One of the best things about country music is how many of our favorite artists are also songwriters. Even if they don’t record their own hits (a great example is Little Big Town smash, “Better Man” which was actually penned by Taylor Swift) it’s normal to see songwriter credit given to the same names we hear on the radio, see on tour, and follow on streaming platforms.
But there’s actually a *not so secret* network of songwriting royalty that fly under the radar, despite their ability to churn out hit after hit for the biggest performers of our generation. Here are some songwriters that you need to know:
Shane McAnally – Perhaps one of the most well known Nashville writers (and certainly most active on social media thanks to his adorable kids) is country king, Shane McAnally. With an artist roster including Lee Ann Womack, Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, Dierks Bentley, Keith Urban, Brothers Osborne, Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, Midland, and Kacey Musgraves, there isn’t a single top country chart he isn’t all over.
Caitlyn Smith – This vocal powerhouse has recently started to release her own music, but you’re much more likely to know her for a slew of number one songs including, “Let it Hurt” recorded by Rascal Flatts, the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet, “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, and even pop hit, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” co-written by Meghan Trainor and performed featuring John Legend.
Lori McKenna – Solely responsible for writing Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”, Grammy award winner, Lori McKenna is one of my most sought after songwriters who doesn’t even live in Nashville. McKenna resides with her family in Massachusets but travels to Nashville often to write some of the biggest songs in the genre. Along with Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, she wrote Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”. She has also just released her 11th studio album, The Tree.
Ashley Gorley – With more than 100 country cuts to date (yup, you read that right) there may be no one as established in the songwriting world than Ashley Gorley. When you’ve written for the greats (George Strait, Darius Rucker, Bon Jovi, and Tim McGraw to name a few) and newer talent (Cole Swindell, Jon Pardi, and Chase Bryant) it’s hard to imagine there is anyone in town that won’t take a meeting.
Heather Morgan – Co-founder of all-female seasonal writers’ round “Girls of Nashville” (with previously mentioned Caitlyn Smith) is this Texas gal. You can find Morgan on not one, not two, but seven Brett Eldredge hits, and who knows how many more in the works.
Kelley Lovelace – This Tennessee native known mostly for writing almost every Brad Paisley single, can also be found on track listings for the likes of Joe Nichols, Jason Aldean, Terri Clark, and Carrie Underwood.
Natalie Hemby – Great songwriters aren’t reserved for country and Natalie Hemby is a perfect example of lending talents to other genres. Famous for Miranda Lambert songs including, “Automatic” and, “White Liar”, her claim to fame this past year was writing “Always Remember Us This Way” alongside the one and only Lady Gaga for the Golden Globe-nominated film, “A Star is Born”.
Luke Laird – Few songwriters can snag the coveted “Triple Play Award” given by the Country Music Association to those with three or more number one hits in one year, but Luke Laird has done it SIX times! With over 20 #1 Billboard singles, including multiple hits for Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan, he has also written and produced songs for Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Darius Rucker, and many more.
Nicolle Galyon – Dan and Shay’s smash, “Tequila” was easily the biggest song of 2018, and it was actually written by an incredibly talented woman. With credits like Kenny Chesney’s, “All the Pretty Girls”, Lee Brice’s “Boy”, and Raelynn’s “Lonely Call”, and pop hits including Camilla Cabello’s, “Consequences”, it’s only a matter of time before she becomes the household name.
Josh Kear – Not to be confused with Josh Kerr (who you probably also love for co-writing some Kelsea Ballerini favs…) this veteran is no stranger to the top of the charts. From Carrie Underwood and Blake Shelton to Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley, there are few people as successful in the country writing circuit.
Hillary Lindsey – An absolute powerhouse for female stars for the last two decades, this Grammy winner has written for Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, and Taylor Swift, just to name a few. Who run the world? (Country) Girls.