2017 Country Power Players: The Innovator

Jessie James Decker & Carla Wallace, 2017
Alysse Gafjken

Decker (left) and Wallace photographed on July 12 at Big Yellow Dog Music’s headquarters in Nashville. Hair by John Grimes. Makeup by Lorrie Turk. On-site producer: Ashley Herring.

Carla Wallace, the co-owner of the inventive music publisher behind Maren Morris, Meghan Trainor and Jessie James Decker is “a boss who gets it done."

Carla Wallace

Co-Owner, Big Yellow Dog Music

Punching above its weight, this 10-person firm had a stellar year with Maren Morris, who won the best country solo performance Grammy Award for “My Church.” In addition to writing the song, Morris recorded it for Big Yellow Dog Music at Wallace’s urging, which turned out to be pivotal in getting her signed to Columbia Nashville in 2015. Since then, Morris has sold 1.8 million digital downloads; logged four hits on the Country Airplay chart, including her featured turn on Thomas Rhett’s No. 1 “Craving You”; and won both the 2016 CMA and 2017 ACM new artist awards.

Not Your Mama's Music Publisher

Morris is the latest success for a company whose roster of 19 includes Meghan Trainor -- who thanked Wallace profusely when she accepted the ASCAP Vanguard Award in May -- and Jessie James Decker, the star of E!’s Eric & Jessie reality series. (She is expected to release new music in the fall.) Since founding Big Yellow Dog in 1998 with partner Kerry O’Neil, Wallace has expanded into artist development, discovering new talent and hand-crafting each success. “None of us can really follow a traditional route anymore,” says the Nashville native. “Whether it’s starting a record label to help set these guys up or working with them every day to make a tour happen, we fill in the gaps until the right opportunity presents itself.”

Plumbing Synchs

The company aggressively seeks out TV, film and advertising synchs, and has secured roughly 400 placements this past year. Among them, Trainor’s “I’m a Lady,” written for Smurfs: The Lost Village. “Synchs are really important to us, because it’s an opportunity to sign unusual artists that might not fit in the ­traditional country genre,” says Wallace.

Decker on Wallace

“Carla took a chance on me when I was 17 and no one else knew what to do with me,” says Decker, whose reality show with her husband, newly minted Tennessee Titan Eric Decker, was renewed for a third season. “She’s smart, thinks outside the box and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which is crucial as a woman in the music world,” adds Decker. “She is the epitome of a boss lady who gets it done.”

Country Hit Parade

Trainor co-wrote Lauren Alaina’s Country Airplay No. 1, “Road Less Traveled.” Also topping that chart: Josh Kear and Abe Stoklasa, who respectively were co-writers of Florida Georgia Line’s “God, Your Mama, and Me” and Chris Lane’s “Fix.”

This article originally appeared in the August 5 issue of Billboard.