Write it Down: The Women Behind Country Music’s Biggest Hits

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Eight Second Angel boots is proud to honor the roots of country music and the hard-working, independent women who played a part in making country music what it is today. 

From Loretta Lynn to Emmylou Harris, country music has a long history of female songwriters telling tales of love, life and loss. The songwriting scene today is no different, with songstresses — those who pursue a life in the spotlight and those who do not — are influencing the sound and future of the genre.

Here’s a look at some of the tunesmiths behind country’s biggest songs:

Hillary Lindsey

While you may not know her name, you’d be hard pressed to find a country music fan who does not know Hillary Lindsey’s songs. She’s penned signature tunes for Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw and more, earning 10 No. 1 singles. Though she’s never pursued a career as an artist, Lindsey can be heard singing background on Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away album (for which she wrote eight of the songs). She’s also one of the three writers for Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” which is currently climbing the charts.

Lori McKenna

A small town Massachusetts mother of five, Lori McKenna first gained country notoriety in 2005 when Faith Hill recorded and released three of her songs. Hill’s Fireflies album included McKenna’s tale of loving an alcoholic, “If You Ask,” the fantastic, childlike tune, “Fireflies,” and the housewife’s tale of woe, “Stealing Kisses,” which was released as the record’s final single. McKenna has continued to write and record her own albums over the years, however fans will most likely know her songwriting. Sara Evans covered her tune “Bible Song,” RaeLynn is on the charts with “God Made Girls” and Little Big Town have released “Your Side of the Bed,” “Sober” and “Girl Crush.”

Liz Rose

In the mid-90s, Liz Rose moved to Nashville from Texas to become a music publisher, but by the early 2000s she was making a name for herself penning songs for Gary Allan and Billy Gilman. A few years later, she began writing with a young, up-and-coming country singer for her debut album. The artist was Taylor Swift, and she and Rose co-wrote seven songs for her self-titled debut, including the first two singles “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar,” which earned Rose the title of SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year in 2007. She later won a GRAMMY for Best Country Song in 2007 for “White Horse,” which appeared on Swift’s Fearless album. Since then, Rose has reached the top of the charts with the Eli Young Band’s “Crazy Girl,” which she co-wrote with Lee Brice. She’s also seen success writing with Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna — dubbing themselves the Love Junkies — with Little Big Town cuts such as “Sober” and “Girl Crush.”

Natalie Hemby

A rare Nashville native, Natalie Hemby has made a name for herself writing for a variety of artists. Toby Keith, the Eli Young Band, Sunny Sweeney and Miranda Lambert. She’s a co-writer on Little Big Town’s first No. 1 single, “Pontoon,” Toby Keith’s “Drinks After Work” and Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown.” Hemby, who is married to producer Mike Wrucke, has seven songs on Miranda Lambert’s latest record Platinum, including the 2014 CMA Single of the Year “Automatic.

Brandy Clark

In 2015, millions of viewers tuned in to the Grammy Awards and were introduced to Brandy Clark as she performed an acoustic version of her song “Hold My Hand” with Dwight Yoakam. But Nashville has known her for years, as she’s penned songs like “The Day She Got Divorced” for Reba McEntire, “Mama’s Broken Heart” for Miranda Lambert, “Better Dig Two” for the Band Perry, “Follow Your Arrow” for Kacey Musgraves, and many more. In 2013, she released her debut album, 12 Stories, to such acclaim that it earned her that performance slot on the GRAMMYs as well as a nomination in the Best New Artist category with Sam Smith (who won), Iggy Azalea, Bastille and HAIM.

Matraca Berg

Matraca Berg is a member of the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame with a long list of hits from the ’80s to now. She penned “Wrong Side of Memphis” and “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl”) for Trisha Yearwood, “Strawberry Wine” and “We Danced Anyway” for Deana Carter, “You Can Feel Bad” for Patty Loveless and “Wild Angels” for Martina McBride. Most recently, she co-wrote Kenny Chesney’s top 5 hit “You and Tequila” (which he performed with Grace Potter) with Deana Carter.

Jessi Alexander

Jessi Alexander was first introduced to country fans as an artist with her debut single “Honeysuckle Sweet” in 2005. After a few singles, Alexander left Columbia Records and began to make a name as songwriter. In 2009, she co-wrote the megahit “The Climb” for Miley Cyrus, which became the lead single off the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack. In 2012, she topped the charts twice, first with Blake Shelton’s “Drink on It” and with Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck,” and then returned the next year with Blake Shelton‘s “Mine Would Be You.”

Sarah Buxton

Sarah Buxton is another songwriter who first made waves as an artist. From 2006 to 2009, she released numerous singles on Lyric Street records, focusing on breaking as an artist. During that time, she recorded a version of her tune “Stupid Boy” — that she co-wrote with Dave Berg — which was eventually heard by Nicole Kidman, who urged her husband Keith Urban to record it. He added it to his Love, Pain, & the Whole Crazy Thing album, which later earned him the GRAMMY for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Urban later record her tune “Put You in a Song,” while the Band Perry recorded “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely,” and Florida Georgia Line cut her song “Sun Daze.