Features Songwriting Session

Songwriting Session with Lady Antebellum

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(Credit: Joseph Llanes)

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, Lady Antebellum share what they have learned as songwriters.


As you may have already guessed, I am fascinated by the craft of songwriting. So, when I sat down with Lady Antebellum last October to discuss their latest album 747, I asked them to share some tips for aspiring songwriters. They gave some helpful advice which you can read below and watch a clip of as well. If you’re looking for more suggestions on how to write a song, read the Top 10 tips I’ve compiled from country songwriters on

“There’s no right or wrong way to write a song,” Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley advises. “We’ve written many different ways. We usually start with the melody first and then it always evokes some kind of feeling, whether it’s a somber melody or a fun, exciting one. It always finds its way. Some people come in with lyric ideas or even a poem.”

He stresses that the key to being a great songwriter is to “write and write and write.”

“The more you write, the better you get,” he adds. “You’re going to write 100 bad songs before you write one good one and that is the truth.”

Bandmate Hillary Scott couldn’t agree more.

“The more consistently you do it, the better you get. You can always grow and improve,” she says.



Charles says as with anything, there are little tricks to songwriting the more frequently you do it. Like writing a novel or essay, there is an intro, body and conclusion to a song.

“Your bridge is something that needs to sum up and reinforce the tag of the song,” he explains. “If the tag of the song is need you now — well then you get this bridge, what are you trying to say there that when the listener hears it’s one of the last thoughts? It’s ‘I guess I’d raher hurt than feel nothing at all.’ That’s why they’re feeling all of this.”

Hillary adds that the bridge is the writer’s “bring it on home moment.”

“It’s the all-encompassing one or two lines that really describe the rest of the song, the rest of the lyric,” she says.

So what does a songwriting session with Lady Antebellum sound like?

“We love great melodies and a lot of times we start there, whether it’s an idea that’s born on a piano or guitar or some other instrument,” Dave Haywood says. “If you were to walk in on the beginning of a writing session with us, there’d be a lot of humming. Everyone’s humming these big melodies trying to find something we love and gravitate towards. And then for us, a lot of times we jump in, ‘What about this story? What are you going through? What can we write about today?'”

Meanwhile, Hillary stresses the importance of being aware of what’s around you as a writer.

“You have to keep your heart open and your ears and eyes open. The best songwriters are those that allow themselves to be vulnerable,” she confesses. “When people really feel what you’re singing about is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable going into the room. Don’t be afraid because we all feel alike. We all feel the same emotions. The listener knows when you’re being authentic.”


Song of the Week

Song of the Week: Darius Rucker’s “Homegrown Honey”


Darius Rucker’s song “Homegrown Honey” went to No. 1 this week and it’s easy to see why. The song is as country as they come. Rucker wrote the song, the first single off his new album Southern Style, with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Nathan Chapman. He told me last year that Kelley initially came up with the idea for the song.

“I was playing golf with Charles Kelley one day,” Rucker explained. “Charles is probably my best friend in the business. He said, ‘Man, we’ve been in Nashville seven years and have never written a song.’ I hadn’t really thought about it, but he was right. We had never written a song together. When I got to the session he had this great idea he had started with the opening line, ‘Sitting in a bar in New York City everyone here looking New York pretty.’”

“Homegrown Honey” is the introduction to Rucker’s excellent new album, which he says is the “countriest” album he’s ever released. “We’re going more into the countrier side of music than trying to go the other way,” he says.

Rucker says the success of his 2013 hit “Wagon Wheel” had some influence on the makings of the fun and countrified album Southern Style. While he didn’t sit down and consciously decide to do a song like “Wagon Wheel” again, he said it did open his eyes to the fact that he could do a “real country song” and have a hit with it.

“‘Wagon Wheel’ was the most country thing on country radio that year. It definitely opened our eyes to the fact that I can go make those country records and maybe have a hit or two and make another one,” he admits. “It definitely influenced this record.”

For my complete interview with Darius Rucker, visit

Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Caitlyn Smith


(Credit: Spencer Combs)

Caitlyn Smith has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a kid, she’d sit in her bedroom for hours coming up with stories and songs.

“I started writing when I was 8 years old,” she told me over coffee during a recent visit to New York. “And instead of doing the normal kid thing of sports, I would come home from school and go into my closet and push the dresser all the way to the side and sit in my closet and write. I would write poetry. I would write songs. I would just make stuff up for hours.”

All that practice came to fruition last year when the country singer-songwriter heard a song she had written on the radio for the first time. It was a song she’d written with her husband, Rollie Gaalswyk, over a bottle of red wine called “Wasting All These Tears,” which was recorded by Cassadee Pope.

“He [Gaalswyk] was in the garage and had the radio on, and the song came on and he runs in the house and he’s like, ‘Get out here!’ And so I run out into the garage and we turn it up all the way and dance around our garage. It was just a super magical moment. Really, really fun,” she recalls with a big smile.



To some, it might sound strange to write a breakup song like “Wasting All These Tears” with your husband, but for Smith it’s just another day at work.

“We’re both writers and we both have crazy ideas and crazy lines coming,” she admits. “I don’t always write from, ‘I have lived every word of this song.’ Sometimes when you write you put on an actor hat and you can play a different character, which makes writing breakup songs with your husband a little easier.”

She says that the two of them “keep doing it because we like writing with each other. Sometimes it ends in a fight,” she laughs, “and sometimes it’s awesome.”

“Wasting All These Tears” became a platinum-selling single for Pope. But it’s not the only song that has helped raise Smith’s profile as a writer. Her catalog also includes songs that have been cut by such high-profile artists as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (the GRAMMY-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends”), Lady Antebellum (“747″), Rascal Flatts (“Let It Hurt”) and even Garth Brooks (“Tacoma”). More recently, Smith has her writing credit on Meghan Trainor’s new album Title where Trainor duets with John Legend on a song called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”

In addition to songwriting, Smith has been a performer as well for years. She’s recorded and released several albums on her own—her first at 15 years old—and just this past fall released a seven-song EP titled Everything To You. While “Tacoma” isn’t on the track list, the EP does include Smith’s own version of “Wasting All These Tears,” along with six more tracks that showcase her powerful storytelling.



For more of my interview with Caitlyn Smith, visit

Interviews Q&A

Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 4 Lady Antebellum

I’ll never forget the first time I interviewed Lady Antebellum back in 2010. At that time, their song “Need You Now” was everywhere–on country radio and pop radio. Heck, it even was made into a club mix, which I found so strange at the time. I prepared the entire weekend with the hope to ask them at least one question they were never asked before. (I succeeded!)

This year, I had the chance to sit down with the country trio for a bit longer and they were as nice as I rememberd. We talked about their latest album 747, songwriting and what it’s like for Hillary Scott to be the only girl in the band. Nearly four years after my first interview with them, I walked away even more impressed with the way the band has evolved and how they continue to make music that moves people. Below is an excerpt of my interview with Lady Antebellum

Recording 747 was fun for the band, and Hillary Scott said this is always the goal.

“That’s the ultimate thing, if you can have fun doing it then that’s the truest success,” she says. “We needed to step outside of what was comfortable for us. The three of us as a band needed the change. It felt the most like the excitement we had when this all started. It felt so much like the first record. In the eight years we’ve been a band, things can start to feel familiar, so to have that excitement and first time feeling again was really special.”

Charles Kelley reiterated Hillary’s sentiments, explaining that he also had to exit his comfort zone for “Freestyle,” which is the band’s new radio single. He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.

“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” he says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”

The lightheartedness heard on “Freestyle” weaves throughout Lady A’s album, from lead single “Bartender” (which reached No. 1) to opening track “Long Stretch of Love.”

The latter song Charles described as the most honest on the album.

“We’re all married. True love is ups and downs. You hit, you miss. You’re fire and ice,” he says. “But at the end of the day we’re not going anywhere. We feel that way in our personal lives and as a band. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot. We just have this long stretch of love. This long view of the group.”

“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” he continues. “Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years.”

For my complete interview, visit

Features First Person

You Sing I Write Celebrates Seven Years

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It’s incredible to me that seven years ago I started You Sing I Write with a dream to cover concerts and interview bands. It was a very lofty goal at the time but one I was so sure of, more than anything else in my life at the time. Getting to where I am today was a long journey, full of highs and lows. I definitely hit rock bottom too. Living in Brooklyn with a dwindling savings account and no steady paycheck, the freelance life was hard. But it’s those difficult times that test you and for me, there was no plan B. Music journalism was it. I refused to settle for a boring corporate job that I dreaded waking up every day for.

Years later, I came to learn that family members and friends often questioned my path and wondered when I’d give up this crazy dream for a “real job.” Today, though they marvel at my persistence and determination to make this career work. I’ve been asked for career and freelance advice a lot recently and it always surprises me that people want to know my story.

For me, music was always a major passion, as was writing. From the first time I covered a concert (Gavin DeGraw at Rutgers University for The Daily Targum), I was hooked. It was as if a light bulb went off. I remember standing in the front row of the show, notebook and pen in one hand and camera in the other and it clicked: if I could do this for the rest of my life, I would. From there it was countless internships at Jane Magazine, MTV News and Rolling Stone. While interning and freelancing for free was definitely not easy, along the way there were signs I was headed in the right direction. An internship turned into paid work, a simple blog post turned into more review requests. And the more people I met in the industry, the more contacts I gained and the opportunities started lining up.


Seven years ago, I never imagined I’d have a byline in Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV News, AOL or Marie Claire but somehow it happened. And then, after a trip with some friends to Nashville for CMA Fest this boy band loving girl (that’s Hanson above, fyi), turned into a country fan. Who would have thought?

I eventually landed my first full-time gig at CBS Local back in 2012 and things felt like they finally were falling into place. It was a job where I actually got to write every day for a living. While I had always dreamed this was a possibility, I was starting to have my doubts. The gig has allowed me to meet some of my favorite artists and to sit down and have in-depth chats with them about their music, life and songwriting. Truly a dream come true, this little blog helped me get to where I am today.

Darius Rucker

The past seven years came full circle this year when I got to sit down with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys (my childhood obsession) as well as Darius Rucker, who really made me fall in love with country music. Hearing the stories behind their songs and realizing that they are just regular people is always refreshing. I’m not sure who else this field will bring me into contact with, but I have a feeling the next seven years will bring even more moments to write about. And hey, who knows, maybe all these adventures will make their way into a book one day.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey over the past seven years. Here’s to many more years ahead!

Interviews Videos

Video Interview: Lady Antebellum

I still remember the first time I interviewed Lady Antebellum. It was back in 2010 at City Winery and I spent the entire weekend before my interview watching all of their Webisode Wednesdays, in hopes to find a question or two to ask that they had never been asked before. Though I had only 10 minutes with Lady Antebellum, I managed to succeed. During the height of the popularity of “Need You Now” it was a lofty goal to have, being as they’d done hundreds of interviews before. But I’ll never forget that pause in the interview when I knew I got them thinking.

Nearly four years later to the day, I sat down with the country trio once again to talk about their new album 747. During our chat, Charles Kelley admitted that new single “Freestyle” is the one song he is obsessed with, perhaps as much if not more than “Need You Now.”

He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.

“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” Kelley says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”

Watch the video of my chat above and read more of my interview with Lady Antebellum about their new album 747 at


Video Interview: Darius Rucker


I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Darius Rucker several times over the past few years and he’s always one of the friendliest and easiest artists to talk to. This time, he was in New York for a CMA Songwriters Series showcase so he stopped by the studio to give some insight on what we can expect from his next country album, Homegrown Honey, due out next year.

In addition to talking about the single “Homegrown Honey,” which he wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly, Rucker revealed that he’d be releasing a Christmas album on October 27. I don’t know about you, but hearing holiday songs from Darius is already starting to put me in the holiday spirit. Watch my video interview with him above and to read the complete article visit The track listing for his holiday album is below.

Home For The Holidays Track Listing:

01. I’ll Be Home For Christmas
02. White Christmas
03. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
04. Winter Wonderland
05. Please Come Home For Christmas
06. What God Wants For Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Monty Criswell
07. Baby, It’s Cold Outside (featuring Sheryl Crow)
08. O Come, All Ye Faithful
09. You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch
10. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
11. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
12. Candy Cane Christmas written by Darius Rucker, Frank Rogers and Steve Leslie

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “A Holly Jolly Christmas”

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It’s officially December and with that a little bit closer to Christmas. Out of all the holiday music videos I’ve seen over the years this one just might be my favorite. Listen to Lady Antebellum put their own spin on the classic and see how one boy’s mistletoe scheme pans out below.

A Holly Jolly ChristmasLady AntebellumLady Antebellum Videos

You Sing I Write Celebrates 5 Years!

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years since I wrote my first blog post for You Sing I Write. Started simply as a creative outlet to keep up my writing after graduation, it’s helped lead to numerous freelance gigs at dream publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard as well as land a full-time gig at CBS writing about music every day. I couldn’t be happier, but it was no doubt a long and arduous journey.

This past week CMJ was back in town and hundreds of music fans and bands descended on the city to catch live music and attend music industry related panels giving advice of how to make it in the business. I attended one on music journalism and knew each of the panelists having worked with or met all at one point over the past 5 years. Each had insightful things to say about working in the industry but I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed afterward. The fact of the matter is the business has changed dramatically over the years.

When I first started it was the dream to live vicariously through Almost Famous and go on tour with bands. Unfortunately that rarely happens anymore Caryn Ganz, Editor In Chief of SPIN said. Another panelist, Jessica Robertson of MTV Hive, said she spends 90% of her time in business meetings and the other 10% in creative meetings.

If I was a college student hearing this I would have been discouraged, but at the same time my “prove ’em wrong” mentality would have kicked in. So, my advice: if you’re passionate about something you’ll find a way to succeed. It won’t be easy but I’m living proof that it’s possible.

Growing up a pop music junky I never would have dreamed I’d be interviewing boy bands and some of the biggest pop stars heard on the radio. Through my blog and freelance gigs I also discovered my love of country music and after suggestions from friends even started a country blog. Along the way I’ve met and interviewed some of my favorites including John Mayer (!!!), Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Darius Rucker and Switchfoot. Not to mention toured with a band and witnessed some amazing live shows.

I’m not quite sure what the next 5 years will bring but if it’s anything like the past 5 have been they will be nothing short of interesting. Thanks for supporting me over the past 5 years. Here’s to 5 more!

Come celebrate 5 years of You Sing I Write at W.i.P. in New York on November 3rd. The night will include performances from some of my favorite acts I’ve covered over the years including Mary Bragg and The Ramblers. Stay tuned for more details!

Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “(Kissed You) Good Night”


I’ve had this song stuck in my head for days. It has the classic country storyline of yearning for that crush in the eyes of both the guy and the girl and the video brings the tale to life for the listener.


The lead single off Gloriana’s sophomore release, A Thousand Miles Left Behind due in stores Tuesday, is a personal and relatable track and was inspired by real life for one of the band members.


“A lot of the songs on the album are written from the point of view of the person I would like to be,” Tom Gossin said. “’Like on ‘(Kissed You) Good Night,’ my alter ego comes in and does what I’m afraid to do in real life. It’s ultimately a song about not ending up with regrets because the worst thing is to look back on something and think, ‘I wish I had done things differently.’”


The trio’s latest hit recalls another three member country act — Lady Antebellum. With their alternating male/female lead vocals and memorable harmonies the single continues to climb it’s way up the charts. If “(Kissed You) Good Night” is any indication of the band’s upcoming album, it will no doubt be a solid release. I’ll be interviewing Gloriana next week so be sure to let me know if you have any questions and leave them in the comments!



I’ll be interviewing Gloriana next week so be sure to let me know if you have any questions and leave them in the comments!