NYCountry Swag’s “What We’re Listening To” playlist highlights 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 March picks. Then be sure to give our Spotify account a follow and listen to our favorite tracks!
Pick: “Man Enough Now” – Chris Bandi
Songwriters: Jason Allen Duke, Jason Massey
After seeing Chris perform this song live for a Swag Session earlier this month, I loved it even more than I had originally. The lyrics depict a story that everyone who has been in a relationship can relate to. I’m really looking forward to seeing this song take country radio by storm.
Pick: “Janice at the Hotel Bar” – Hailey Whitters
Songwriters: Lori McKenna, Hailey Whitters
This was always going to be my pick for March but the words to “make a good life” ring true even more as we face these scary times with COVID-19. The thing I love about this song most is I have been following Living with Landyn on Instagram for over 5 years and I remember her telling a story about a woman that she met in a hotel bar in NYC and one of my all-time favorite songwriters, Lori McKenna heard the story and teamed up with Hailey to write the song.
We all have a ‘Janice’ in our life, someone who has great advice and who has lived a life to admire. The words in this song resonate so clearly to not take anything for granted and to remember what truly matters in life.
“Make good love, good company / Drink good wine, make good coffee / Keep your chin up, but every once in a while / Have a good cry / Well, go on and make a good living, girl, don’t forget / To make a good life”
Pick: “Small Town Hypocrite” – Caylee Hammack
Songwriters: Caylee Hammack, Jared Scott
I’ve liked all of Caylee Hammack’s previously released singles, but when I heard her new song, “Small Town Hypocrite”, I was instantly stopped in my tracks. The delicate guitar is stunning, and the lyrics are evocative and cut you right to your core. “And that scholarship was a ship that sailed/When I chose you and daddy gave me hell”, she sings on the second verse, telling the story of a girl who’s dreams were bigger than her town but had succumbed to what she described as a small town hypocrite: everything she used to hate. It’s clear that Hammack is on her way to becoming one of country’s best songwriter-artists. Her voice soars on the chorus, where she sings with everything in her, “And I’m staring at a picket fence/Wondering where the hell time went/I should’ve been running, running, running by now/But I just hang around.” It’s a powerful song that is very autobiographical but manages to still be universal.
Pick: Pretty Heart” – Parker McCollum
Songwriters: Parker McCollum, Randy Montana
This song is getting a lot of airtime on Sirius XM and for good reason. This track is extremely catchy and Parker’s distinctive vocals give it that uniqueness that will make this a smash-hit for him. I never heard of McCollum before this song. I thought he was a new, up-and-coming artist but after looking him up, I discovered he has two full-length albums. I guess I have something to do during the quarantine.
Pick: “Thinking ‘Bout You” – Dustin Lynch
Songwriters: Dustin Lynch, Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps, Will Weatherly
This album has been out for more than two months and I’m still playing it on repeat. The mix of Dustin Lynch’s smooth, southern twang and Lauren Alaina’s powerhouse vocals gives me a chill every time. The concept is simple as Lynch sings about an old love interest calling him and immediately all these memories come to mind.
“I was just thinkin’ ’bout that weekend out on Cumberland Lake // And that one time in Baton Rouge when we made out in the rain // Where we went chasin’ fallin’ stars on a hill at your daddy’s farm // Don’t be sorry for callin’ me up out of the blue // I was was just thinkin’ ’bout you”
I think almost everyone can relate to a song like this and Lynch, as a songwriter and a singer, is so good at bringing out those nostalgic moments.
Pick: “Ain’t Lookin’ Back” – Mo Pitney
Songwriters: Derek George, Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley
Mo Pitney’s back with new music this year, baby! His latest release, “Ain’t Lookin’ Back,” reflects on his decision to not let the past define his future while acknowledging the undeniable impact past events have in shaping his life. I think this aspect and two-way thought really resonates with me because, again, of the recent changes and happenings in my life. His sentiment on this encouraging tune comes out at a timely point in my life. “I spend enough time watching the sunset / All the way down into the darkness / Now I just wanna drive every day / Right into the sunrise,” he sings, almost as if he’s lived through these questions, doubts and resolution. Hell, maybe he has– and that’s what makes this delivery special. (side-note: excited about Mo’s sophomore record, due for release later this year! “A Music Man” will hit home for many.)
Pick: “Halfway Home” – Carly Pearce
Songwriters: Carly Pearce, Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz
Carly Pearce lays down her soul with a freeing yet guilty revelation in a new track, from her sophomore self-titled album, “Halfway Home”. It sets the stage to annotate a halfway-out-the-door type of relationship that is preserved solely out of the fear and reluctance in breaking a heart.
The lyrics are magic and take on a more conversational route than what one might be used to. This couplet introduces the humble goodbye to a love grown out of itself which immediately grabs the listeners’ attention and gives Pearce the chance to tell the rest of her story:
“Blame it on me, I’m an actor, I’m a fake / Blame it on me, I broke your heart but by mistake”
The production involves guilt, but somehow the heartbreaker is seen as an innocent. It’s all in the delivery and this singer-songwriter delivered well.
Pick: “God Whispered Your Name” – Keith Urban
Songwriters: Chris August, James Slater, Micah Carter, Shy Carter
“God Whispered Your Name” is Keith Urban’s newest music release since his single “We Were” alongside Eric Church. The song sets the somber mood of a lost soul looking for its way in the world. It was not until God whispered a name that the world suddenly began to make sense again. Whether it was a person that came into your life or a realization you had, everyone can relate to going through a journey of being lost and found again. I personally can relate to that in so many areas of my life and the lyrics really hit me upon first listen.
“Suddenly I wanna live / More than I ever did / I’m never gonna be the same / When God whispered your name”
Briana Lopez, Contributing Writer
Pick: “Giving You Up” – Kameron Marlowe
Songwriters: Kameron Marlowe
Kameron Marlowe is an artist that I recently came across. His song “Giving You Up” is a somber story of growing from a heartbreak.
The lyrics and melody tell a story that I feel like everyone can relate to. Everyone loves a good heartbreak song and this one hits every major point. Marlowe begins the song by telling the person who crushed his heart not to come around anymore after how the relationship ended.
“Don’t you dare try and reappear after you already got me standing here/ I can’t believe you would come at me looking for a little bit of sympathy/ Like I wasn’t the one you left all alone crying/ Looking like a hot mess/ Don’t show your face’ round here any more honey/ This is something you better get through your head”
For me, the best part of the song is the chorus because it shows the transition from hurting to realizing what is actually happening in his life.
“And I’m giving you up/ The same way I did the whiskey on ice/ And it’s all so tough/ You turned me into a man I don’t even recognize/ I’m giving you up/ The same way you did me out in the moonlight”
This is definitely the ultimate bounce back from a break-up song. Showing that there is hope in the heartache and hope in rebuilding your heart after someone does you wrong.
Pick: “If The World Was Ending” – Hannah Ellis & Nick Wayne
Songwriters: JP Saxe, Julia Michaels
Even before all of the madness that is COVID-19 and social distancing, I was hooked on the song “If the World Was Ending” by Nick Wayne and Hannah Ellis. The song tells the story of two ill-fated lovers, as he asks if she’d come over if the world was ending. The pair may not be meant for each other long term, but there’s love there that they need to express upon the end of the world. On the mostly-acoustic duet, the pair harmonize mournfully over Wayne’s guitar strumming. “But if the world was ending/ You’d come over right?”, they implore each other, and this song has never felt more timely than in these uncertain times. Sometimes you just need a sad song, and “If the World Was Ending” is the perfect one, especially now.
Pick: “I’ll Be The Sad Song” – Brandy Clark
Songwriters: Brandy Clark, Chase McGill, Jessie Jo Dillon
I don’t know if it’s her storytelling or voice but she’s simply wonderful. I guess I love sad songs because I can’t stop listening to it since it had been released. This record has all the features I adore, beautiful melody, true to the core lyrics, delightful voice, and amazing performance. So far Brandy Clark’s Your Life is a Record album is my favorite album of the year.
“If your life is a record/ People and places are the songs/ I’ll be your sad song/ Your “what we almost had” song/ Your “might’ve been but wasn’t meant to be”/ Couldn’t be your happy song/ But at least we had a song/ So I’ll be the sad song you sing/ ‘ Cause you’ll always be that song to me”
Pick: “One Margarita”- Luke Bryan
Songwriters: Josh Thompson, Matt Dragstrem, Michael Carter
My song for March is “One Margarita” by Luke Bryan. Times are crazy right now, one thing getting shutdown after another. This song came out at the perfect time to remind us to live in the moment, relax and enjoy a margarita, even if at the moment this has to all be done from home. We can’t stop enjoying life just because we’re stuck inside. The world will hopefully return to normalcy soon.
I can’t remember the last time a song gave me chills from the first verse through the final note but the timely ballad from Mickey Guyton absolutely blew me away. The new song, which she premiered during Country Radio Seminar in Nashville last month, got a standing ovation from the crowd for its haunting reminder of the inequities women face in our society. One of the things that make country music so powerful is the honesty with which artists write, and you can tell from listening to this track that Guyton feels incredibly passionate about this topic. The verses describe an innocent young girl with the world at her fingertips and the hard truth that the deck is stacked against her.
“But what are you gonna tell her when she’s wrong? / Will you just shrug and say it’s been that way all along? / What are you gonna tell her when she figures out / That all this time you’ve built her up / Just so the world could let her down? / Yeah what will you tell her?”
Pick: “White Lightning” – The Cadillac Three
Songwriters: Jaren Johnston
This month I’m throwing it back to a song from five years ago, “White Lightning” by The Cadillac Three. After recently seeing the incredible trio perform in New York City, and falling in love with their newest album, I rediscovered how much I enjoy this particular song. Although different than their typical ‘rough around their edges’ tunes, I truly believe the song was one of the first to really show how versatile and musical the band can be.
“Faster than number three breaking every record / Faster than a tree dies in the desert / Faster than a bug splattered on my windshield / Faster than you die when you take too many pills / Ooh, I saw white lightning / Ooh, I saw white lightning”
Additionally, I love that it’s a love song because it’s unexpected. The vulnerability in the song is both endearing and believable, and I especially love how pretty, yet strong the vocals are. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the song is a solo-write by Jaren Johnston, which to me, makes it that more special. So in the midst of all the new and great music that is constantly being released, I encourage you to add this old-school jam back to your playlist!
Listen to our picks on our “What We’re Listening To” playlist on Spotify and be sure to give it a follow, so you can catch our monthly updates.
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