The Writer’s Room: Hillary Lindsey

HilaryLindsey-WebGraphicOne of Music City’s ace songwriters, BMG writer Hillary Lindsey has penned a string of hits recorded by Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town, plus Taylor Swift (“Fearless”), Sara Evans (“A Little Bit Stronger”), Lady Antebellum (“American Honey” and “Lookin’ For A Good Time”), Gary Allan (“Every Storm Runs Out of Rain)” and more.

Lindsey, an ASCAP writer, has written for Underwood since the singer won American Idol in 2005; Lindsey co-wrote Underwood’s debut single, “Jesus Take The Wheel,” and has gone on to co-write numerous hits for (and often with) the Grammy winner, including “Wasted,” “Just A Dream,” “See You Again,” “Two Black Cadillacs,” and “So Small,” as well as “Smoke Break,” the first single from Underwood’s upcoming Storyteller project.

Lindsey’s collaborations with fellow co-writers Liz Rose and Lori McKenna (the group’s informal name is The Love Junkies) have resulted in one of the most successful and most talked about songs of 2015, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” which has garnered several nominations for the upcoming CMA Awards, including Single of the Year, Song of the Year, and Music Video of the Year.

Lindsey spoke with MusicRow as part of a Writer’s Notes series for its annual Publisher issue (released today, Oct. 13). For the full interview, check out the annual MusicRow Publisher Issue.

On Her Start in Nashville:

I came to Nashville in 1994, and attended Belmont [University]. I majored in Music Business, because I thought when I tried to get a record deal, that I wouldn’t get screwed because I knew the business side of it. My roommate interned at a record label. She took one of my tapes and played it. The tape got sent around to different publishers, and Famous Music signed me. Then I signed with Epic out of Los Angeles, but that deal lasted about three months. John Polk, who signed me, told me he quit and that they were dropping me and two other acts he had most recently signed. I hadn’t recorded anything, and didn’t even step into the studio. It was a pretty low time. Then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and began writing with Gordie Sampson, Brett James, Troy Verges, and others. We began getting cuts, and I thought, ‘This isn’t bad, either.’

On Her First Co-Write With Liz Rose:

Liz Rose and I had written one song together, but we were actually not in the same room when we wrote it. That track was “Fearless,” the title track of Taylor Swift’s album. Obviously Taylor and Liz wrote a lot together. I had a writing date with Taylor, and she came to my home. She came in like a fireball. She was young, but she knew exactly what she wanted. She had been working on the song with Liz, but wanted to finish it with me. When the song was cut for Taylor’s album I didn’t really know Liz, but that was our first cut together.

On Writing Sessions With The Love Junkies:

Lori [who lives in Stoughton, Mass.] will fly to Nashville, and we will hole up at Liz’s house for a few days. Liz is the queen bee. She whips us into shape. We will write three or four songs in a day. You can almost not turn off the writing juices. We will write all day, then it’s wine time and then you write more and eventually make it into your pajamas. They get up before me and they are already down there. They’ve been tweaking lines from the song the night before or have been working on new ideas.

On Songwriting Dry Spells:

I’ve been very lucky and blessed. It’s been a good run recently. But I hit dry spells all the time. I get so frustrated, and want to throw my guitar against the wall or move away, it’s so dramatic. Some writers can take a [long] break, and come back super-refreshed. For me, it’s a muscle that I like to keep working out. But in the same breath, it’s healthy. I couldn’t do all those songs by myself. Those songs are because of my co-writers as well. We lean on each other very heavily.

On The State Of Female Artists and Songwriters At Country Radio:

A year or so ago, I would have been more sad about it, but I really feel like that tide is turning. You can see certain artists like Maren Morris doing well. I feel like there is a real change about to come. There is so much talent among the female writers, and they are here busting their butts every day. Natalie Hemby, Nicolle Galyon, Heather Morgan, Caitlyn Smith — there are so many I can’t name them all. Kelsea Ballerini just broke through, and we’re seeing Mickey Guyton. We need a few more to break through. It’s all cyclical.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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