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, Laura Veltz sheds some light into her life as a songwriter as well as shares the stories behind some of her many hits including Eli Young Band’s “Drunk Last Night,” Chris Young’s “Lonely Eyes” and Maren Morris’ “I Could Use A Love Song.”
For ten years, Laura Veltz was in a band with her family where she made music with her parents, brother and sister while touring the country. Veltz describes herself as the utility player — whatever instrument was needed she’d pick up and play. While she loved making music, she didn’t enjoy being in the spotlight. In fact, she said being the front woman made her feel anxious. It took her years before she was finally able to admit this to herself because she didn’t want to disappoint her family.
She was 21 when she wrote her first song after picking up a guitar. She laughs recalling the experience, saying the song made no sense lyrically and had no Nashville elements to it. Her family happened to be touring through Music City shopping for publishing deals when her dad suggested she play her new song during a meeting with Windswept Pacific Music. A man at the publishing company told Veltz that she was going to be a songwriter and that moment stuck with her throughout the next seven years as she contemplated what a career as a songwriter could be like.
“I just started writing, really out of stress,” she tells Sounds Like Nashville over coffee at hip East Nashville cafe Dose. “I was trying to find something that felt like mine.”
After talking with a family friend, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Kye Fleming, Veltz decided to give Nashville a try. Before quitting the band though, Fleming advised her to visit Nashville first to see if she enjoyed co-writing. Veltz immediately took to Nashville, saying it felt like home. Her first co-write with Skip Black (Craig Morgan, Gary Allan, Tyler Farr) went well and the song they wrote together wound up on his next session. She’d soon find herself writing with Edens Edge, helping to shape their sound, and years later would have cuts with artists like Jana Kramer, Eli Young Band, Chris Young and Maren Morris. It was her early success with Edens Edge that ultimately convinced her to quit the family band at 28 and move to Nashville in 2008.
Veltz knew success wouldn’t come overnight so she bartended and waited tables, all while writing songs. She slowly paid her dues and by 2011 she was signed to a joint publishing deal with Big Machine Music and Warner Chappell Music. By 2013 she had her first single on the radio with Eli Young Band’s “Drunk Last Night.” The song would soon become her first No. 1. Written with Josh Osborne (Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road,” Kenny Chesney’s “Setting the World On Fire,” Blake Shelton’s “Sangria”), Veltz vividly recalls writing another song first that day. The song they were working on was inspired by a quote she heard from Garth Brooks at the NSAI Awards earlier that year where he discussed an event in his life and said, “God did what God does.” A cool concept for a song, she and Osborne immediately began writing the blueprint of that sentence and were getting real deep when Veltz paused.
“At some point, I was just like, ‘I’m sorry. I’m really hung over. I got a little drunk last night,’ and he just went straight for it,” she recalls. “He hardly even said, ‘we should write that.’ He just started singing, ‘I got a little drunk last night’ and I think it wrote itself in 45 minutes. It was such a beautiful co-writing experience. It was the first one where I felt like I was in the level of room where there was a seamlessness. Nobody was frustrated.”
Veltz has two songs on Eli Young Band’s latest project, Fingerprints, with “Once” and “Never Again,” and another single on the radio with Maren Morris’ heart wrenching ballad “I Could Use A Love Song.” The latter is a song she says is one of her proudest moments as a songwriter. Morris and Veltz have collaborated numerous times in the past and the songwriter has four songs on Morris’ major label debut, Hero. She says writing with Morris is always special as the singer is a “lyrical human being” and often speaks in song titles. The day they had scheduled to write with Jimmy Robbins was a tough one as Veltz got pulled over on the way to the co-write.
“We were all just like, ‘This day sucks. What are we even going to do with this day?’ And all of a sudden somebody was like, ‘Losers is right there. Why don’t we go get a quick little drink,'” Veltz recalls. “So, we’re sitting and I think we were on drink two and we were all just laughing and being idiots, and at some point Jimmy was like, ‘What do you need? What’s missing from your record?’ And she was like, ‘I could really use a love song.’ I’m sitting there and I wrote that down.”
As the three friends were walking back to Robbins’ studio a block away from the bar in Midtown, Veltz said Morris’ idea sounded like a song. By the time the three songwriters got back to the studio, they already had the melody and chorus for “I Could Use A Love Song.”
“That one came together so quickly. And all of us were just a little drunk; which actually helped in the melody being unapologetic,” Veltz admits. “That one felt so sincere and it wasn’t even where any of us were emotionally that day. It really was unabashed songwriting.”
While Veltz’s name is quickly recognized in the Nashville songwriting community with additional songs featured on Little Big Town’s The Breaker including the sweet ballad “We Went to the Beach,” she cites Chris Young’s “Lonely Eyes” as the biggest surprise of her career. She said the song’s success shocked her as she thought she was writing an “artsy-fartsy song” that day with Johnny Bulford and Jason Matthews. In Veltz’s mind, she was writing “Lonely Eyes” about her now husband, who she was falling in love with at the time.
“It was the first stages of how obsessed you are with a person and I don’t know how the title came out. That’s a room thing, I don’t remember who was credited, but I always identify with whatever’s born in the room and try to make it mine,” she explains. “I don’t even think the word lonely was there, it was just the word eyes and the melody. We were playing with all kinds of lines, we were talking about that old song ‘Hungry Eyes’ and we were like, that would be inappropriate. That’s been done.”
Veltz says she was simply writing what she was feeling about her husband. While the bar scene in the song had nothing to do with her, she says that was the chosen setting for “Lonely Eyes” by the songwriters. She adds that the song was more about how much you notice when you haven’t even said a word to somebody and you’re simply just heartbreakingly in love with them, hoping that they notice you.
“It’s been one of the biggest hits in my career and I was grateful. The timing of that song was really huge for me. I had just had my babies and it was the third single on the album, and I had just stopped paying attention at that time,” she admits, thinking that Young’s team would never pick her song as a radio single. “And then they did, and while I’m trying to become a mom, that song is doing well and I could take some time away; which was a big relief, a treasured gift of my career. That song, I’ll never forget it. It was really most surprising because I was in artsy-fartsy land with some of those lyrics and it worked.”
The mother to three-year-old twins, Veltz says songwriting remains a joy in her life and when she has to leave her children for a co-write it’s not because she has to, it’s because she wants to. She hopes it’s a lesson that will teach her children to pursue their own passions.
“I want them to see the fact that you can do whatever the f— you want with your life and as long as it makes you happy, that’s all there is. If you’re an example of passion, then your children will see that as the reason why you do anything,” she concedes. “I really love what I do and I’m so grateful that I don’t leave the house unless I really want to.”
After a decade in her family’s band and now nearly 10 years into living in Nashville as a songwriter, Laura Veltz is not only an inspiration to her children but to all aspiring songwriters with the dream of moving to Music City.