Rising Country Songwriter Tiera Finds a Voice through Woman-led Music Brand Songs & Daughters

Photo Credit: Kamren Kennedy

As Nashville’s female-focused record label Songs & Daughters approaches its one-year anniversary this month, or “first birthday” as president Nicolle Galyon calls it, the artist collective continues to move into the future with a new publishing arm. In partnership with Big Loud Publishing and Warner Chappell Music, the new publishing venture will enable Songs & Daughters to develop aspiring artists and songwriters, with Tiera signed as its flagship songwriter.

Co-founded by Galyon, a revered songwriter who’s penned a range of hits including Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” “Automatic” by Miranda Lambert and “Consequences” by Camila Cabello, Songs & Daughters is a platform for female artists to flourish and hone their talents in an industry where their voices are sorely lacking on country radio. But more importantly, it’s a safe space nurturing both the art (the song) and the artist (the daughter). “I’ve always had this vision for Songs & Daughters – it is a record label, but more than that, it’s a home,” Galyon tells Audiofemme in a phone interview from her vacation home in her native Kansas. “Just building this really beautiful family where everyone can be creative and develop together.”

Nicolle Galyon (left) and Tiera (right). Photo Credit: Julia Cox

The family is growing with the addition of Tiera, a bright 22-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama with tenacity and a “DIY” spirit. With the new publishing deal, Galyon will mentor Tiera as she writes with high caliber songwriters in town, penning tracks both for herself and for other artists to record. For Galyon, Songs & Daughters is the sanctuary she wishes she had upon moving to Nashville 18 years ago, recalling the sense of community she felt working with female writers, a precious bond she hopes to establish among the up-and-coming women she’s working with through the one-of-a-kind label.

“The genesis of me even wanting to have my own label was looking back and realizing that the female artists that I really loved working with [when] I was a year or two into writing, we had built trust and mutual respect and love and a creative energy in the comfort of a writing room. That’s to me where true partnership has been formed. Creating a space for other writers to get to do that feels true for who I am and how I came into the business,” she explains. “The whole industry is a wild card, but my hope is that I can create opportunity for [Tiera], get her up at bat, get all these artists and writers, the people that I believe in, use my platform to give them an opportunity to get up at bat and swing.”

Since moving to Nashville, Tiera’s work has earned her a slot on the 2018 country music-themed competition show Real Country and in the CMT Next Women of Country class of 2020. A consistent theme among Tiera’s growing catalogue is her polished sound that matches her vibrant, soulful voice and showcases her sweet southern drawl in a way that allows the lyrics to float off her tongue. Take “Rewind,” a storming number about a couple that can’t break toxic habits, juxtaposed with the perky “Out of Sight” that follows a globe-trotting couple seeking a place to escape. Her sharp sensibilities are what drew Galyon to the singer. “It’s an easy listen, but it’s advanced writing,” Galyon describes of Tiera’s songwriting style, calling it “wonderfully digestible.” “She’s so consistent. She keeps writing new songs, but I know what I’m getting.”

Describing her style as R&B country, Tiera’s interest in country music developed in middle school when she taught herself guitar at the age of 13 and started writing songs about first crushes and heartbreaks. “It just naturally came out country,” she says of her songwriting. “I loved writing stories and I loved writing stuff about real life.” As she took songwriting more seriously as a profession, she studied the songwriters behind the tunes she was listening to, dissecting the lyrics and applying the research to her own writing, including those written by Galyon, calling the opportunity to work with her a “full circle” moment.

As a self-admitted “sucker” for writing upbeat love songs, the singer centers her songs around uplifting themes. “What I try to focus on in my life in general is on the good. I feel like there’s so much negativity in this world and I try to not focus on that all the time and focus on the positive. I think there’s so many beautiful things in this world, so I try to relay that in my music,” she observes. “I just want to make people feel good.”

 Galyon also sees this gift in her new protégé. Calling the young star “refreshing,” she notes that Tiera’s songs are often “fun” and “hopeful,” citing “Found It In You,” “Tell My Mama” and the unreleased “Fall Out Boy” as her personal favorites. “She really does know who she is and what she wants to do,” Galyon says. “She wants to be a light with her music.” But there’s an important piece of advice she hopes to instill in the young star. “Trust the experts, but always be the loudest voice that you hear,” Galyon advises. “You shouldn’t be the only voice you hear, but you should be the loudest at the end of the day. Your voice needs to be the forefront.”

Listening to her intuition isn’t likely to be much of an issue for Tiera – her song “Wake Up Call” opens with the line “I don’t take orders from nobody but myself,” after all. Tiera hopes to step into a mentoring role one day and bring other artists under her wing like Galyon has done for her. “Nicolle has paved the way for me. I really hope that I can do that for other artists,” she professes. “It’s great to be a part of the charge.”

Follow Songs & Daughters and Tiera on Facebook for ongoing updates.

CMT Helps Women Achieve Their Dream Careers With Equal Airplay Initiative

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT

On January 21, CMT announced that it would devote half of its primetime video hours to female artists, effective immediately.

For years, the conversation surrounding the dismal statistics that prove women are played significantly less than men have dominated the Nashville media cycle, but a recent resurgence of this issue inspired CMT to make a serious power play toward equality.

In January, Variety reporter Chris Willman remarked on Twitter that he heard a Los Angeles country radio station play songs by Gabby Barrett and Kelsea Ballerini back-to-back, nodding to an urban legend among the music industry that country radio is discouraged from playing two female artists in a row to maintain listenership. The comment received a since-deleted reply from a representative at 98 KCQ, a country station in Michigan, stating that they are not allowed to play two female artists back to back. The exchange prompted a firestorm of responses, including replies from Ballerini and Kacey Musgraves. “Smells like white male bullshit and why LONG ago I decided they cannot stop me,” Musgraves defiantly responded, while Ballerini used her platform to proclaim, “to all the ladies that bust their asses to have half the opportunities that men do, I’m really sorry that in 2020, after YEARS of conversation of equal play, there are still some companies that make their stations play by these rules. It’s unfair and it’s incredibly disappointing.”


Five days later, CMT announced that half of its 29 primetime video hours now feature female artists, balancing their previous statistics that offered male artists 60 percent of those primetime hours. “We wanted to look at ourselves first and say, ‘What more can we be doing?’ This to us was the quickest thing we could do,” CMT Senior Vice President of Music & Talent Leslie Fram tells Audiofemme about instituting the new format. “We felt that another year would go by with another research study that said the same things, and we were like, ‘We have to take action somehow.’”

In December 2019, Dr. Jada E. Watson, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, released a comprehensive study showing the severity of this underrepresentation on radio. Gathering data between 2002 and 2018, Watson’s findings showed that top female act Carrie Underwood received roughly 3.5 million spins – half the amount of her male counterpart Kenny Chesney with 6 million. Additionally, female acts often hear the same false narratives from executives, such as “women don’t want to hear women,” while radio consultant Keith Hill made the controversial claim, “if you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” in a 2015 interview with Country Aircheck.

To help combat this inequality, CMT immediately put the 50/50 airplay initiative into action with five of the ten videos played on the channel per hour representing female artists. Fans get to see the videos that established the likes of Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker and Martina McBride as legends, and the cinematic beauty of videos by modern superstars such as Carrie Underwood and Brandi Carlile. The tactic also provides an important platform for Nashville’s rising stars like RaeLynn and Madison Kozak, the first artist signed to Nashville’s new all-female label, Songs & Daughters. “You’ll be able to see the breadth of a female artists and you’ll see some people that are outside the lines of country that aren’t right down the middle,” Fram describes. “It’ll be very diverse.”

When the news broke, many fans and artists alike took to social media with notes of support and celebration. But several social media users also responded with sexist comments, calling the strategy “a sick joke,” “forced pc” and “a horrid idea.” Fram explains that such a mindset stems from a lack of understanding of the plight women have faced trying to break ground on an uneven playing field. “For anybody out there that says we’re forcing this and it’s a gender issue, it’s not. Women are having to work harder, they’re doing everything that they’re asked to do, and they’re still not getting the exposure, which to me is really unfair,” she responds. “We’ve always said let the best songs win, but women haven’t had an equal playing field. There’s so much great music out there and so many meaningful songs.”

CMT’s equal airplay also compliments its Next Women of Country program, founded by Fram in 2013, which provides resources to up-and-coming female artists. It also includes the annual CMT Next Women of Country Tour, which sees current headliner Tucker performing in more than 40 U.S. cities alongside a rotating troupe of up-and-coming female artists. With the new measure, Fram aims to establish a well-rounded genre that reflects the views of all types of people, breaking down the obstacles that stand in the way of certain artists being able to share their voices and artistry.

“It gives them a chance to have a career based on their music. It needs to be about the music first and foremost, to really give them a shot at having a career,” she says of her vision for the initiative’s impact on artists. “My hope is that we break that cycle and that more women get signed, have an opportunity to get in those writing rooms, have an opportunity to get on tours and really have the career that they dream of.”

CMT Next Women of Country Proves There’s a Sisterhood in Nashville

Each year in Nashville, the women of country music gather to celebrate one another and provide an important platform for the new artists working to break ground in the genre through CMT Next Women of Country.

Founded by CMT Senior Vice President of Music Strategy & Talent Leslie Fram in 2013, CMT Next Women of Country shines a spotlight on nearly a dozen promising new female acts in Nashville, providing them with tools and resources to be successful in a male-dominated industry, with past inductees including Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. During the 2019 CMT Next Women of Country event co-hosted by Fram and Martina McBride at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the 2020 CMT Next Women of Country class was unveiled, comprised of Gabby Barrett, Caylee Hammack, Hailey Whitters, Madison Kozak, Walker County, Avenue Beat, Abbey Cone, Kylie Morgan, Sykamore, Tiera and Renee Blair.

A consistent theme carried throughout the annual event is empowerment, whether the artists are championing one another or singing introspective and thought-provoking songs they’ve penned. The 2019 event reflected the variety of the music these women are creating through an acoustic songwriters round that invites each of the new inductees to perform an original song. Caylee Hammack delivered a stirring performance of “Small Town Hypocrite,” a song inspired by the ex-boyfriend she gave up a scholarship for who ended up cheating on her, while Hailey Whitters also proved to be a compelling songwriter with her depiction of a fictional character named Janice, an 80-year-old woman who offers sage life advice like “stay off the pills, but get on the pill if you ain’t ready to start a family,” the line calling to mind Loretta Lynn’s 1975 feminist anthem, “The Pill.” Madison Kozak, the first artist signed to Nashville’s new all-female label Songs & Daughters led by groundbreaking songwriter Nicolle Galyon (Camilla Cabello’s “Consquences,” Dan + Shay’s “Tequila”), held every heart in the room like it was made of glass with “Household,” touching on the universal feeling of wanting to leave home, but longing for that very place when you’re finally gone.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

The talent displayed in the room reflected country radio’s glaring lack of inclusion for such artists. In December of 2018, it was reported that for the first time in the 28 years since the Billboard Country Airplay chart launched, there were no women in the Top 20. However, up-and-coming artists are slowly fighting their way out of these alarming statistics, as Hammack’s debut single “Family Tree” has cracked the Top 40 on the country charts, Ingrid Andress is in the Top 20 with “More Hearts Than Mine” and Runaway June became the first all-female trio since the Dixie Chicks to have a Top 5 hit with “Buy My Own Drinks.”

But the conversation surrounding the lack of women on country radio still lingers, with Mickey Guyton remarking on “the elephant in the room” the moment she took the stage to open the show. “There is without question an injustice happening to women in country music. There are a lot of great songs that are not getting a shot,” Guyton professed before performing her new song “Sister” with her country music “sisters” Tenille Townes, Clare Dunn, Rachel Wammack and Leah Turner. “But one thing is for certain: it is going to take us women to lift each other up out of these trenches.”

A burgeoning superstar who has gone above and beyond to support her female contemporaries is Brandi Carlile, who was honored with the Next Women of Country Impact Award. Carlile, who scooped up three Grammy Awards in 2019 for her acclaimed album By the Way, I Forgive You, has made it an integral part of her mission to elevate the women around her, curating the all-female stage at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival that featured her supergroup The Highwomen and a surprise performance by Dolly Parton, in addition to creating the women-centric festival Girls Just Wanna Weekend. She’s also pivoting her support for women into a behind-the-scenes role, serving as co-producer of Tanya Tucker’s new album While I’m Livin’ with Shooter Jennings.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

Rather than point a finger at country radio, Carlile encouraged radio employees in attendance to be intentional about the songs they’re sharing through the format while expressing the reverence she has for the genre that raised her. “If country music is the story of rural America, then what is the story that we’re telling to our young girls?” she questioned. “What we’re hoping, and what we’re inviting country radio to do is to catch up with the way that we all understand. I would urge anybody that’s involved in country radio…ask yourself the question every morning before you go to work ‘what do I want my job to say to my daughter today?’ Because she’s an American girl, she’s in love with a boy, she needs wide open spaces, she’s a wild one,” she continued, referencing iconic songs by Trisha Yearwood, the Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill. “She’s more than a pair of blue jeans in a cab of a truck.”

Additionally, a handful of behind-the-scenes movers and shakers were present at the ceremony, including Cindy Mabe, president of Universal Music Group Nashville, who made it a point to continue to call for change in the industry regarding support for women. “We can all keep moving through and thinking that things have changed at the rate that they need to change, and they haven’t,” she stated. “This is about how we give a voice and a perspective to half the world.”

She encouraged emerging artists to explore other methods of promoting their music outside of radio, pointing to artists like Musgraves, who received little attention from radio for her Grammy winning Album of the Year Golden Hour, instead reaching listeners through other formats like social media. “Women are bringing more adventurous, interesting, state of the art, cutting edge music and it doesn’t go and fit in a box. We will spend the next years figuring out how we get it exposed, one foot in front of the other,  because great music should always rise and it’s not about fitting into a box,” she said, actively taking Carlile’s words to heart. “I have to get out of bed every day and make a movement towards making women’s voices matter again.”

The program continues with the CMT Next Women of Country Tour, headlined by Tanya Tucker, in early 2020, with supporting acts and dates to be announced in the coming weeks.