five year plan.
The road to Nicolle Galyon’s debut album, firstborn, has been a long one. The in-demand Nashville songwriter has had plenty of hits with stars like Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban over the years, but she finally gets to let her own artistry shine on a collection that showcases both her vivid narrative songwriting and her dynamic voice. “I’ve grown into who I am so much—to a point to where I’m pretty comfortable with myself and my story,” Galyon tells Apple Music. “And I think that’s maybe the beauty of putting out your first record at 38, as opposed to 18. Because I’m comfortable with who I am no matter what, and so I think I’m comfortable for people to hear the raw parts of my story and who I am, too.”
“winner.” is something of an origin story for Galyon, who shares that she “lost [her] dad at three” and that she “lost some weight at 22” because “some guy twice [her] age told her to.” “boy crazy.” and “self care.” both offer similarly frank observations, with the former critiquing the double standards endured by women and the latter rejecting pressure placed on women to look and behave in certain ways. And the album, which is sequenced chronologically, closes with “death bed.,” a touching and honest letter to her two children. Below, Galyon shares insight into several tracks on firstborn.
“I wrote this album as if it was a book with chapters. I’ve been saying that it’s much like a memoir, and most memoirs start with where you were born. And for me, there’s a lot that is cooked into the story of where I was born. I was born in this little town called Winner, South Dakota. I only spent three days in Winner, South Dakota, before I left there [for Kansas]. But it feels like the word ‘winner’ almost became a symbol for something that I’ve tried to overcome my whole life, which was feeling like I needed to prove something to someone. And I think my journey, as I’ve gotten to this age and I look back, I see how my competitiveness has fueled me, and it has really been a great tool. But I also see, as I get older, I can be self-aware of the ways that me trying to prove something could be unhealthy, as well.”
“That was a song that actually was written before I really had committed in my heart to writing a record. I think a lot of people think that this song, for me, is about the music business, or maybe being a woman in business, because you can draw a lot of those connections there. But for me, it actually started more with high school—that was the first time that I can remember being made to feel crazy for wanting all the things that I wanted in life. Maybe I was made to feel a little crazy for wanting to go to some school in Nashville that no one in my hometown had heard about. Or for me to even say, ‘I want to be in the music business.’ When you grow up in a small, rural community in Kansas, nobody’s really thinking, ‘Well, that makes sense.’”
“I haven’t always been the version of myself that could sing that song. When I was much younger, I had to do a lot of work on the ways that I wasn’t happy with myself, but I think what I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that our culture tries to imply that everyone’s unhappy with the way that they are, and they’re just constantly trying to sell us a better version of ourselves. But I think, as I’ve gotten older, especially as I’ve become a mother and I see my daughter, with her nine-year-old face with no makeup and her natural hair color, I think, ‘Wow, she’s in her most raw, beautiful form.’ And I think being her mother has made me want to return to more of that version of myself.”
“five year plan.”
“That song is so special because it’s really the first and only song Rodney [Clawson], my husband, and I have ever written, just the two of us and about us. We didn’t co-write for the first 10 years of our marriage because he knew that we were both fiercely independent and we really just wanted to be intentional about our work and home boundaries. At about 10 years in, we started to co-write a little bit with other people for other artists. But this is the first song that he and I have ever intentionally written autobiographically about us. The idea for this song came from the fact that this is my 20-year anniversary of being in Nashville. And my word for this year is ‘monumental’ because it feels like everything in my life in the last 20 years in Nashville has somehow happened in this pattern of five years.”
“I started the record with a song that I needed to write for me, and then I ended the record with a song I needed to write for [my children]. ‘death bed.’ was really the whole reason that I made this record. You hear about people getting sick and they write letters to their kids on their birthdays, should they not be there for them, or on big events in the future. Over the last few years, with all that’s gone on in the world, I’ve just been more and more aware of the brevity of life. That got me thinking, ‘Gosh, if anything ever happened to me, what would my kids know about me?’ And so, I wanted to make sure that I wrote it all down, and I felt like doing it in song form was the best way I knew to do that because that’s the way that I write every day.”