Songwriter Spotlight: An Interview with Liz Rose

Liz Rose didn’t write her first hit until she was in her late 30s. She worked in the publishing industry and then was coerced into writing music; it wasn’t even by choice. So when asked when the moment she knew songwriting was the path with her, she responds with, “I was kind of talked into it.” She continues, “I was a publisher and just started writing with my writers. So, I think it was maybe that first time I had an idea and wrote a song that I really loved. And just kept doing it.”

Rose’s affection in the industry always lied with the song chasers. “My passion to start with was with songwriters. I was meeting songwriters and hearing these great songs and wanted to help them get ‘em placed. That’s where I started,” she states. When she started crafting her own songs in the late 2000s, she strictly did that until she started her own independent music publishing company, Liz Rose Music, in 2010. She started it with her son Scott Ponce.

“I saw a songwriter that I really, really liked, Emily Shackelton, and I just kind of said, ‘I might start another publishing company some day so let me know if you’re looking,’” Rose says casually. “So Liz Rose Music was born just because we had a songwriter we wanted to work with. We never had a plan.” The company now has a long roster of songwriters who are penning some of Nashville’s biggest hits.

Rose’s only solo project was a 2017 record titled Swimming Alone. “I never thought about making a record because I’m not an artist, but I started coming up with titles that I wanted to write, but when I would start to think about writing them with someone else, I just couldn’t let ‘em go just to write them for anybody. They were so personal,” she states. Rose shares that the 10-song project started with the title track and originally, she was going to have some fellow singer-songwriters sing them, but she was convinced to do them herself. “I got with Stephanie Smith and then I got with Mac McAnally and they both went, ‘No, you’re singing these songs,’ and I was like ‘Okay.’"

Rose is also known for her songwriting efforts with Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna. The three of them have been deemed “The Love Junkies” and even have their own program on Apple Music called "Love Junkies Radio." She speaks excitedly of her friends as she explains how they all connected. "Lori and I had been writing together for years and Hillary and I had written together a couple times. Lori and Hillary had never written and our publishers just thought it would be cool to get Hillary on one of my and Lori’s writes,” she explains. “We booked two or three days and we just wrote together every day. The first day we wrote ‘Save Your Sin’ and ‘Sober.’” Both of those songs were recorded by Little Big Town. Rose adds, “While we were writing, we were like ‘We’re so good together.’”

The three have also written songs such as “It All Comes Out in the Wash” recorded by Miranda Lambert, “Cry Pretty” recorded by Carrie Underwood, and “Like A Movie” recorded by Cam. Arguably the most famous track the trio had a hand in was “Girl Crush,” which won them all a Grammy Award in 2016.

Rose reminisces on the day they wrote it. “We had a write that afternoon, we had some time that morning and Lori said she had an idea and I didn’t like it very much,” she shares. “I kept pushing back and Hillary came in and Lori said, ‘I wanna write a song called girl crush.’ And Hillary literally sat down with a guitar and wrote the first four lines of the song.” It only took them an hour and a half to finish it. When they were done, they thought no one would cut it. “But we were so excited just ‘cause we thought we’d written a cool song. That’s all there was to it,” Rose tells us. “Then Karen and Kimberly of Little Big Town heard it that afternoon and wanted it.” The process happened extremely quickly and ended up being one of the group’s biggest songs and still is to this day. Harry Styles even covered the track for Spotify Singles.

Most recently, Rose’s name has been added in the history books as “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” broke the record for longest song to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It was previously held by “American Pie” by Don McLean which has clung to the record since 1972, until Swift came along of course. Speaking of the track, Rose states, “First of all, it just blew my mind that she went back and pulled back all those pieces and put them back in. It was brilliant. I don’t know how she did it but I thought that was pretty amazing to take herself back to that moment.”

Rose recalls the moment they wrote it together. Swift had an inner monologue that continued to pour and pour. “When we wrote it, she came in and she just said, ‘I have all this stream of consciousness,’” Rose tells us. “And she just started singing stuff and we started: what would hit us the hardest is what would go in the song.” When looking at the lyrics that were added to the 10 minute version of the track, Liz tells The Nash News, “Those were things that were in there in her stream of consciousness at the beginning when she started writing it.”

Compared to previous songs Rose had written, “All Too Well” was a completely different animal due to the fast-paced thoughts Swift was having at the time of penning it and because of the heaviness it held. “It was such an emotional song and she had so many brilliant things coming out of her brain all at once. It was not a sit down and look at it and piece it together kind of song,” Rose states. “Taylor sat down with a guitar and just started singing stuff. Then she sat down at the piano and kept singing.”

Although the song was written a decade ago, Rose can vividly remember the day the two of them crafted it as she reminisces, “It was last minute; she just called me and said ‘I’ve got this thing and there’s so much and can you just come help me figure it out.’ It was a great day; it was a really great day. She’s just brilliant. She’s a genius.”

Liz Rose has written other infamous Swift tracks like “You Belong With Me,” “Teardrops On My Guitar,” her debut single from 2006, “Tim McGraw,” and “White Horse” which went on to be both Swift and Rose’s first Grammy win. Rose was also a co-writer on the new vault track from the 2021 re-release of Fearless titled, “We Were Happy.” When the topic of vault tracks is brought up in our conversation, Rose says through a laugh, “Who does that? Only Taylor Swift. It’s so cool; it’s just so great.

Rose’s first quote on quote hit was with Swift’s single “Tim McGraw,” which she didn’t write until she was in her mid 40s. When asked for advice she’d give to aspiring songwriters she says with precision, “I think if you have the passion and if you have the talent, you just gotta do it and you gotta do it all the time. You only get better.” Her wisdom overflows as she continues on, “I think you have to make sure that you never know it all and that every time you sit down by yourself or sit down with someone else, you try and learn something.” She also makes sure to note to not chase after the occupation if your only goal is to make money and get rich, don’t do it. “But if you think that you might change someone else’s life with a song, yours included, you gotta do it.”

In 2022, Rose has a song with The Love Junkies on Maren Morris’ new album that gets released this Friday. She’s also written numerous songs with Colbie Caillat that she’s excited to see come to fruition. After she humbly briefs over her future happenings, she sighs and says, “You know, I’ve been doing it awhile and I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s been fantastic, but I’m kind of more excited about my writers.” Cameron Bedell, one of the writer’s on Liz Rose Music, wrote the latest Jimmie Allen single “Down Home” that premiered at the 57th ACM Awards. He also had a hand in Big Machine Recording artist Tiera Kennedy's single, "Gentleman." Joe Fox, another writer for the company, co-penned Jon Pardi’s single, “Last Night Lonely.” “I could go on and on all day long about the people that work with me at Liz Rose Music,” she mentions. “It’s so fun to watch them grow. There’s nothing like that. Nothing.”

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