Rising Songwriter & Producer Alysa Vanderheym Talks About Her Hit Success With Kelsea Ballerini, Florida Georgia Line And Other Artists

Alysa Vanderheym
Alysa Vanderheym
(photo credit: Jess Williams)

Over the past few years, Alysa Vanderheym has become a top songwriter & producer in Nashville. She’s had a number one country hit with Jameson Rodgers & Luke Combs (“Cold Beer Calling My Name”), and a Top 10 hit with Florida Georgia Line (“Talk You Out Of It”). She’s also collaborated with many other artists, including hot artist Jelly Roll for his latest album (Whitsitt Chapel).

What makes Vanderheym unique, is that she’s a multi-instrumentalist who has produced many of the projects she’s worked on. She can play almost any instrument (guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, background vocals, programming), and she can serve as a producer and engineer.

Recently, Vanderheym’s versatile musical skills have become increasingly known, due to her special collaborations with country star, Kelsea Ballerini. Impressively, she co-wrote eight songs on Ballerini’s 2022 album, Subject to Change, including the single, “Heartfirst.”

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Alysa Vanderheym, about her Grammy-nominated collaborations with Kelsea Ballerini.


Now in 2024, Vanderheym is receiving acclaim for her work on Ballerini’s latest project, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat. Vanderheym produced all six songs with Ballerini and co-wrote three songs, including the single, “Blindsided.” Notably, this release has recently been nominated for Best Country Album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Ballerini enlisted Vanderheym to be her main creative partner for Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, which is a set of songs that Ballerini wanted to write following the divorce from her husband, country artist Morgan Evans. Vanderheym played almost all the instruments on these songs.

Vanderheym grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she aspired to be a professional songwriter. For college, she attended Belmont University in Nashville, where she majored in songwriting.

Here’s the video of Kelsea Ballerini’s single, “Blindsided,”
which was co-written by Alysa Vanderheym.

After she graduated from Belmont, Venderheym signed a publishing deal with Major Bob Music (owned by Bob Doyle, who is Garth Brooks’ manager). This led to her first big break, co-writing a hit for Florida Georgia Line (“Talk You Out Of It”).

Soon after, Vanderheym co-wrote the hit “Cold Beer Calling My Name” (a duet by Jameson Rodgers & Luke Combs), and she has worked with Kygo & OneRepublic (“Lose Somebody”), Blake Shelton, Jelly Roll, Lady A, Dustin Lynch, Russell Dickerson, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, The Band Camino, Walk The Moon, Niko Moon and Tayla Parx.

Alysa Vanderheym Interview
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Alysa Vanderheym. She tells how she got started as a songwriter & producer, and she discusses her acclaimed collaborations with Kelsea Ballerini.

DK: I read that you’re from the Bay Area in California. How did you get started with music, and decide to move to Nashville?

Alysa Vanderheym: I’ve always wanted to be in the music industry in some format. I was forced to go to college by my parents, and there were only a few colleges in the country that offered a songwriting major. So it took me to Nashville, and I did a songwriting major at Belmont University, which is near Music Row.

Then I did my first internship at Disney Publishing, and that launched me to meeting other people in the industry. I started learning production skills on mainly Pro Tools and Logic, and so that landed me my first publishing deal, which was six months out of college

DK: When you were going to Belmont, did you see yourself more as a songwriter or producer?

Vanderheym: Definitely more as a songwriter—production didn’t come until later. Honestly, I only learned production so that I could get an edge up when I was meeting with publishers, because I knew it was a special skill, especially as a female at the time.

Here’s the video of Jameson Rodgers & Luke Combs’ hit, “Cold
Beer Calling My Name,” which was co-written by Alysa Vanderheym.

DK: These days, some producers play many instruments. Do you play most instruments such as guitar, keyboards, bass and drums?

Vanderheym: Yes, I can get by on pretty much anything. Keyboards don’t come as naturally to me…guitar is my main thing that I like to write on. But I can get by on anything.

DK; Do you write lyrics, and can you sing too?

Vanderheym: Yes I write lyrics. As for singing, it not my main thing, but I can try (laughs). I can do background vocals.

DK: In Nashville, what was your first big break in the music business?

Vanderheym: I’d say when I got the call from Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line. He said that a song I sent him, “Talk You Out Of It,” was going to be their next single. That was a defining moment.

DK How did you make connections with music stars like Tyler Hubbard?

Vanderheym: After I graduated from Belmont, I signed my first publishing deal at Major Bob Music with Jesse Frasure. They did a great job of getting me in with up-and-coming writers, and with bigger writers. They were really good at positioning me, so I could climb up the ladder and build relationships. And so I had built a relationship with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, because they were big songwriters themselves and they would have other writers come out and write while they were on the road. I had gone out a few times and we had developed a relationship, so that’s why Tyler called me about “Talk You Out Of It” being their single.

DK: I like your song “Cold Beer Calling My Name,” which became a #1 hit for Jameson Rodgers & Luke Combs. How did this song come together?

Vanderheym: That was a funny story. The four of us were writing one day—Jameson Rodgers, Brett Tyler, Hunter Phelps and I. It was one of those days where we couldn’t get anything. We kept trying ideas, going through titles. Then about 3 in the afternoon. Hunter was going way back with this titles and he had…Cold Beer Calling My Name. So we started on it, and it came so natural. We had done the gist of it that day, and then we came back one more night to finish it. And I remember having so much fun with that song. There was a smile on my face the entire time.

Here’s the video of Florida Georgia Line’s hit, “Talk You Out
Of It,” which was co-written by Alysa Vanderheym.

DK: You are known for your collaborations with Kelsea Ballerini. How did you connect with Kelsea, and then co-write 8 songs on her Subject to Change album?

Vanderheym: A few years ago, we were set up to write at my publisher Jesse Frasure’s house down in Florida. It was a writing retreat with him and his writers, and with Kelsea and her husband at the time, Morgan Evans. We were writing for both of them as artists. It was fun…we had an evening out with dinner. So we hit it off, and the first song we wrote was “The Little Things” that was on Subject to Change. Kelsea is such an incredible songwriter that it blew my mind. I was like…Oh my gosh, we could write albums and albums together. I think two or three songs came from that writing retreat,  and then we kept writing all year for her album.

DK: How did you and Kelsea work together for her project, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat?

Vanderheym: After Kelsea went through her breakup, she was like, “I have to write about this.” So we made this EP, that was originally going to be a side project. And we just kept going.

DK: I looked at the writing and producing credits for Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, and it was mainly lists just you and Kelsea. Did you and Kelsea do almost everything for this  project?

Vanderheym: Yes it was just her and I. We wrote it and produced it together. Then we took a day after we were finished with everything, and did overdubs and stuff in the studio with players. Yeah that was a very intimate process, which was pretty fast. We started writing in the fall (2022), and ironically it came out on Valentine’s Day (in 2023).

DK: Did Kelsea envision Rolling Up the Welcome Mat as a special project? I watched the 20-minute film she made, which contained these songs.

Vandearheym: It definitely took on a life of its own after it came out. Like I said, it was Kelsea’s way to process things…writing these songs. So on a human level, she needed to get it out of her system. And I think it was so honest—we had no rules, we weren’t writing it for country radio. It was pure creative expression. It came from a really honest place with no agenda. Then it came out and took on its own life, so Kelsea decided to do the film. She’s so creative with everything.

Here’s the video of Kelsea Ballerini’s single, “Heartfirst,” which
was co-written by Alysa Vanderheym.

DK: Rolling Up the Welcome Mat has now been nominated for Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards. How does it feel for this project to receive this honor?

Vanderheym: When I heard about the Grammy nomination, I couldn’t even talk…I was so happy. It’s such an honor. It was just two women…it was really cool.

DK: Besides working with Kelsea and the artists we’ve discussed, what are some of your other favorite projects that you’ve worked on?

Vanderheym: Wow, I love country music so much and being based in Nashville. It’s such an exciting spot, because boundaries are being pushed, and country music has never been in such a global moment, taking on its own space in pop culture. I’m just excited to work with anyone that is down to take that ride and push the boundary a little bit. And there’s so many amazing artists in this town.

DK: Are you working on any new projects that have recently come out, or will be coming out soon?

Vanderheym: I had a cut (“Hold on Me”) on Jelly Roll’s album (Whitsitt Chapel), that came out a few months ago. I love him; he’s so inspiring and he’s such a kind human. I’m really excited for his music. And I got to write on the song with great songwriter, Hillary Lindsey. She’s going into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

DK: In addition to your country projects, will you be working with artists in other genres, such as R&B, rock and pop?

Vanderheym: R&B is one of my favorite genres, and my goal is branch more into that. And I have am amazing manager named Sam Drake (at Range Media Partners), and she is helping me cross that bridge.

Here’s the link to Alysa Vanderheym’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/alysavanderheym

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima