Hit songwriter Nicolle Galyon has penned chart-topping songs including Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic” and Dan+Shay’s Grammy-winning hit “Tequila,” as well as Keith Urban’s “Female.” In addition to Grammy and CMA Awards nominations, Galyon has earned a CMA Triple Play award and was named BMI’s 2019 songwriter of the year.
Now, she’s gearing up for a project that has been 20 years in the making — the release of her own debut album, firstborn, set to release July 22, Billboard can reveal.
“It was me making something that was purely me,” Galyon tells Billboard. “I felt like, especially having this company I started to help other females to tell their stories, but I’ve never fully told my own.
“This is me writing about myself, first-person, which I’ve never really gotten to do. I’ve gotten to infuse my life into other people’s songs. But with these songs, I’m also putting myself first as a mother and a creator.”
Today, Billboard premieres the first song from the album, “Winner.,” a nod to Galyon’s birthplace of Winner, South Dakota (she was raised in Sterling, Kansas). Crafted by Galyon alongside Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, the song details Galyon’s journey of being a chronic overachiever, to finding new meanings for what it means to be a winner.
“A surprise pregnancy dropped my mom right out of junior college and landed her at her grandmother’s house two states away to figure out what to do next. I guess when that’s the opening scene of your story… you tend to overcompensate,” Galyon said in a statement.
The album’s genesis came during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Galyon and her family returned to her childhood stomping grounds in Kansas. The album concept began with what Galyon calls “a creative burst” during a car ride to Kansas.
“Certain words kept coming to me, like ‘Sunflower,’ ‘Winner,’” Galyon says. “I started thinking about what those words mean to me.” The words eventually turned into lyrics, into songs. From there, she spent time in 2021 calling on trusted co-writers including Jimmy Robbins, McAnally, Sasha Sloan and Hillary Lindsey.
Produced by King Henry and Robbins, firstborn finds Galyon chronicling her story, from growing up in humble surroundings (“Disneyworld.”), chasing her music dreams to Nashville, falling in love and marrying fellow songwriter Rodney Clawson and becoming a mother to her two children (“Five-Year Plan.”), working through insecurity and self-acceptance (“Younger Woman.”) and image (“Self Care.”).
One of the earliest songs on the project is the February 2020-written “Boy Crazy.,” a sharp criticism of double standards, was written with Lindsey and Kelsea Ballerini at Ballerini’s condo. “Sunflower.” touches on the insecurity Galyon felt over her height as a girl who reached 5’10” before her freshman year of high school. “Five-Year Plan.” details how life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that makes for some of the best moments.
The album’s closer, “Death Bed.,” is a touching ode to working mothers, building a legacy, and is a tribute to Galyon’s two children, daughter Charlie and son Ford.
The album also features Galyon’s rendition of her song “Boy.,” which became a top 15 Hot Country Songs hit for Lee Brice in 2018, as well as a version of “Consequences.,” which was released by Camila Cabello that same year.
A visualizer accompanies firstborn, with each song highlighted with its own video, all of which were filmed within a 67-hour stretch at locations around Sterling, Kansas, where Galyon spent her childhood–the clips for “Death Bed.” and “Tendencies.” were filmed in open fields, while “Boy Crazy.” was filmed in a school classroom, and “Boy.” features an old dirt road, a classic blue Ford Ranger, and Galyon’s young son Ford.
“That’s his moment on the album, just for him,” Galyon says.
Galyon will release the project via her own Songs & Daughters, the female-focused label and publishing house she launched in 2019. The company’s roster of artists includes Hailey Whitters, Tiera Kennedy, Madison Kozak and Lauren Watkins.
“I joke that I’m a ‘song mom,’ but I had to live my life before I could ever help all of these things that I’m creating…my kids, my other songs, Songs & Daughters, the other artists I pour into,” Galyon tells Billboard. “I felt like I needed to spend a minute to go back and tell that story of how we got here.”
See the full track list for firstborn below:
- “winner.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
- “sunflower.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins, Sasha Sloan)
- “boy crazy.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Kelsea Ballerini, Hillary Lindsey)
- “disneyworld.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Sasha Sloan)
- “consequences.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Emily Weisband, Amy Wadge, Camila Cabello)
- “self care.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Sasha Sloan, Caroline Baker)
- “boy.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Jon Nite)
- “tendencies.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Cooper Galyon)
- “five year plan.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Rodney Clawson)
- “younger woman.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Hillary Lindsey)
- “death bed.” (written by Nicolle Galyon, Sasha Sloan, Jimmy Robbins)