NASHVILLE SINCE 1994
“I never thought I could write,” Liz Rose says. Several Grammy Awards and multi-platinum certifications later, the songwriter and publishing company owner has long proved that mindset wrong. “I’ve had a great career,” she says.
“I kind of fell into it when we moved to Nashville,” she continues. “I just needed a job, and a guy hired me to pitch songs.” She started her own publishing company. Eventually one of her writers suggested they write together. It progressed naturally, and she continued to write more songs, to “someone calling me up and saying, ‘I’ve heard some of your songs and I think you should be writing songs full time,’” she recalls.
“I don’t think there’s rules that say well, if you were a song plugger or a publisher you can never be a songwriter,” she continues, “or if you didn’t start writing songs when you were 12 years old, you can’t be a songwriter at 40. I think we put those walls up ourselves.”
As she began to write more, one of the songwriters she was paired with was a young new artist named Taylor Swift. The two clicked well together, and the songs, which Taylor eventually released on her debut album, clicked well with the world. “Tim McGraw,” “Picture To Burn,” and “Teardrops On My Guitar” are just a few of the credits to Liz’s name on the debut. In 2007, her work with Taylor notched her SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year award. “White Horse,” which came on Taylor’s next release, earned Liz the Grammy for Best Country Song; 7x Platinum “You Belong With Me" was nominated for Song of the Year.
By its nature, however, the music industry delivers a career full of peaks and valleys, and it can be easy to think, what did I get into? “Every day that you don’t have a hit on the radio, you’re saying that,” Liz laughs.
The way to combat it, she says, is to just put your head down a keep writing. “After the Taylor stuff, I thought, ‘Well, I’m never gonna do anything bigger that that,’ and then ‘Crazy Girl’ was #1 and it won ACM Song of the Year,” she says of her Eli Young Band hit. “And then I thought, ‘Well, okay, that was cool,’ and you get cuts here and there, and then ‘Girl Crush’ happened and that was a complete freakout. I could not believe it.” Aside from being a cultural moment, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” won two CMA Awards, for Song of the Year and Single of the Year, and two Grammys, for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Country Song. It also spent 13 straight weeks atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
“If it happened like that before, it’ll happen again,” says Liz, who’s been recorded by artists from Blake Shelton to Nelly Furtado. “I can’t worry about it,” she continues, “I just have to put my head down and write, that’s all I can do.” Currently, she’s working on a Broadway musical, and managing her new publishing company, Liz Rose Music. “I’m watching my writers and cheering them on,” she says. “Luckily I have a lot of little countries to celebrate in.”