Most every country music fan knows there are songwriters who write the hits, artists who sing them and producers who help create the magic in the studio where it all comes together. However, in the midst of the process, there’s a special link—the A&R person who finds the song and gets it to the right artist. Missi Gallimore is well known as one of the best in the business. She’s responsible for Tim McGraw recording “Live Like You Were Dying,” Faith Hill winning two Grammys for “Breathe” and Keith Urban topping the charts with “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
Gallimore’s great taste and her passion for music have made her one of the industry’s most successful publishers and respected A&R (Artists & Repertoire) professionals, who has found songs for Lee Ann Womack, Jo Dee Messina, Sugarland and many others.
As if she didn’t have enough on her busy plate, Gallimore has also opened a coffee shop that showcases aspiring singer/songwriters, and she’s also launched Truth Management, an artist management company handling the careers of newcomer Sam Williams, grandson of Hank Williams Sr. and son of Hank Jr., Shy Carter, who recently signed with Warner Music Nashville, and noted singer/songwriter Abbey Cone. In a joint venture with veteran manager Gary Borman, she is also working with a band called Track45.
“There’s nothing like finding a great song,” she tells Sounds Like Nashville while sitting in her office in the Berry Hill area of Nashville. “A&R is so gratifying to me, but the artist development I’m doing right now is also very rewarding. I love strategically working with artists like Sam, Shy and Abbey. I’ve been working with them for two years now, putting them with the right co-writers and creating opportunities. It’s very gratifying to take an artist and make things happen.”
Gallimore is known as a woman who knows how to make things happen. “My first success story was the ‘Everywhere’ album,” she says of the McGraw collection that spawned the multi-week hit “It’s Your Love,” a duet with Tim and his wife Faith Hill. “Then I found songs for the ‘All I Want’ album, including ‘She Can’t be Really Gone’ and ‘I Like it, I Love It.’ So from those two albums until now I’ve been finding Tim songs.”
People on Nashville’s Music Row respect Gallimore’s uncanny ability to hear a hit and target the artist best suited to record it. “The publisher played ‘This Kiss’ for me, and then I played it for Faith. She loved it,” Gallimore recalls of the crossover hit, penned by Beth Nielsen Chapman, Robin Lerner and Annie Roboff. “‘This Kiss’ was the first big song I took to Faith and then ‘Breathe.’ I pitched it to Tim first. Tim was at the house recording, I said, ‘Come here, I’ve got to play you this song.’ I drug him to my car and played him the song and he’s like, ‘I can’t do this song, but you’ve got to play this song for Faith.’ So I played it for her and she loved it.”
Gallimore admits there’s nothing like the feeling that comes with hearing a hit song. “I still get so excited when I hear a great song, but they are few and far between. It’s hard, very tough right now,” she says of finding material, “but I still get so excited and giddy when I find a song I love. I’ll listen to it a million times over and over.”
She started working with Urban while he was recording his 2016 album Ripcord. “I had met with Keith at his house. I left and 30 minutes later Keith was texting me saying, ‘Let’s do this,’ so I started doing A&R for Keith on the ‘Ripcord’ album. I was late on that album. He had already cut a bunch of stuff and I was thinking, ‘How am I ever going to find songs for Keith Urban for this album? He’s already cut a bunch of stuff.’ I knew it was going to be tough, but I just put my head down, went to work, and I was able to get four songs on the album coming into it very late. ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color’ was one.”
Urban asked Gallimore to continue to work with him and she’s enjoying the process. “He’s such a great human being. He’s got such a good heart,” she smiles. “He’s opened up and started letting me set him up with writers. I’m very involved with the A&R side of Keith’s career, so we are working on the new album now and I found [the single] ‘We Were.’”
Gallimore admits her job isn’t always easy. “These days it’s so hard to find great songs. Everything sounds alike,” says Gallimore, who meets with both major publishers and smaller boutique publishing companies. “It’s still very much an everyday hustle for me as far as listening to songs. I don’t go a day without listening to songs.
“Some songs just have that fairy dust on it and you can’t explain it,” she continues. “It’s magic. The musicians and artist connect with it. The producer connects and everything aligns and then you come out with just magic. You can’t explain it. I can’t say what makes a great song other than a really different idea. I just always listen for things that are a little out of the norm musically, a little catchy and not the same melody that you hear all the time, and it’s hard finding those songs. In my opinion, some songs just have that little sprinkle of whatever it is and you just know it when you hear it.”
Unlike many Nashville professionals who moved to Music City from New York or Los Angeles, Gallimore was born and raised in tiny Lewisburg, Tennessee. Her family moved to Music City when she was 12-years-old. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with no plans to pursue a career in the music industry, but fate intervened. She had applied for an administrative job at a law firm and though she didn’t get it, someone passed her resumé on to legendary songwriter/producer Billy Sherrill, well known for working with George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello and Barbara Mandrell. His songwriting credits include co-writing Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” and David Houston’s “Almost Persuaded.”
Gallimore recalls going to Sherrill’s office at 7:30 one evening for the job interview. She didn’t know much about country music or Sherrill at the time. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘I want to play you something I just cut,’” Gallimore remembers. “He’s like, ‘What do you think about this? And I was like, ‘Well I don’t really like it.’ He said, ‘You’re hired!’”
Gallimore has lots of colorful stories from those days. “I can remember David Allan Coe kind of hitting on me and Billy was like, ‘Nope! Stay away from him. He’s got five wives. You don’t need to be involved in that.’ He was very protective of me. It was very cool. I worked with him until he retired. I went from knowing nothing about country music to really learning so much.”
Her next move was taking a job with Pride Music Group, Charley Pride’s publishing company. During her 10-year stay with Pride, the petite blond met her husband Byron Gallimore, a publishing executive turned producer, who works with McGraw and other artists. On the professional front, she earned a reputation for developing songwriters and finding great songs. She discovered award-winning singer/songwriter Lori McKenna, a New England-based mother of five who wrote three songs on Hill’s Fireflies album, including the title track. McKenna also penned McGraw’s hit “Humble and Kind,” which won CMA Song of the Year in 2016.
Gallimore’s A&R skill is legendary on Music Row and continues to be the core of her impressive resumé, but in recent years, she’s proven to be as savvy on the business front as she is on the creative side. In 2018, she formed Get it Done Entertainment, a joint venture with veteran manager Borman, and they signed Cone. Gallimore was then instrumental in striking a deal with Kobalt for worldwide administration of the new company. She also launched her own Truth Management with the signings of Carter and Williams.
In management, Gallimore has an edge because of her years of experience on Music Row. “I look for artists that are unique and I feel each one of my artists are completely different in what they do,” she says. “And just being in town for so long I know most all the writers and that helps in being able to take an artist like Sam and calling up Lori [McKenna] and saying, ‘I’ve got this kid. You really need to write with him’ or introducing him to Mary Gauthier. Now she and Sam write together all the time. Those relationships I formed from just years of being here hustling and working and they now benefit the artists I represent.”
Another venture that’s close to Gallimore’s heart is Coffee and Coconuts, her Franklin, TN coffee shop. “I wanted to support music and I wanted to hire people that were struggling songwriters or struggling artists,” says the mother of three daughters. “I was just sitting at a Mexican restaurant one day across from where it is now and I thought, ‘Oh that would make a cute place for a coffee shop.’ I inquired about it and there was supposed to be a UPS store going in there, but about three months later, I got a call and they asked if I was still interested in opening up a coffee shop.”
Once she knew the space was available, Gallimore began planning the opening of the beach-themed shop. “I knew nothing about running a coffee shop, not one thing. That’s how I am with everything though,” she says with a laugh. “I just kind of put blinders on and go for it. I don’t think long about it or labor on it. I just go for it. That’s what I did with the coffee shop and it’s doing really well. It’s a great outlet.” Gallimore admits between work and family, she’s always got a hectic schedule, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s so much fun and so exciting. I’m working myself to death, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she smiles. “I thank God every day because I’m so blessed and for giving me the opportunities.”