One year ago today (July 22), hit song crafter Nicolle Galyon, known for her work on six No. 1 hits such as Dan+Shay’s “Tequila” and “All To Myself,” and Kenny Chesney’s “All The Pretty Girls,” announced her female-driven label, Songs & Daughters.
“I like to say it is more of a home than it is a company,” Galyon says. “We are a place to nurture not just the art but the artist. I want female creators to feel safe to grow, develop and try things.”
Over the past year, the company as evolved and deepened its purpose, strategically and selectively adding artists and songwriters to the roster.
Last month, Songs & Daughters launched a music publishing arm in conjunction with Big Loud Publishing and Warner Chappell Music, and announced the signing of the venture’s first songwriter, Tiera. The company also inked a partnership with Hailey Whitters and Whitters’ Pigasus Records label.
“We made the home, now we’re building the family,” says Galyon, who serves as President & CEO at Songs & Daughters, and was named BMI’s Songwriter of the Year in 2019.
Tiera and Whitters join Songs & Daughters’ flagship artist, Madison Kozak.
Before meeting Galyon, Kozak had already signed a publishing deal with Big Loud while still a junior at Belmont University. When Big Loud’s Seth England invited Galyon to see Kozak showcase some new music, Kozak’s performance of her heartfelt ballad “First Last Name” —along with a well-timed joke—would spark a full-fledged vision for Songs & Daughters.
“At the showcase, I told Madison, as kind of a joke, ‘Hey, I started a record label in my car on the way over here, if you want to talk,’ but I meant it as a way of complimenting her.’ But separately, Seth England had come to me, and we’ve always ran ideas by each other. He was like, ‘Have you ever thought of running a label?’ And I was like, ‘I just made this joke to Madison but I think it’s going to end up being a real thing.’ We had dinner in Fall of 2018, and by the time we left, in my mind, it was a done deal.”
For Kozak, that night meant meeting and performing for her songwriting heroine.
“I got ready for the showcase—picked the outfit, picked the band, picked the songs—got ready for this whole night, and I was expecting to see some people I already write with and friends, never imagining that one of my biggest heroes would be in the audience. I’ll never forget walking out there and making eye contact with Nicolle and thinking, ‘Oh, shoot, THAT’s who Seth brought out. Wow.’ And just talking to her afterward, I thought maybe we could write a song together. I never imagined it would turn into this. I got so lucky to have a mentor who is not only such an accomplished songwriter, but she’s a woman in the music industry who knows how to navigate that. Now being the label CEO that she is, the mom and daughter that she is, and the good-hearted friend she is, I feel very blessed to be working with her.”
Since signing with Songs & Daughters, Kozak has joined CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2020, and pre-pandemic, she joined Tanya Tucker on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour. Now, with touring paused during the current pandemic, Kozak has been spending more time writing songs and fleshing out her debut album.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, the company has continued moving forward. Tiera e-signed her publishing contract in early March, just as stay-at-home orders were going into effect.
“I’ve had the opportunity to start a publishing company through my deal for years with Warner Chappell. Being a good publisher is more like a day-to-day manager and I never felt like I had the time and bandwidth to give a writer what they deserved until Tiera came along. She had these two powerhouse creative teams—Warner Chappell and Big Loud—that both wanted to work with her and I was kind of caught in the middle in a great way.”
Tiera began teaching herself guitar at age 13. She first gained a national audience after winning her episode of USA Network’s Real Country. As a writer, Tiera has already garnered cuts by other artists, and has released her own music, including “Rewind,” “Wake Up Call,” and more.
“Nicolle is an incredible songwriter, and she can give me advice on things because she’s been through things in the industry that I haven’t been through. That was never something I imagined I would have with whoever I would sign with,” Tiera says. “I’d heard all these stories from songwriters about how they would turn songs in and they wouldn’t hear back from their publishers. But they always respond to the songs I send and they will touch base just to see how I am, so it definitely feels like a family.”
After moving to Nashville 18 years ago, Galyon’s career has given her a deep perspective into the needs and struggles artists and songwriters face.
In 2007, she signed with Warner Chappell as a songwriter. It took seven years of hard work before she celebrated her first No. 1 single, with Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic.” She also competed as an artist on the popular music competition The Voice in 2012. In 2019, she earned BMI’s Country Song of the Year for “Tequila.” She’s also earned two ACM Awards and a CMA Triple Play Award.
Most of all, she hopes to offer mentorship and support for female creators, whether they choose to focus their talents in the artist space, as a songwriter, or both.
“I do have a bit of a platform now and I get to choose how I use that and that is something I wish had been there more for me. I’ve had some really great champions over the years as I’ve come up through the business, but I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of champions that were songwriters like me and were my peers. I have seen especially the female creatives in our business go from being in competition to being in collaboration and I feel like I’ve watched myself as a writer go from being the only girl in the writing room to being one of three girls in the writing room and we’re writing a song for a guy. So to watch that evolution, I’m trying to create that collaborative space at the label.
“I would love for someone signed to a Songs & Daughters publishing deal to get a cut with an S&D artist and maybe they co-write together. That’s the kind of thing that can’t be forced, you just have to create a space that creates the opportunity for it to happen organically.”
Galyon also brought singer-songwriter Whitters into the Songs & Daughters fold. In partnership with Whitters’ Pigasus label, Songs & Daughters will handle marketing and promotions, alongside Big Loud, for her album The Dream, further building Whitters’ team, which also includes management with Make Wake Artists (known for its work with superstar Luke Combs) and BRND MGMT, and touring through CAA.
“Although unknown to us at the time, I believe my journey with Songs & Daughters began three years ago with Nicolle [Galyon] in the writer room,” Whitters says. “I find it refreshing and unique, that my label head is a creator—someone who’s not only involved in the promotion of my music, but also the genesis of the song. I also found it particularly motivating that the label is run by a woman in an industry that is quite often dominated by men in leadership positions.”
“The Hailey deal was unique,” Galyon says. “She had a fully-finished project that she self-funded and I’ve been working with her as a songwriter for a few years. So it was just fun to take that partnership and say ‘How can we all work together?’ For me it’s fun to work with a songwriter and artist like Hailey because I don’t have to let it go when it leaves the writing room. I get to continue to ride that ride with her.”
Female artists continue to fight a hard battle for airplay at country radio, but as a songwriter, label head, and champion for those she works with, Galyon has been encouraged that the first half of 2020 has seen No. 1 hits for female artists including Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett, Carly Pearce, and Maren Morris.
“I feel like that’s so hopeful and encouraging,” she says. “I feel like the first few dominoes have fallen and I hope the rest will follow suit. One thing about those female artists is they are all passionate about building up other female artists, so the more success they have, the more opportunities they create for younger female acts.”
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