Joshua Radin. Hotel Cafe Tour. 2008
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31 Days of Women: Ashley Monroe
CATEGORIES: Features

Ashley Monroe

Credit: Hannah Burton

Ashley Monroe is gearing up to release her fourth album, Sparrow, on April 20 and if her new single “Hands On You” is any indication, listeners are in for a memorable journey. The sultry ballad has Monroe singing of how she wishes she was with a man instead of being alone in bed while thinking about him.

In an interview with NPR Music, the singer says the song’s inspiration came from a weekend beach trip. While she was forced to stay at the hotel due to a stomach bug, her friends were out enjoying themselves and returned with stories of the handsome men they had met. (Read more of her interview about “Hands On You” and her upcoming album here).

Monroe’s newly released acoustic performance highlights the song’s lyrics while her wavering vocals are at the forefront. Accompanied by delicate guitar and violin, the acoustic version of “Hands On You” is striking. Listen below.

 

 

Monroe worked with producer Dave Cobb on the album and co-wrote each of the 12 tracks featured on Sparrow.

“I knew I wanted to work with Dave,” Monroe says in a press release. “All of his records are consistently awesome and classic, timeless, old and new all in one. Country music is a wide genre, and that’s OK. I don’t even know what genre this record is, but I know it’s me.”

Sparrow Track List:

1. “Orphan” (Ashley Monroe, Gordie Sampson, Paul Moak)
2. “Hard On A Heart” (Ashley Monroe, Blu Sanders, Paul Moak)
3. “Hands On You” (Ashley Monroe, Jon Randall)
4. “Mother’s Daughter” (Ashley Monroe, Brendan Benson, Ryan Beaver)
5. “Rita” (Ashley Monroe, Nicole Galyon, Paul Moak)
6. “Wild Love” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Brendan Benson)
7. “This Heaven” (Anderson East, Ashley Monroe, Aaron Raitiere)
8. “I’m Trying To” (Ashley Monroe, Kassi Ashton, Jon Randall)
9. “She Wakes Me Up (Rescue Me)” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Paul Moak)
10. “Paying Attention” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne, Brendan Benson)
11. “Daddy I Told You” (Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Josh O’Keefe)
12. “Keys To The Kingdom” (Ashley Monroe, Waylon Payne)

March 5, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Lori McKenna
CATEGORIES: Festivals

Lori-McKenna

 Credit: Becky Fluke

Lori McKenna is well known for penning some of country music’s most memorable songs including Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” and Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.” The Massachusetts-based songwriter is also a solo artist and during a discussion on Saturday (March 3) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, McKenna announced that her Dave Cobb-produced 11th studio album will be released in July. Titled The Tree, it will feature songs about family including one about her dad called “People Get Old.”

“The goal is to write a great song and to write the best song we can write that day,” she told the audience at the CMHOF. “Sometimes a song will lead you to where it wants to go . . . the best way to write a song is to not worry about what anyone else thinks.”

I chatted with McKenna ahead of the release of her tenth studio album, The Bird & the Rifle, where she discussed writing her first song at the age of 12 and the story behind “Humble & Kind.”

McKenna says that “Humble & Kind” is fairly simple and the list of hopes and dreams for her children featured throughout the song was easy to write being a parent. While she always starts with verses when it comes to songwriting, McKenna said for “Humble & Kind” the chorus came first.

“I knew that I lucked out in finding that chorus, to be honest, and then everything else was easy to put in there,” she explains. “It was just a matter of editing it down and putting it all in the order that worked in my head the right way.”

“I had the title and I knew I wanted it to be things I wanted my kids to know,” she says, explaining her process. “Once you get there, there’s a lot of information. You could overshoot the song. It was more about editing and taking out ‘put the toilet seat down.’ That didn’t necessarily have to be in it.”

March 4, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Carly Pearce
CATEGORIES: Features

Carly Pearce

Credit: Harper Smith

Carly Pearce is making a name for herself in the country genre as a powerful songwriter and artist. Her debut single, “Every Little Thing,” became her first No. 1 last year, making Pearce the only solo female with a charting country debut single certified Gold in 2017 and the highest charting solo female debut since July 2015. The song’s success had Pearce in a distinguished class as she joined Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini as one of only three women to achieve this feat in the past 12 years.

I chatted with Pearce for a cover story for Sounds Like Nashville and the recent ACM nominated New Female Vocal Artist of the Year says that she hopes to be remembered as a female who helped mold this era of country music. Meanwhile, “Every Little Thing” is breaking the mold for women on country radio and she admits the song’s success still amazes her.

“Never in a million years did I think that song would have broke the records and done what it’s done,” she marvels. “In Nashville, it’s hard enough to break through as a female artist in general, but then with a heartbreak ballad as your debut. That’s kind of the kiss of death. To see what it’s done and maybe start to be one of the females in that line of girls that help to change the mold for new females is really, really exciting, and truly is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve dreamt of singing country music on a mass level since I was a little girl.”


Pearce’s new single, “Hide the Wine,” shows a different side to the singer. An upbeat track, she admits she’s excited to be happy on country  radio. Listen to her new single below and catch her on tour this year with Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett and Rascal Flatts.

March 3, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Kacey Musgraves
CATEGORIES: Features

Kacey Musgraves

 

Kacey Musgraves is well known for pushing the boundaries of country music with songs like her Grammy Award winning “Merry Go Round” and CMA Award winning “Follow Your Arrow.” Now, the singer is back with two new songs off her upcoming fourth studio album, Golden Hour, due out March 30.

Released last week, “Space Cowboy” immediately strikes a chord with its imagery and Musgraves’ whispered vocals. “Sunsets fade and love does too / Yeah, we had our day in the sun / When a horse wants to run ain’t no sense in closing the gate / So you can have your space, cowboy,” she sings on the chorus.

She shared on Instagram earlier this week that the song was inspired by seeing a stallion charging powerfully from one end of the arena to the other.

“Though I was ‘safe’ on the other side of the arena wall, it kinda scared me when he came flying toward me..barely stopping in time,” she writes. “My riding teacher saw him coming at me and yelled at me to move away. I said ‘I’m fine! The gate is closed!’ to which she said, ‘Girl – when they wanna go they will go…there ain’t no point in even shuttin’ the gate.’ It really made a mark on me when she said that and I wrote it down. SPACE COWBOY came a couple days after with @shanemcanally + @lukerobert ✨Make peace with what doesn’t belong. You’ll find something better.”

Listen to her two new songs, “Space Cowboy” and “Butterflies,” below.

 

 

March 2, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
31 Days of Women: Cam
CATEGORIES: Features

Cam

Credit: Dennis Leupold

March is Women’s History Month and after venting with several friends about the lack of females on country radio and brainstorming ways to highlight the unique and empowering women that make up the genre, I decided for 31 days to showcase female artists on You Sing, I Write.

Truthfully, this idea was sparked by Cam and her previous post on Twitter about the twisted reasoning some radio executives have on why they don’t play women on radio.

Her response was to the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards nominee list, which includes 10 male nominees and only one female. Lauren Alaina is the sole woman nominated at the awards show for Best New Country Artist.

While I’m a huge fan of the genre, it only hurts females by not showcasing other talented women. Artists like Cam speak out and in turn create change. Also, her music is unlike anything heard on today’s country radio (in the best way). Her new single, “Diane,” is a heartfelt response to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” The song tells the heartbreaking tale of a woman who learns the guy she’s been dating is married.

“It’s the apology so many spouses deserve, but never get,” Cam says of the song. “The other woman is coming forward to break the news to the wife about an affair, respecting her enough to have that hard conversation, once she realized he was married. And in true country fashion, I’ve set the whole raw story to upbeat music, so you can dance while you process it all.”

Watch the video for “Diane” below and stay tuned for a month of features and interviews with some of my favorite females in country music.

March 1, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Nicolle Galyon
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Nicolle-Galyon

Credit: Jessica Steddom

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

 

There’s a very good chance when you turn on the radio one of Nicolle Galyon’s songs will be playing. Ten years since signing her first publishing deal, the songwriter currently has five singles at country radio including Kenny Chesney’s “All the Pretty Girls,” Lady Antebellum’s “Heart Break,” RaeLynn’s “Lonely Call,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Smooth” and Lee Brice’s “Boy.”

The Kansas native’s songwriting journey is more than a decade in the making as she moved to Nashville in 2002 with the plan to pursue a career in artist management. During her time as a student at Belmont she worked as a personal assistant for Greg Oswald at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME) where she was frequently surrounded by music and industry professionals. She recalls being mesmerized while attending guitar pulls her first year in Music City and it’s there that she was first hit with the songwriting bug.

“I was like, ‘Wait, this is a job? You can do this? I think this is actually what I should be doing,’” Galyon says over the phone.

Galyon grew up around music and played classical piano. Her real passion was country music though and somewhere between classes and acting as a personal assistant, songwriting spread like wildfire in her heart and overtook all the things she previously thought she’d pursue. By the time she graduated from Belmont her dream of a career as an artist manager changed to becoming a songwriter. She took all the lessons from working for a booking agent with her and admits that one of the most important things she learned was to have thick skin.

“It really taught me to not take anything personally and to have a thick skin and to see behind the curtain of how deals get done and how business really goes down,” she explains of her time shadowing Oswald. “That perspective has really helped me, even as a songwriter, when something doesn’t go my way or my song isn’t a single or my song doesn’t make a record. That job gave me the 30,000-foot perspective to realize it’s not all about you and it’s not about the song. There’s a lot of moving parts here that has to go right in order for something to happen.”

Her time as Oswald’s assistant frequently had her in the presence of other songwriters, publishers and producers. Galyon vividly remembers parties where she’d be cleaning up and someone would ask her to play them a song she wrote. She says it was in these moments that she earned her stripes in bravery and thanks to Paul Worley, one of the people in the room that heard her songs, she was introduced to BJ Hill from Warner/Chappell Nashville where she signed in 2007.

“I met so many people through that job,” Galyon reflects. “I say I got my degree from Belmont, but my education from working for Greg Oswald.”

In 2013, Galyon saw her first taste of success when Keith Urban recorded “We Were Us,” a song she co-wrote with longtime collaborators Jimmy Robbins and Jon Nite. Galyon recalls writing the No. 1 song shortly after she came back from her 10-year high school reunion. Robbins and Nite had written with Thomas Rhett earlier that day and played her an idea that they didn’t wind up using. She says they had the beginning of the song’s chorus, “Back when that song was a song I could sing along.”

“They had the top of the chorus written, but they didn’t know what the title would be. There was really no idea yet. Because I had just come back from my hometown, this little rural farm town in Kansas, all of this small town imagery started coming out of my mouth. Then I started singing some of the verses,” she recalls. “I was really nostalgic thinking about my whole class because I had just seen all my classmates. We’re all married and some are pregnant and have kids and I’m just looking at us going, ‘Man, that’s when we were us. Now we’ll never be us again, me and my class. You can never go back to that time.’”

 

For more of my chat with Nicolle Galyon, visit Sounds Like Nashville.

February 25, 2018 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Tim Nichols
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Tim-Nichols

Courtesy: THiS Music

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

 

Tim Nichols is the newest member inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The hit songwriter says that the way he initially came to Nashville was not by doors opening, but by doors closing. “That’s how I got here,” he tells me. “Ultimately, there’s no misfortune. It’s all part of the plan. There’s always something you can learn from the journey.”

A sentiment he shared at great length during his Hall of Fame induction speech in October, days before the ceremony he sat down with me at his publishing office, THiS Music, to discuss his decision to pursue a career in songwriting and the ups and downs he faced along the way.

As Nichols settles into a chair in a writing room on Music Row, he gets nostalgic as he recalls the first song he wrote when he was 19. Titled “I Miss You Already,” he says it was a simple, straight-ahead country song. He pauses before noting that the songs he now writes — 30 years later — remain simple, straight-ahead country songs.

The Springfield, Missouri, native was in a band in his late teens and around that time was trying his best to figure out how to write songs. He moved to Music City when he was 21 hoping to be a singer, admitting that at the time he didn’t realize you could make a living writing songs.

“I didn’t know that was an option or a job possibility even,” he shares. “Then I started going to the Bluebird and the industry here really values and respects the craft of songwriting. There’s a strong sense of community among songwriters which I think is the coolest thing ever. It’s more so here than in any other music center.”

For his first few years in Nashville, Nichols was pursuing a career with his band and found himself constantly on the road. By 1983, the last incarnation of the band broke up and he was trying to figure out a way to stay in Nashville. So, he decided to audition for a local theme park, Opryland USA, which had music show productions on a daily basis. He hoped getting the job would keep him in Music City but once again, it didn’t work out exactly like he had planned. While he did get the job, they asked him to relocate and host the show in Branson, Missouri. Fully aware of the opportunity at hand, he spent some time back in his home state before being re-hired the following year for the park in Nashville.

Once he was back in Nashville for the amusement park gig, Nichols would spend his days off writing with various songwriters he met at writers rounds and through networking. One of his first collaborators included Gilles Godard, a Canadian with whom he found much success writing for Canadian acts like Ronnie Prophet and Tommy Hunter.

“The songs were okay,” Nichols says with a laugh, “but because he would come down here and record them with session players they sounded amazing. I would pitch those songs as I was going around getting appointments.”

For more of my interview with Tim Nichols, and to learn the stories behind some of the hits he wrote including Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” Dustin Lynch’s “Cowboys and Angels” and Jo Dee Messina’s “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” visit Sounds Like Nashville.

November 19, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Songwriting Session with Heather Morgan
CATEGORIES: Songwriting Session

Heather-Morgan

Credit: Blythe Thomas

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

 

From a young age, Heather Morgan caught the music bug and she nostalgically recalls making up songs when she was just five years old. There is even a home video of her a few years later where she confidently introduces herself before singing a song she wrote. “This is a song by Heather Morgan,” an eight-year-old Morgan boasts in the clip.

“I’m waiting for the perfect moment to pop it up on Instagram one day and show off my horrible hairdo and teeth and songs,” she says laughing.

The Texas native confesses that her mom still has all the scraps of paper and paper towels that she scribbled her early song ideas on. Years later, her mother would urge Morgan to write a song for a creative arts contest at her elementary school. Morgan went on to win the contest in the first grade and was undefeated throughout the remaining years she was eligible to apply.

“I would win every year, because nobody else entered, and I don’t know that I knew that,” Morgan tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. “So I just thought I was really great at writing these songs.”

As a child rehearsing for the contest, Morgan remembers setting up her boom box in her family’s dining room where there were good acoustics. She’d stay up late recording her song idea over and over again until she got the perfect take. Her wins gave the budding songwriter more confidence and soon she’d embrace performing at school talent shows and various establishments around Texas where she’d frequently run into fellow Texans Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves.

By the time she got to college, Morgan had a band and she’d spend her weekends traveling the Texas circuit opening for acts like Randy Rogers Band. She’d also expand her writing palate, as Morgan became the person to run to after you had a bad breakup. She remembers girls in her dorm frequently knocking on her door saying, “I have a song for you.”

“They would tell me what happened and then I would try to write them a song to make them feel better. All the girls in the dorm would come to my dorm room and listen to this new song, so I always had an audience,” she explains.

Morgan soon found herself with a manager and released a record with her band. When the gigs got longer, instead of playing cover songs she’d simply write more songs to perform. In her senior year of college she had several shows with Radney Foster, who told her about the songwriting community in Nashville. During one trip to Music City she was invited to play at the Bluebird Café for a special showcase of Texas artists. It was that trip in 2003, and some convincing from Jody Williams of BMI, that she knew she had to relocate to Nashville. When she returned to Texas, she worked several jobs to save enough money to make the move.

An early champion for Morgan was A&R professional Joe Fisher, who was Foster’s publisher at the time. Already having written 400 songs, Morgan was asked by Fisher to play him her favorites during their meetings. Impressed, he soon scheduled her first co-write with Jeremy Spillman (Eric Church’s “Country Music Jesus,” “Sinners Like Me,” “Before She Does”).

“I remember Jeremy sat with me for a couple hours after we were done with the song and gave me all this great advice. [He] told me what to be cautious of and what was important as far as enjoying the songwriting process,” Morgan recalls. “I still remember the curb we sat on and talked before anyone got in their car. It was so awesome to have that experience on your first day.”

Morgan heeded that advice and by 2005 had her first publishing deal with Warner/Chappell. Things came full circle in 2008 when Randy Rogers Band recorded her song “This Is Goodbye” for their self-titled album. From sharing the stage with RRB to having them record her song, Morgan was well on her way to a successful songwriting career.

 

 

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

October 22, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
You Sing I Write Celebrates 10 Years
CATEGORIES: First Person

nick and knight

Ten years ago on this very day I launched You Sing I Write. A few months out of college, I was struggling with a day job that didn’t involve writing and knew I needed a creative outlet. After weeks of brainstorming blog ideas with friends and family, my cousin’s husband suggested You Sing, I Write and I immediately loved the idea.

I launched my music blog in 2007 in hopes that it’d help keep up my writing skills and I often dreamed of interviewing bands and attending concerts along the way. While I haven’t written here as frequently over the past years since paid assignments have taken priority, I’ll forever be grateful for the urging from past colleagues to keep writing with a music blog for myself. The opportunities and experiences I’ve received over the years all come back to this blog and thankfully my love for music and writing has only increased with each passing year.

Each year, on Oct. 21, I love to look back on my very first post for You Sing I Write. It’s a reminder of where I came from but also a look at how much I’ve accomplished. Thanks for being such a huge support over the years and for the endless comments, messages, tweets and the sharing of my work. It truly means the world. Here’s to another 10 years!

I’m not a groupie…a music lover’s tale of getting that interview.

Despite popular belief, I am not a groupie. I’m a journalist. Sure, I hang around tour buses to get an interview with a band. But, that’s my job. Music has always been a passion of mine. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I thought I could make a career out of it — music reporting that is. I still remember the concert. I was a correspondent at my college paper at the time, The Daily Targum at Rutgers University, when I covered the Gavin DeGraw concert on campus. Tickets sold out in record number, being that his song, “I Don’t Want To Be” was the theme song to a new hit TV show on the WB, “One Tree Hill.” His single began getting radio air time and popularity ensued.

I was standing in the front row, notebook in one hand, camera in the other when it hit me — I could do this for the rest of my life! I’ve always loved going to concerts and trying to meet the band. I did it for fun, but I could actually make a living out of it. Soon afterwards I began writing for my college paper’s entertainment section and while I’ve always enjoyed writing, music writing became my passion. I’d cover concerts on campus, in NYC, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, a short drive from campus. You name the concert, I was there.

I was lucky enough to intern at Jane magazine as well as MTV News Online during my last year of college and learned more about the magazine/music industry and am confident that this is the field I want to go into. Since my current job isn’t a writing job I’ve decided to blog a bit on what I love — music. I’ll be going to some concerts and hopefully getting interviews as well as doing album reviews. In the meantime, I figure I’ll post past interviews with some bands I’ve covered and will hopefully get those up on the blog soon. If anyone knows of any good concerts or suggestions for this blog please let me know!

-Annie

October 21, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Willie Shaw’s “See Through You”
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

willie-shaw

Willie Shaw’s sultry new single “See Through You” mesmerizes upon first listen. With smooth vocals and a striking falsetto that recalls Justin Timberlake, Shaw is making a name for himself in the Nashville pop scene and it’s easy to see why.

“See Through You” details a man who runs into an ex at a bar who he no longer recognizes. Donning a low-cut, skintight dress and heels, he finds himself wondering where the girl he fell in love with went.

“You say you’re livin’ / But I see through you / I see you’re different than the girl I used to know,” he croons on the first verse.

“See Through You” was produced by Kelly Fitzgerald and the song’s slick beats and laid-back vibe bring to mind acts like Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Andy Grammer, all of whom Shaw credits as influences.

Listen below to hear “See Through You.” For more on Willie Shaw, visit his SoundCloud and Facebook.

September 27, 2017 | | (0) comment comment
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"See Through You"
Willie Shaw's sultry new song mesmerizes upon first listen.
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