Establishing herself as a prominent country songwriter, she earned two Song of the Year awards prior to her own 2022 debut album, "Firstborn". Nicolle Galyon's songs have become a mainstay on the country charts throughout the past decade. Since she moved to Nashville more than 20 years ago, the songwriter, artist, and label executive has seen success with Miranda Lambert (“Automatic”), Keith Urban (“We Were Us”), Kenny Chesney (“All the Pretty Girls”) Dan + Shay (“Tequila”), and Lee Brice (“Boy”), among others.
Galyon was the sole female honored with a 2023 CMA Triple Play Award for writing three No. 1 songs within a 12-month period. Adding to her most recent success she scored her 10th No. 1 hit with Morgan Wallen’s “Thought You Should Know", which she wrote with Wallen and Lambert. Consider that Galyon also had her hand in Dierks Bentley’s chart-topper “Gone” and Kelsea Ballerini’s “Half of My Hometown,” which features Chesney. While the in-demand songwriter received her second Triple Play Award in four years, she admits that it took some time in Nashville before she saw herself as a songwriter. According to Nicolle she has to write 100 songs before she ever started co-writing and she didn't this she would call herself a songwriter until she had written songs for three to four years.
Galyon relocated from Sterling, Kansas, to Nashville to attend Belmont University, where she studied music business. When she attended her first guitar pull at approximately 18 is when she realized she was a songwriter, previous to that she had written poetry and short stories as well as for the local newspaper and the school yearbook. Trained in classical piano, she began to write songs in private following her first guitar pull writing four songs in one weekend. While she instinctively knew three of the songs weren’t good, one had potential, the song called ‘The House That Dad Built”. This song was different, it was the one that was telling a true story as her Dad had built houses. In that song she found that she wasn't writing about feelings or words that sounded hip and cool or imitating some other song, It was Nicolle writing about something that she had experienced. That sentiment, writing about life she has experienced, has turned into her long-term career, by just trying to be as honest about her own life as possible.
This honesty is all over Galyon’s debut album, "Firstborn", released in 2022. The 11-track project serves as Nicolle's musical memoir for her two children. and was a fulfilling personal project for the songwriter. Two of the album’s songs, “Boy” and “Consequences” were previously released by Brice and Camila Cabello, respectively. Galyon’s version provides a stripped-down rendition of these songs on "Firstborn" that resonates . Over the years as she had played these two songs at writers’ rounds, they just felt different to Nicolle, they felt more personal to her.
Galyon wrote “Boy.” with Jon Nite when she was 38 weeks pregnant with her son, Ford, in her last writing session with Nite before maternity leave .
They didn’t really set out to write a song in the Nashville way with an idea and thought they would just write a letter to her son.’ They started with the word ‘boy’ talking to her son and the song literally wrote itself. This apparently isn’t the typical way to write a song chronologically, line by line from start to finish. Usually songs are written more like an essay where you have a thesis, which is the hook, the end of the chorus and then you work backwards, and you fill in all the supporting verses. Nicolle has stated, "It felt divine in the way that it rolled out chronologically.”
When Nicolle is not writing for herself and for other artists she also serves as the founder and CEO of Songs & Daughters, an imprint of Big Loud Records, to support and develop women. Founding the label was a full-circle moment for Galyon, who moved to Nashville to be a manager or work at a label. Galyon says her experience as a songwriter and as a label executive go hand in hand and her most recent lesson is that songwriting is a lot like marketing. How so you might ask? Nicolle has found, “Marketing is showing people who you are and telling a story. In a sense, it’s taking a product, whether that’s an artist or a person or an album, and you’re showing who someone is, and you’re telling that story. Well, that’s what songwriting is too in so many different ways. It’s fun to be able to apply the same creative process that goes into telling a song story to an artist story. I’m loving getting to be a bridge in that way.”
This year marks a decade since Galyon’s first No. 1 hit with Urban and Lambert’s “We Were Us.” She penned the song with frequent collaborator Nite and Jimmy Robbins. Much like “Boy,” “We Were Us” was written when she was pregnant with her first child, daughter Charlie. “We were all just hustling so much, writing doubles, sometimes triples in a day,” she adds of her early years as a songwriter. “It was a numbers game in the beginning … the more songs you write you think, ‘Maybe I’ll get lucky sooner.” The success was followed by another hit with Lambert the following year with 2014 CMA Single of the Year and 2015 ACM Song of the Year “Automatic.” Galyon would go on to pen an amazing five songs on Lambert’s Grammy-winning Best Country Album Platinum.
Nicolle has advised new songwriters as follows, "I think we become songwriters by listening to ourselves. We have to get connected with ourselves and our own thoughts and our own stories and feelings and emotions. To become a really good co-writer for another artist you have to learn to listen to them. Not just listen to what they’re saying but listen to what they’re trying to say or maybe what they are afraid to say and help them be brave enough to say it sometimes. They need to know that you’re in there for as pure of reasons as possible. That you love writing, that you love what they do, that you’re a fan. It’s a lot easier for me to write with an artist that I’m truly a fan of. … I always advise, don’t waste your time writing with people that you’re not excited about. It won’t be as fulfilling, and you won’t do your best work if you’re not a true fan.”
Nicolle Galyon has written a staggering nine #1 singles including Miranda Lambert’s ACM Award-winning “Automatic” and Dan + Shay’s multi-platinum, ACM Award-winning “Tequila.” She’s also received a Grammy and CMA Awards nomination, earned two Triple Play Awards and was honored by BMI as their 2019 Songwriter of the Year. Galyon was named 2020 Kansan of the Year for her continued service and commitment to her home state, which includes partnering with SongFarm and Save The Music to install a recording studio in Sterling High School and others throughout the country.
Most people have known Galyon, up until now, as a person fiercely committed to giving to everybody else. Songs she’s co-written have been cut by Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Camila Cabello, Miranda Lambert and many more, yielding nine Number One singles for other artists. Except for an appearance on The Voice, Nicolle remained in the background publicly, the kind of Nashville powerhouse revered on Music Row but anonymous to a world that rarely read album credits. For the most part, she liked it that way. But as Galyon has said, “It’s OK to change your mind at 38 and say, ‘Actually, I’ve decided I’m going to do this next,’” she says. “I think there are a lot of songwriters who quietly want to do this. There is something so binary about this thinking, that you are a songwriter or an artist. It doesn’t feel like love to think about it that way.”
After deciding in 2021 she would finally give herself permission to tell her own stories, sung in her own voice, "Firstborn" was released in 2022. She and her family had moved back to Kansas during the pandemic. On a drive from the airport in Wichita to her hometown of Sterling song titles began popping into her head, all with one singular purpose, her album was to be for her kids. She would explain to them and the world her own history in all its complexity. How she had a different father than her siblings (thats why she’s the only tall one in the family), the challenges of being a working mother, and the mistakes she made with lovers and friends along the way. how hard it is to miss tucking your kids in at night, even if the place you are is the stuff of someone else’s dreams.
Galyon already has ideas for a second solo record, but is also been spending time back in Nashville in the writing room, working on songs for others. Spinning up a song just for the sake of it came easier than she thought and there is a part of her that likes to write a song just to write a song. According to Nicolle Galyon “Not everything in life has to be the most profound thing you’ve ever done. If you try to write [CMA] ‘Song of the Year’ every day, you’re never going to, because you are going to wear yourself out emotionally and mentally. Have fun!"
By Deborah Gibson