We recently welcomed a team of writers to the NYCountry Swag Squad. With that, we’re excited to share a new monthly feature with our “What We’re Listening To” playlist, where we’re highlighting the wide range of our team’s favorite songs and artists when it comes to the country music genre. At the end of the day, we are all fans first with a passion for country music and are eager to share with you all what we’ve got on repeat each month.
Find below each of our team member’s favorite songs and why in our September picks. Then be sure to give our Spotify account a follow and listen to our favorite tracks!
Stephanie Wagner, Founder
Pick: “Prayed For You” – Matt Stell
Songwriters: Matt Stell / Allison Velos / Ash Bowers
It’s funny how music hits you. Sometimes you listen to a song just because you want to, sometimes a friend tells you to listen, and sometimes a song randomly comes on and stops you in your tracks. That was the case for me with Matt Stell’s “Prayed For You” who also joined us for a Live Swag Session to play the song. The beautiful track evokes the idea of praying for that special person that you just know is your soulmate before ever even meeting them. “Every single day, before I knew your name / I couldn’t see your face, but I prayed for you.”
Holding on to the faith that your one true love is out there, the hopeful love song goes on to paint a picture of the characteristics in the heart’s desire: “For Someone to love me like you do / Graceful eyes to see me through / A smile that steals me, a heart that heals me / A touch that kills me too”.
Whether single or a couple in love, the lyrics are relatable and meaningful, making this one of the best love songs in country music right now.
Christina Bosch, Managing Editor
Pick: “Better On Paper” – Brett Sheroky
Songwriters: Andrew Peebles / Brett Sheroky
“Songwriter turned artist, Brett Sheroky released his latest single “Better On Paper” earlier this summer and the song stopped me in my tracks at first listen. This song is not primed for radio nor will you hear it blaring from speakers as you walk to the venue at a concert during a tailgate but for anyone who has dealt with the disintegration of a relationship, these lyrics will hit you harder than you can imagine. “Better On Paper” refers to the pictures you look back on, the post-it notes that served as love letters and ultimately the divorce papers that have to be signed.
“Oh here we are, the end of us is all typed out in ink / I never thought it’d get to where we couldn’t even speak, it’s hard to believe / the worst of us would wind right here later, better on paper, a couple of strangers, just better on paper.”
I can’t help but hope that more songwriters take a note from Sheroky and write songs that mean something rather than chasing the commercial dream. Check back tomorrow when New York Country Swag exclusively premieres the video for “Better On Paper”. “
Kelly Cunningham, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Here Tonight” – Brett Young
Songwriters: Ben Caver, Brett Young, Charles Kelley, Justin Ebach
“The song just dropped last weekend, but Brett Young’s been playing “Here Tonight” on the road this past month and this song perfectly shapes his new album Ticket To LA, coming out in December. It has a fall vibe attached to it just in time for the season. The lyrics and upbeat tempo reflect the different place he is in life right now in contrast to his last album. His self-titled album Brett Young was more about heartbreak and love gone wrong and now his new album, Ticket To LA, is giving us a more “life is good” side of Brett’s music.”
Crystal Fenton, Contributing Writer
Pick: “First Time Again” – Jason Aldean feat. Kelsea Ballerini
Songwriters: Blake Bollinger, Jaron Boyer, Ben Stennis, and Michael Tyler
“Lately, I’ve been listening to First Time Again on repeat. This song tears at my heart; I especially love/cry when you can actually hear the twinge of despair in her voice when she sings “Begging baby please just stay”. Also, I can relate to pretty much every lyric line in this song, as I’ve had a similar experience. Plus, it’s been rainy here in NYC making it the perfect weather to listen to a song where the emotion really resonates through each word.”
Molly Holmberg, Contributing Writer
Pick: “One Shot” – Molly Holmberg
Songwriters: Hunter Hayes
“Hunter Hayes has been out of the scene the last few years focusing on songwriting while playing a few shows here and there. Although in the last two months Hayes has come back full swing with honest lyrics and a vulnerable side that we’ve been waiting for. In the new track “One Shot,” it’s clear that Hayes is having a blast. Musically, he blends the new and old, incorporating elements of pop, country, and even a bit of jazz making “One Shot” feel like the total package. In the chorus of “One Shot,” Hayes sings about something that most people can relate to: “I started with one shot / To have a good time / Everybody knows how easy one can turn into five / Don’t judge me, ’cause it ain’t nobody’s life but mine / And I only get one shot / So I take it one shot at a time.”
We all know how easy it can be to keep going along with the motions while having a great time with friends! It’s fun, infectious, yet also conveys a solid message at the same time. Hayes delivers all around with his amazing singing, songwriting, production, and with his charismatic personality. It is the perfect upbeat song to add to any playlist and I know that my friends and I have been playing it since the moment it came out!”
Nicole Piering, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Bittersweet” – Paul Brandt featuring Lindsay Ell
Songwriters: Ben Stennis, Brad Rempel, Paul Brandt, Seth Mosley
“Although I’ve heard the name Paul Brandt thrown around for years, I only recently discovered his music. The Canadian artist has a huge catalog of phenomenal songs, including “My Heart Has a History” and “All About Her,” but it’s his newest release, “Bittersweet” that I can’t stop listening to. Featuring fellow Canadian Lindsay Ell on electric guitar and co-written with High Valley’s Brad Rempel, “Bittersweet” is an up-tempo country song that you can’t help but tap your feet to. The lyrics touch on life and the moments that you don’t want to forget, but that are bound to only become bittersweet memories. “From the moment to memories, this life is bittersweet,” Brandt sings, and I couldn’t agree more. “We’re living and dying and laughing and crying, and finding the beauty between.” If you haven’t heard Paul Brandt’s music just yet, I highly recommend “Bittersweet” as the gateway into his vast catalog.”
Pick: “Miss Me More” – Kelsea Ballerini
Songwriters: Brett McLaughlin, David Hodges, Kelsea Ballerini
“Last weekend I saw Kelsea Ballerini on the Graffiti U World Tour at Mohegan Sun. Since then her song, “Miss Me More,” has been stuck in my head on repeat; naturally, I had to choose it as my September pick. It’s one of my favorite songs off her sophomore album, Unapologetically, because of her sassy lyrics and ear-catching beat.
“I miss me more / I miss my own beat of my own snare drum / I miss my own sheets in the bed I made up / I forgot I had dreams, I forgot I had wings / Forgot who I was before I ever kissed you / I thought I’d miss you, but I miss me more,”
At the show I couldn’t help myself, shouting at the top of my lungs, singing the lyrics right back to her and of course dancing like nobody was watching. What I love about Ballerini is how relatable her music is and this song, in particular, she sings with such confidence, belting out the lyrics. “Miss Me More” is an empowering song that every girl should listen to at least once. I can’t wait to see her again when the tour comes to the Barclays Center next month
Danielle Tornatore, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Tragic” – Jillian Jacqueline
Songwriters: Andrew DeRoberts, Bob Dipiero, Jillian Jacqueline
“Back in May, I was lucky enough to see Jillian Jacqueline perform at Nash FM 94.7 Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17 where she performed a new song by introducing it as one of the few off of her next EP Side B. As soon as she sang the first chorus, I knew I NEEDED the studio version. I was counting down the days until Side B was released just for this very song. After waiting a long four months, I finally have “Tragic” on repeat. The lyrics “Bottom line, I survived. Spent all year being so dramatic. It was sad and I was lonely, but I’m standing here alive in this moment, so why’s it gotta be, why’s it gotta be tragic?” are something I believe everyone should hear.”
Shanna Vitaliano, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Heart Like A Wheel” – Eric Church
Songwriters: Eric Church
“One of the songs I have on repeat as of late is Eric Church’s “Heart Like A Wheel.” Church slows things down with bluesy vocals and unique flair to bring to life a romantic story about opposites attracting. Opening lyrics such as “She’s caviar and mascara, I’m corduroy and leather It’d take one hell of an imagination to ever paint us together” set the tone for the gospel sounding ballad. “Heart Like A Wheel” is almost like a seductive follow up to another fan favorite “Like A Wrecking Ball.” Give this song a listen as we look forward to Church’s new album Desperate Man which will be available out October 5th.”
Erica Zisman, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Hell or High Water” – Ben Danaher
Songwriters: Ben Danaher / Maren Morris
“Earlier this month, we published a First Impression reviewing country singer Ben Danaher’s debut album, Still Feel Lucky. I really related to the entire vibe and raw emotion throughout all the tracks; however, my favorite song (right now) is “Hell or High Water” by the singer This song is such a jam! The track, co-written by country star, Maren Morris, is one of those songs that can translate across multiple genres of music. It embodies soul, country, and rock all in one. Not to mention, “Hell or High Water” features killer guitar riffs. I encourage you to go listen to Danaher’s radio-friendly tune because soon you will be loving the entire album as much as I do.”
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