11 Nashville Songwriters We Are Currently Obsessed With

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Country music is about stories. But who are the faces behind those stories? One Country takes a look at 11 current songwriters we are absolutely digging — it should be noted: several of these storytellers are veterans at their craft and have been working Nashville for a number of years, but have also scored some of their biggest cuts in recent years. Meanwhile, more than a couple are having their moment in the spotlight with first-ever major label cuts or among their first. Some of these songwriters you may already know; others you probably don’t. But we can guarantee you’ll recognize more than a few of these hits and deep cuts.

11 Songwriters We Are Currently Obsessed With:

1. Caitlyn Smith

Packing in plenty of soul, the singer — who has been in Nashville 7 years (so far) as a songwriter — delivers a wallop of vivid storytelling in her writing. She’s not confined to genre boxes either, often blurring the lines even further. She scored her first-ever No. 1 this year, when pop singer Meghan Trainor’s “Like I”m Gonna Lose You,” with John Legend, (a cut off Trainor’s Title album) rose to the summit on Adult Pop Songs in January. Smith’s star(fire) is certainly burning brighter than ever.

Cuts: Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” Cassadee Pope’s “Wasting All These Tears,” Garth Brooks’ “Tacoma,” Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” Danielle Bradbery’s “Wild Boy,” Jason Aldean’s “It Ain’t Easy,” Rascal Flatts’ “Let It Hurt,” James Bay’s “Hear Your Heart,” Chris Isaak’s “Down in Flames,” Lori McKenna’s “The Bird & the Rifle,” Lady Antebellum’s “747”

Latest Release: Starfire EP

2. Travis Meadows

The man who brings Carrie Underwood’s “Choctaw County Affair” to life with blustering harmonica is one of today’s finest songwriters. After a troubled personal life, he got clean and that’s when things started to click into place. He quickly landed several major label cuts, including on Jake Owen and Dierks Bentley albums. At this rate, he’ll be a superstar in no time, and rightly so — his smokey, gravely vocal is powerful, raw and utterly satisfying.

Cuts: Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” and “Cherry on Top,” Dierks Bentley’s “Riser,” Wynonna & the Big Noise’s “Jesus and a Jukebox” and “Things That I Lean On,” Randy Houser’s “Hot Beer and Cold Women,” Hank Williams Jr’s “God and Guns,” Eric Church’s “Knives of New Orleans” and “Dark Side,” Blackberry Smoke’s “Pretty Little Lie,” Levi Lowrey’s “Long Way Home” and “My Crazy Head,” Frankie Ballard’s “Don’t You Wanna Fall,” Adam Brand’s “It’s Gonna Be OK,” Craig Morgan’s “Hearts I Leave Behind”

Latest Release: 2013’s Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business

3. Jesse Lee

Teaming up with one of country’s newest “IT” women Kelsea Ballerini, this breakthrough songwriter gives the men a run for their money with “Peter Pan,” one of the best selling singles of 2016. While she is finally getting much-deserved exposure on major label albums (and showing great songwriting finesse), her journey is only just beginning.

Cuts: Kelsea Ballerini’s “Peter Pan,” Keith Urban’s “That Could Still Be Us,” Brett Young’s “Like I Love You”

Latest Release: Several singles, including “Talk to Me,” “It’s a Girl Thing” and “Cry Baby,” as found on her Facebook page.

4. Mike Busbee

For anyone who has studied busbee’s work, you already know he likes to bend genres, dabbling in rock, pop and country on a whim. Whenever the muse tickles his fancy, he writes it or produces it. This year, he hit new levels of success with Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” and Maren Morris’ breakout debut single “My Church,” a soulful toe-tapper sampling her major label debut record HeroHero. But his previous pedigree already cemented him as one of the best creative thinkers, both in the writer’s room and in the producer’s chair. He’s kicked it around the country music world for a number of years, drawing on his vast influences to conjure up something modern and accessible. Even if some traditionalist don’t like it, he doesn’t mind pushing the envelope with a wink and a smile.

Cuts: Maren Morris’ “My Church” and “80s Mercedes,” Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.,” Jon Bellion’s “80’s Films” and “Maybe IDK,” Bea Miller’s “Enemy Fire,” Katharine McPhee’s “How,” Timbaland’s “If We Ever Meet Again,” Craig Morgan’s “All Cried Out,” Blake Shelton’s “Every Goodbye,” Ingrid Michaelson’s “Drink You Gone,” Keith Urban’s “The Fighter,” “Your Body” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down,” Dan + Shay’s “Sway,” Montgomery Gentry’s “In a Small Town,” Danielle Bradbery’s “Endless Summer” and “Yellin’ from the Rooftop,” Jana Kramer’s “Said No One Ever,” 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Don’t Stop,” Garth Brooks’ “People Loving People,” Little Big Town’s “Quit Breaking Up with Me,” Rascal Flatts’ “She Must Like Broken Hearts,” Sara Evans’ “Good Love Is Hard to Find” and Scotty McCreery’s “Now,” “Buzzin’ (among countless others)

Latest Release: n/a

5. Sara Haze

This ripe talent is finally having her moment. With several major label cuts now under her proverbial belt, including on albums by Jennifer Nettles and Carrie Underwood, she is on task to become the next “IT” songwriter in town.

Cuts: Jennifer Nettles’ “Hey Heartbreak,” Carrie Underwood’s “Relapse,” Rascal Flatts’ “Riot,” Kelleigh Bannen’s “Famous”

Latest Release: her own version of “Riot”


6. Trevor Rosen, of Old Dominion

Forget what you may know about this snappy Old Dominion performer — throw those assumptions you created following such hit singles as “Break Up with Him” and “Snapback” aside. As one of the year’s most traditional cuts (he co-wrote with R&B-mixer Sam Hunt), newcomer William Michael Morgan’s “I Met a Girl” is at the crest of a wave of traditional music making a comeback at radio — it recently hit No. 1 and samples Morgan’s debut studio record Vinyl (out now). There is certainly opportunity here for a major changing of the tides.

Cuts: William Michael Morgan’s “I Met a Girl,” Drake White’s “Equator,” Randy Houser’s “Whiskeysippi River,” Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” Dierks Bentley’s “Say You Do,” Jake Owen’s “Tipsy,” Dustin Lynch’s “All Night,” The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” Scotty McCreery’s “Blue Jean Baby,” Chris Young’s “Neon”

Latest Release: Old Dominion’s Meat & Candy


7. Clint Lagerberg

Lagerberg first got his start as a winner of the 2001 John Lennon Songwriting contest and would later pursue Christian music, as both a songwriter and solo artist. While he netted numerous cuts on Christian-leaning albums, he would get his first major country cut in 2009 with the unstoppable “Here Comes Goodbye,” recorded by Rascal Flatts. Through the years, he has continued work in both musical spheres, landing more and more country cuts along the way, most recently on Keith Urban’s Ripcord record.

Cuts: Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Blake Shelton’s “Small Town Big Time,” “Almost Alright” and “Hey,” Danielle Bradbery’s “Daughter of a Workin’ Man” and Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye” (among countless others)

Latest Release: n/a


8. Lori McKenna

Hot off the heels of the inescapable success of Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” a solo write by McKenna, the Massachusetts singer holds up a looking glass to society. Her songwriting is often potent and detailed, clawing into deep, rich and moving human emotions. Sure, she can write a fluffy pop-country track with the best of them, but her songbook is diverse, often escaping into red-dirt and alternative leanings. That is simply the mark of a great storyteller, ably transforming a story to fit her own view of the world (while retaining something special to the recording artist).

Cuts: Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” and “I’m Workin’,” Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy” and “Saint or Sinner,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” “Tumble and Fall,” “Sober,” “Your Side of the Bed” and “Save Your Sin,” RaeLynn’s “God Made Girls,” Reba’s “Until They Don’t Love You,” Angaleena Presley’s “Grocery Store,” Caitlyn Smith’s “Grown Woman” and “Everything to You,” Doc Walker’s “That’s How I Like It,” Holly Williams’ “Without You,” Trent Dabbs’ “Natural Causes,” Ashley Monroe’s “The Morning After,” Sunny Sweeney’s “The Old Me,” Alison Krauss’ “My Love Follows You Where You Go,” Keith Urban’s “Luxury of Knowing,” Sara Evans’ “Bible Songs,” Jennifer Nettles’ “Salvation Works” and Faith Hill’s “Fireflies,” “If You Ask,” “Lone Star” and “Stealing Kisses” (among countless others)

Latest Release: The Bird & the Rifle

9. Jeremy Stover

He’s been working Music Row for nearly 15 years, and with that comes wisdom, honesty and a boat load of album cuts. Most recently, he landed on new LPs from Frankie Ballard, Jon Pardi and Justin Moore (among several others). Through the years, he often prided himself with straddling commercial appeal and grounded authenticity. Even at the most extreme and genre-challenging, he never lost his way.

Cuts: Jon Pardi’s “Can’t Turn You Down,” Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started with a Beer,” Justin Moore’s “Goodbye Back,” “Lettin’ the Night Roll,” “I’d Want It to Be Yours,” “Country Radio,” “Off the Beaten Path,” “One Dirt Road,” “For Some Ol’ Redneck Reason” and “Got It Good,” Easton Corbin’s “About to Get Real,” Tim McGraw’s “How I’ll Always Be,” Chris Young’s “Sunshine Overtime,” Jake Owen’s “Sure Feels Right,” Scotty McCreery’s “Write My Number on Your Hand,” Wynonna’s “Your Day Will Come,” Martina McBride’s “Tryin’ to Find a Reason” and Sara Evans’ “Restless” (among countless others)

Latest Release: n/a

10. Luke Dick

2015-16 is a watershed double-decker for this guy. Before last year, he had only scraped together a couple noteworthy musical achievements, including writing liner notes for Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s 2008 Duets release and playing on several low-key albums. That all changed drastically when he landed on Kip Moore’s album last summer. And the rest is history right?! Well, for Dick, his history is still being written feverishly.

Cuts: Kip Moore’s “Magic” and “That’s Alright with Me,” Eric Church’s “Kill a Word” and “Round Here Buzz,” The Cadillac Three’s “Graffiti”

Latest Release: n/a

11. Shane McAnally

A list of Nashville songwriters without McAnally on it is no list at all. Currently, he’s genius behind the CMA’s “Forever Country,” but you also know him as the man pushing the limits of country to the max by producing and co-writing with Sam Hunt and keeping country totally inbounds as a co-writer and producer on both of Kacey Musgraves’ studio album releases, including the GRAMMY wins for Best Country Song (“Merry Go Round”) and Best Country Album (Same Trailer Different Park) at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards. McAnally has been nominated against himself for Song of the Year at the 2013 ACM and CMA Awards, the 2014 GRAMMYs, the 2015 CMA Awards and for Album of the Year at the 2015 GRAMMYs.

Cuts: Dierks Bentley’s “Different for Girls,” “Say You Do,” Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” William Michael Morgan’s “I Met a Girl,” Sam Hunt’s “Break Up in a Small Town,” “Take Your Time,” “Leave The Night On,” “Single For the Summer,” Kacey Musgraves’ “Dime Store Cowgirl,” “Pageant Material” “Family is Family,” Biscuits,” “Follow Your Arrow,” “Merry Go Round,” Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids,” “Noise,” “Somewhere With You” Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown,” Brandy Clark’s “Stripes,” “Girl Next Door,” “Homecoming Queen,” “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven,” “Big Day In a Small Town” (and many, many more)

Latest Release: Shane McAnally (2000)

Shane McAnally – Original Songwriter Demos