"I was completely blown away by Maren. I am still completely blown away" We chat with Laura Veltz
I saw Laura Veltz at the CMA Songwriters Series that preceded C2C Country To Country this year, and she stole the show. Funny and real, she;s the embodiment of the songs she writes, veering from the amusing 'Rich' to the Sansa Stark (aka Sophie Turner) wedding song, 'Speechless'. I asked her about all of those songs and more.
Hey Laura, how’s your day going?
My day has been splendid!
Where are you right now? And what have you been up to today?
It’s nearly 10pm on a Saturday so naturally I’m in bed like a party animal. I have my feet up on the headboard for a nice half body inversion before I head off to sleep.
I’ve spent the day with my family at home. It’s been rainy and lovely. I did yoga this morning, spent some time working on a book I’m writing on the subject of songwriting, but mostly I spent the day separating my children's ill-fitting, worn or seasonally inappropriate clothes from the holeless spring clothes that fit. Riveting stuff!
Introduce yourself to our lovely readers, in case they don’t know you.
My name is Laura Veltz. I’m a Nashville songwriter.
Tell us a bit about you, what’s your first memory of playing music?
I remember harmony first. Everyone in my family was musical so happy birthday and twinkle twinkle were always in 5,000 part harmony when I was growing up. I always loved singing harmonies. Still do.
You’re more of a songwriter than singer, what songs have you written that people will know?
'Speechless' by Dan and Shay is probably my biggest hit so far in my career. I’ve written a ton of songs with Maren Morris including “I Could Use a Love Song” “Rich” and “The Bones.” My first hit song was Eli Young Band’s “Drunk Last Night.” I had a hit with Chris Young called “Lonely Eyes.” I have a ton of new music coming out this year and I can’t wait until people hear all of it!
What’s the song you’re most proud of being involved in?
In terms of songs that are out and available, “The Bones” is probably my favorite. Although, “To Hell and Back”, another Maren song, really makes me weepy in the best way. I love a good weep.
I interviewd Chris Young today, his favourite song that he’s written is ‘Tomorrow’, but my favourite song he’s recorded is ‘Lonely Eyes’, whcih you co-wrote, what can you tell me about that song?
The second verse is my favorite part of that song. I imagine a very literal music video where you can see the girl do each and every one of those things with her eyes.
Also, I found out it was going to be the single about a week after I gave birth to my twin babies. It was the most amazing gift the universe could gave given me. It helped me allow myself to sink into motherhood and give myself a solid break.
You’ve written a whole bunch of songs with Maren Morris, how did that come about?
Kind of your usual way I suppose. I heard about her through a ton of friends raving about her incredibleness. I saw her in a writers round a day or two before we wrote for the first time (the day we wrote 'Sugar'). I was completely blown away by her. I am still completely blown away. She is a tiny hurricane of musicality. Her voice makes my entire body react. She is such a gifted vocalist, it’s hard to even take in sometimes. She’s also one of the smartest CEOs walking the earth right now.
And which is your favourite of the ones you’ve written together? and why?
It’s really hard to pick. I love all the songs we’ve written together and I’m really not just saying that. I have soft spots though. 'Space' makes me feel so many things. 'A Song For Everything' front to back is a pretty solid explanation of why I write songs in the first place. There’s a song that The High Women just cut that Maren and I wrote a while ago. That one is so much the story of my own life, I felt kind of guilty the day we wrote it, like I had crossed a line or something. I hope it makes the record, we’ll see.
How would you describe being a working songwriter in Nashville?
One of the best things that’s ever happened to me. The luckiest most blessed job on earth. The most fun.
How difficult was it to get a foot in the door initially?
I had a whole life before I moved to Nashville, one that I didn’t really like very much. Moving to Nashville was the foot in the door. I also had some friends in some hall of fame songwriters who were gracious enough to hold the door open for me so much foot didn’t get stuck.
How do you get songs placed with artists, do you usually write specifically for someone, or do you ust write and see who picks it up?
It’s all over the place. If the artist is not in the writing room, I lean on my publishers to be sure the songs are getting pitched to the right people.
What can you tell us about “pitch lists”? They seem to be an open secret and I find them fascinating.
Publishers compile a list of artists and by their names, there are cut dates and specific details about what they might be looking for. I think it’s good to know who’s cutting and when, just kind of to keep in that back of your mind. It doesn’t really get you any closer to getting a cut, it just tells you what everyone is up to so you can try and aim towards people who are actually recording at present. The descriptions of what the artists are looking for never end of being what they cut so you can’t really depend on much except the “who” and the “when” … and even that is subject to change.
What’s your experience of writing a song from a pitch list, is it a different process?
I’ve tried it. I’m not sure it’s ever gotten me a cut to be honest. I think it puts a little bit of a cramp on the writing process to aim too hard. At least for me.
What song have you got that’s been cut but not out yet that you can’t wait for people to hear?
Lady A’s new single 'What If I Never Get Over You' is coming out shortly. I am absolutely over the moon about this song.
Who would you really like to write a song for that you haven’t so far?
It would be amazing to get a Kenny Chesney cut. The song quality there is always so high, it would be a tremendous compliment to have any part in one of his projects. If he never cuts any of my songs, maybe I could just play tambourine or something.
What’s your approach to writing? Do you write alone then combine song, or literally sit in a room with other writers and bounce things off each other?
I have titles dating back to 2008 when I moved here. I never delete them because you never know what’s going to light up. I also write down a handful of titles most every day.
My approach to writing is to be whatever I need to be in the room I’m in in order to write something I’m proud of. If I’m needed to write the whole thing practically, then I like to think I can write something I’m proud of. I also like to think I have the instinct to shut the hell up and let someone kick ass on any given day and just throw in my two little cents. And everything in between those two approaches.
I saw the CMA Songwriters Series at C2C in London this year, I thought you were really great! How do you find performing?
Thank you! I loved it! Songwriter rounds are my favorite style of live show, whether I’m on stage or in the audience. That was absolutely the most people I’ve ever played in front of as a songwriter and it was a night I will remember and delight in for the rest of my days. Absolutely fantastic moment in my little life.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I have a few dark moments in my career when I was deeply condescended to because I’m female. I’m not the only one and other women have had it far worse than me. I also have some absolutely incredible and wonderful male co-writers and music industry friends who would never do anything of the sort so it’s not across the board. There is no doubt, it is a problem. I am very happy that people are talking about it, I think that’s a really big step in the right direction. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch certain behaviors become a little more archaic as time goes on. Stuff that was ok just a couple years ago is ever so slowly exiting stage left.
Have you felt a change at all over the last couple of years?
Yes. It’s changed for me, probably because I don’t write with assholes. The problem is still there, but something is changing. It’s in the air.
Who inspires you?
I love stories and at the root of any good story is a person who had to go through some shit. Those people inspire me. So like, most everybody in the world.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
Ben Rector. I’m neck deep and happily swimming in his latest record, Magic... It is so so wonderful. So uplifting and clever and beautiful.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I think you’ve asked really amazing questions. Cheers!
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
I use espresso beans and brew it on a little bialetti stove pot. I mix it with hot water, like an Americano and take it black with a little slice of butter.
Thanks so much Laura, really appreicate your time and genuinely loved seeing you in London last month.
Thank you so much! I can’t wait to come back. Love!
If you want to find out more about Laura you can follow her on Twitter or check out her Instagram. Mainly though, keep an eye out on album sleeves for her name among the songwriters, it's a sign of quality.