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The Writers Round With Nicolle Galyon

The reigning BMI Songwriter of the Year is a co-writer on Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” and Runaway June’s “We Were Rich” as well as label executive for Songs & Daughters.

Written by Annie Reuter
The Writers Round With Nicolle Galyon
Nicolle Galyon; Photo credit: Julia Cox

Welcome to the Writers Round, a monthly column where Sounds Like Nashville sits down with Nashville-based songwriters and learns about each writer’s journey to Music City. This month, Nicolle Galyon sheds some light into her life as a songwriter as well as shares the stories behind some of her many hits including Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” Camila Cabello’s “Consequences” and Runaway June’s “We Were Rich.”

Nicolle Galyon is an in-demand songwriter who has penned countless radio hits and garnered two ACM Song of the Year wins with Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila.” But long before she was a mainstay on country radio, Galyon moved to Nashville with the dream of either being an artist manager or working at a record label. This dream came to fruition last July when Galyon launched Songs & Daughters, a female-focused imprint of independent record label Big Loud Records, which represents Madison Kozak and Hailey Whitters.

“My desire to be behind-the-scenes in the business is what got me here,” Galyon tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. “But I never fully understood how that was all going to come into play until Songs & Daughters. This last year has been a lot of reminding myself what it was that made me want to move to Nashville in the first place.”

Galyon celebrated the one-year anniversary of Songs & Daughters on July 22 and says she feels like she’s just getting started. “Creating the company was a full-circle moment, but then it started a new race for me to run,” she says of Songs & Daughters, which recently added a publishing arm in partnership with Big Loud Publishing and Warner Chappell Music with the signing of songwriter Tiera.

“Writers need artists and artists need writers. My vision for Songs & Daughters is for it to be more of a music house. It’s not just a record label or a publishing company: it feels more like a home for female creatives,” she says. “It completely makes sense that the next evolution of Songs & Daughters would be a publishing company. That’s how I came to be in the business — through the publishing and the songwriting world — and so that feels very natural for everyone.”

While Kozak is the label’s flagship artist, Whitters was signed to Songs & Daughters in June. Previously collaborators in the writing room, Galyon says the signing of Whitters happened organically. “We’ve been writing for a few years now and we built trust and a mutual respect and comradery as creatives with each other,” she says of her relationship with Whitters. “It felt like we had a beautiful foundation to build upon on the label front too.”

Galyon says serving as the label head of Songs & Daughters has made her a student again. She’s been learning from the young artists and writers she signs, and in return, she hopes she is teaching each artist to trust herself.

“To me, it’s important not only for them to feel like they have someone giving them permission to be the artist and writer that they want to be, but it’s also important that I feed myself in that way. That’s the beauty of our business: it’s not just a one way street. You have to keep reinventing yourself and have to keep learning from everyone,” she says. “I never want to keep having success and keep rising to a point to where I am not feeding off of the young, new energy in Nashville.”

For many young songwriters, Galyon serves as a role model and an inspiration. The woman behind hits by Miranda Lambert (“Automatic”), Keith Urban (“Coming Home,” “We Were Us”) and Florida Georgia Line (“Smooth”), among others, the Nashville-based songwriter says her crossover hit “Tequila” with Dan + Shay has become a “lifetime song.”

“We as songwriters have different ways that we measure where we are in our career,” she says. “When I think about ‘Tequila,’ I think about how I now have a song that I could end every writers round with for the rest of my life and people might know it no matter what age they are. That’s a lifetime song for me.”

While writing “Tequila,” Galyon says she was more attached to the theme and concept of longing and yearning for something than the romantic story that was unfolding within the song. “Tequila” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2018 as well as garnered a Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Single of the Year and Song of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

While Galyon is a mainstay on country radio, she witnessed her first pop hit with Camila Cabello’s “Consequences” in 2018. Penned with Emily Weisband and Amy Wadge, “Consequences” also earned Galyon a BMI Pop Award in 2020. “Consequences” was written several years ago, and Galyon admits she never tried to write pop music. Instead, she simply wrote the song in Nashville with co-writers Weisband and Wadge.

“In Nashville, it’s very much about what is the idea and then we try to craft the song around that. In pop, it seems like it’s more about what is the feeling and then let’s try to make a song about that,” she explains. “At the time, it was just three girls in Nashville writing a Nashville song or so we thought.”

Wadge, a frequent collaborator of Ed Sheeran’s, played “Consequences” for the pop star and he suggested she send it to Cabello. At the time, Cabello was still in Fifth Harmony, but it was an industry secret that she was going to break off and do her own thing. Sheeran then sent the song to Cabello and Galyon says she championed the song from the very beginning.

“It was a very long process of several years in her making her first record and somehow our song was a constant in it. It made the final cut and she came on the song and made it a little bit more her own and eventually was a co-writer on it,” Galyon says. “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s the story continues. The music business just continues to surprise, for the good and the bad.”

Galyon’s latest radio single is Runaway June’s heartfelt “We Were Rich.” Written with Ashley Gorley and Ross Copperman in 2015, Galyon recalls penning it at a time where there weren’t many nostalgic songs being played on country radio. Initially titled “Rich,” she says the song at first was more up-tempo and lighthearted.

“At some point in the co-write I remember Ashley going, ‘Okay. What’s the most meaningful way we can write this song no matter if anybody’s going to hear it or not?’ And so we did. The song to me is a testament of how songs take on lives of their own,” she says. “In this case, how could we ever know what being rich would mean in 2020?”

She further explains that often songwriters will decide not to chase a certain idea because they don’t know any artists who are cutting records at the time. Instead of focusing on that, when writing “We Were Rich” the songwriters decided to do what was best for the song. Shortly after the song was written, Maren MorrisHero album came out that included a track titled “Rich.”

Galyon says Morris’ “Rich” was “one of the shining stars” on 2016’s Hero. While she didn’t talk about it with her co-writers, she says they all felt that their song probably would never see the light of day because of Morris’ obvious hit. Morris eventually did release “Rich” as a single and it peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2018.

“That’s the beauty of time. Our songs were so different and each was right for its own year,” Galyon reasons. “The world is redefining what ‘rich’ means right now and I think it’s so cool that that song waited its turn until now. This song is a testament to do what’s best for the song and if it takes a month, if it takes a year, five years, just have faith that it might find a home in its own time and it might be even better that you have to wait.”

Galyon’s career is a testament to having faith and chasing the dreams she had 18 years ago when she first moved to Nashville. As she explains, starting a record label like Songs & Daughters as well as serving as a publisher is her way of helping to connect young artists and songwriters with one another the same way her mentors have done for her over the years.

“I want to be able to look back and say I helped connect some dots for artists that I believed in, for songs that I believed in, for other writers that are peers of mine. I want to be generous with my time and I want to be generous with my ideas,” she says. “I want to have the time and the space in my day to be able to help connect a dot because look, that’s how we all got here; someone who connected the dots for us.

“I’m in general a really curious person,” she continues. “What would happen if I started a label? What would happen if I started a publishing company? What would happen if I wrote less? And that’s pretty much where I am right now — in a season of curiosity. I love everything I’m getting to be a part of.”