continues. “For them to include me in their life those weeks that I was there and take me in the way that they did both creatively and also personally, they’ve given me something that when I put the album on, it takes me straight back to that studio to those days and those weeks of making it.”

For more of my interview with Malin Pettersen, visit Forbes.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.