My Music Row Story: Shane Stevens
The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Shane Stevens is a Grammy and ACM nominated singer-songwriter who has written for a variety of country and pop acts, including Walker Hayes, Carrie Underwood, Lady A, Sara Evans, Kellie Pickler, Ronnie Milsap, Jo Dee Messina, Jordin Sparks, Fifth Harmony, Little Mix, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor.
The South Carolina native achieved his first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2010 with “American Honey,” performed by Lady A and co-written with Hillary Lindsey and Cary Barlowe. After achieving much success in writing country music, Stevens wanted to broaden his songwriting horizon and moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue a new direction as a writer, vocal producer, and artist developer in the pop and R&B world.
While in Los Angeles, Stevens contributed songs to several pop artists, such as “Super Bad” and “Goodie Bag” by Jesse McCartney, “Everlasting Love” by Fifth Harmony, “Paper Doll” by Bea Miller, “Step On Up” by Ariana Grande, “Love Me or Leave Me” by Little Mix, “Woman Up” by Meghan Trainor, “Nobody” by Selena Gomez, and “I’ll Chase The Sky,” “No Better Feelin’” and “Neighsayer” on the 2017 My Little Pony soundtrack.
Stevens’ most recent accolades includes selling a country music musical movie to Paramount Pictures for which he wrote all original compositions alongside childhood friend Karyn Rochelle. He also co-wrote Walker Hayes‘ blockbuster hit “Fancy Like.”
MusicRow: Where did you grow up? What led you into music?
I was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was raised in a little town called Calabash, North Carolina, right on the state line. My dad was a shrimper and my family worked in the restaurant business. My parents led praise and worship in church, so that’s how I fell in love with music. But I hated country music—because my parents loved country music!
My sister and I were obsessed with Michael Jackson. My fourth grade school teacher was the first person to ever play me George Michael, which became a massive influence for me. She said, “One day you’re going to be just like him. You’re gonna write songs!” She was talking to this little gay kid who was being cast out and bullied by everybody else, reassuring me that I was going to be okay.
When did you learn to love country music?
Around 1994, I was in high school. My best friend Tina got her driver’s license first, so I would ride with her in her Subaru to school. We had a deal that if she would listen to Mariah Carey, George Michael, Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston on the way there, I would listen to her crappy country music on the way back. (laughs)
She turned me onto Wynonna Judd. She played me “Is There Life Out There?” by Reba, and some Dolly stuff. It’s Tina’s fault, because she made it cool for me. And then I became obsessed with the storytelling.
How did you get to Nashville?
I had started doing karaoke contests and stuff like that. I would sing Clint Black‘s “Put Yourself In My Shoes” and Alan Jackson‘s “Here In The Real World.” I just got really into it. I went to Opryland auditions in Myrtle Beach and I met who would become my best friend, Karyn Rochelle.
When I was done with school, she asked me if I wanted to go to Nashville with her. So I was 17 when I came to Nashville.
What happened when you got here?
[Karyn and I] were writing and I [decided to go] to hair school, for my “just in case career,” and ended up working for Earl Cox and their team at Trumps [Salon] doing hair extensions. We did Sara Evans, Tammy Wynette, everybody. All these women that I wanted to write songs for, I ended up being their hairdresser.
At the same time, Karyn had been at Crutchfield [Music Publishing] for three or four years, and then she got signed with Pat Finch over at Famous Music. By then I had several songs that I really was proud of and an artist project going. She took my music to Pat and I got a phone call from Pat. He said, “Come over, I want to meet you.” And then he signed me [to my first publishing deal].
After some time in Nashville, you moved to New York, before moving back to Nashville in 2006. What brought you back?
[While in New York], I ended up sending [a song I wrote] to my friend Beka Tischker, who worked at Major Bob. She gave it to Bob Doyle and then he wanted to hear more songs. So I sent some other songs that I had, he loved it, and then I got a phone call. I was sitting at the Good Enough to Eat [restaurant] on the upper west side, across from the bar that I worked in called The Raccoon Lodge. Mike Doyle called and said, “Hey Shane, this is Mike Doyle. I want to offer you a publishing deal.” That was in 2006, and that was the last time I did hair—other than for fun.
I was free as a bird in New York City. I got so much energy from it and I loved creating there, but I would come back to Nashville and stay for a few weeks at a time. Jesse Frasure was my day to day publisher, and they just put me with the right people.
You had your first country hit with Lady A’s “American Honey” in 2019. What was that like?
Blew my freaking mind. Hillary, Cary and I went to Gatlinburg together for the first time and we started writing that song there. We didn’t finish it, we just had a bunch of different ideas. We brought them all home and Jesse Frasure was like, “Y’all have got to finish that song. That’s the one.” That opened the floodgates and then everything really started to happen.
You co-wrote one of the biggest hits of 2021, “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes. How fun has that ride been?
I knew [it was going to be a hit]. I knew it in my soul, and I knew it in my spirit. I told everybody in the room that day.
Walker says we wrote [“Fancy Like”] for people that go to strip malls; and we really did. We also wrote it for people like us, just normal country people [who feel like] going to an Applebee’s is an upgrade.
When you’re the songwriter, you’re not on the stage usually, so you’re not seeing the reaction of a crowd. But because of Instagram and TikTok, when a lot of that stuff can be so bad and hurtful, watching the joy from people and getting to experience it that way has been the coolest thing that has ever happened to me.
In addition to your success in country music with songs recorded by Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Ronnie Milsap, and more, you’ve had a lot of success in the pop space as well, writing songs with and for Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Little Mix, and Jesse McCartney. Who have been some of your biggest champions?
Jesse Frasure, Mike Doyle, and Bob Doyle. Leslie Roberts gave me my first cut over at RCA, and then she went to BMI and she’s still been my champion. Whitney Daane really loves me and I really love her. Stephanie Wright and Allison Jones [are some more]. I have really great relationships with people. I’m not fair-weathered, I’m in it with ’em when it’s low, I’m in it with ’em when it’s high.
Now you’re back with Bob Doyle at Purplebeat.
Now I’m back with Bob. He hired my husband, Eric Daigle, to help run Purplebeat. It feels like I’m back with family and having this ride with “Fancy Like”—which came out the week that I signed my deal at Purplebeat. So we’re all winning together. It feels good to be on that team.
What is one of the proudest moments of your career?
There’s just too many. Most people would say their first No. 1 party or something, but I sang at Carnegie Hall a long time ago. I sang a solo on the stage of Carnegie Hall and Elaine Stritch introduced me. There was a snowstorm and what’s so crazy is I had holes in both bottoms of my shoes because I couldn’t afford to get new dress shoes. They were super cute, you would never know, but my socks were soaked. And I was singing this beautiful song on the Carnegie stage. That probably sounds silly to most people, because I had nowhere near made it, but being on a stage of that size was the biggest dream come true.