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Behind the Lyrics

Nicolle Galyon

Nicolle Galyon is one of the most successful songwriters of the past decade. Her songs have been recorded by headliners including Miranda Lambert, Dan + Shay, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Camilla Cabello, Lady A, Florida Georgia Line and many more.

Galyon’s growing list of awards includes six No. 1 hits, Academy of Country Music’s two-time Song of the Year winner, Country Music Association’s two-time Song of the Year nominee, Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Song I Wish I’d Written and song of the year winner. In 2019 she became BMI’s Songwriter of the Year—an award that had not been received by a woman since Taylor Swift in 2010. 

She is a two-time Grammy Best Country Song nominee and the Country Music Association’s only female Triple Play Award recipient in 2019, an award which recognizes songwriters who have earned three No. 1 hits in a 12-month period.

Galyon is an executive producer for iHeard Radio’s podcast “Make It Up As We Go” with Bobby Bones and Miranda Lambert which will launch later this year. She also made history with the 2019 launch of her record label, Songs & Daughters, the first-ever female focused record label in Nashville which she’s since expanded to be a publishing house as well. 

Galyon is the 2020 Kansan of the Year, an honor bestowed upon her for her generous work in Kansas and beyond. Originally from Sterling, Kansas, Galyon attended Sterling High School and remains involved. She launched the autobiography scholarship to help seniors receive college scholarships. She’s also partnered with VH1’s Save the Music and SongFarm to put music studios in high schools across the country, including her very own alma mater. 

Q: Can you tell me about your background and how you became a singer and songwriter?

A: I moved to Nashville in 2002 to attend Belmont. The goal at that time was to be behind the scenes in the music business, which was all I knew. I thought maybe management or working for a record label sounded like me, but then I got to Nashville, and through my personal assistant job I found myself in the middle of a community of songwriters. I remember sitting in a friend’s living room watching these incredible writers passing a guitar around and taking turns playing songs they had written. I thought to myself I think I’m a songwriter…and I had never written a song. From that point on, my focus shifted from being behind the scenes as an executive to being behind the scenes as a creative. Now I can’t believe I get to be both.

Q: Do you have a special process for writing a song? 

A: For me, it all starts with a word or phrase that catches my ear—it can be something I hear in conversation in a crowd or even a few words from a sentence in a book I’m reading. If a few words are enticing to me, I’ll make a note in my iPhone. I have hundreds of those compiled over the years, so when I walk into a writing session with an artist or other writers I toss those ideas out as conversation starters. Sometimes they turn into a song. Sometimes they turn into a conversation that turns into another idea. But that’s how it starts.

Q: What does the process look like once you have a completed song? How does it get into the hands of singers like Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert?

A: There are infinite ways songs can end up finding their way to an artist. A publisher might send it to another publisher who might send it to the label who sends it to management and then to the artist. Or sometimes it’s as simple as me texting an artist directly and saying, “Hey, I wanted you to hear this.” This part of our business is really still a mystery even to those of us who are in it. How songs find their way from the writing room onto the radio is honestly up to the universe. WE just have to trust the process and that in time if the music is good enough it will eventually find its way. I have had songs recorded by artists a week after they are written, and some as long as five years later. The key is to just wake up tomorrow and find a way to write another song. What happens after the song is finished is in some ways none of my business…even though it’s my livelihood.

Q: Do you write with a specific artist in mind?  

A: I write a lot WITH artists, so those days it’s obvious that we are aiming for what they want to write. Most days I just try to write the best idea that’s in the room. 

Q: Are you currently working on any new music? 

A: All three of the artists I’m working with are on their own unique creative timelines right now. Tiera is writing and planning on releasing her own music independently later this year. Hailey Whitters is very busy releasing a slew of new content and videos promoting The Dream, a record she released earlier this year. And Madison Kozak is quarantined in Canada co-writing and building up her catalog to build material for a project that hasn’t been started yet. It’s fun to see all three navigate 2020 in their way creatively. 

Q: Do you have any future plans for your business?   

A: I have spent the last year building a roster of artists. Now, the focus is to build that roster’s success. The dream of Songs & Daughters for me is to work really hard so that these incredible artists get to win. That is going to be so gratifying.

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