Songwriter Parker Welling has become a major player in Nashville’s country music industry over the last few years. Impressively, she co-wrote nine songs on Russell Dickerson’s 2017 debut album, Yours, including three number one hits (“Yours,” “Blue Tacoma” and “Every Little Thing”). She also earned a nomination from the Academy of Country Music for Song of the Year in 2019 for “Yours.”
In addition, she’s recently had two more number one hits. She co-wrote Dickerson’s 2020 hit “Love You Like I Used To,” plus four more songs on his second album, Southern Symphony. She also co-wrote Thomas Rhett’s #1 hit, “What’s Your Country Song.” Notably, Welling has signed with Rhett’s publishing company, Home Team, which is in partnership with Warner Chappell Music.
“As a songwriter, being in the room with Parker is an incredible experience,” said Home Team Publishing co-founder Thomas Rhett. “She knows how to channel the creative energy and write lyric and melody that really connect with the listener. We love that Parker is part of the Home Team family and know we will have many hits together both as a co-writer and a publisher.”
Ben Vaughn, President & CEO, Warner Chappell Music Nashville said, “Anyone who knows Parker knows she’s a creative light that brightens every room she enters. It’s been special to see her get the recognition she deserves and cement her place as one of Nashville’s leading up-and-coming songwriters. We’re thrilled to have her on team Warner Chappell and are looking forward to the future together.”
Welling has also received other honors. She was nominated for the Canadian Country Music Association’s 2020 Songwriter of the Year and received a nod for MusicRow’s Female Songwriter of the Year the past three years. Also, she has crossed genres to pen several songs for Zach Williams on his 2018 Grammy-winning Christian Album of the Year, Chainbreaker. And the following year, she hit #1 on Billboard’s Canada country chart with “These Days” by Mackenzie Porter.
Originally, Welling aspired to be a singer/songwriter when she saw Miranda Lambert perform on the TV show, Nashville Star. Unfortunately, troubles with her voice forced her to cancel the artist part of her dream, but as a result, she has found her true calling as a songwriter.
Here’s the video of Thomas Rhett’s hit “What’s Your Country
Song,” which was co-written by Parker Welling
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Parker Welling. She tells the story behind some of her hit songs, including “What’s Your Country Song,” “Love You Like I Used To,” “Yours” and “Blue Tacoma.”
BC: Congratulations of your latest #1 hit, Thomas Rhett’s “What’s Your Country Song?” How did that song come about?
Parker Welling: I write for Thomas Rhett’s publishing company, Home Team, and I’ve been with them for a couple years. I take trips to go out on the road and write with him in the summer, obviously Covid aside, in a normal time when touring was happening. He brings out a writers’ bus, and he brings writers with him. I had this idea, “What’s Your Country Song,” and it came from this thing I did with Leadership Nashville. It’s basically a group of leaders from the city; they get together and try to solve problems in our cities.
On one of the days they met, they brought in four songwriters to sit in each group and hear what they’re working on, and then all the songwriters would come back together and write about whatever their problem was. So I’m sitting at a table with 12 people, and before we got started, the lady across from me knew I was a writer. She was doing an ice breaker and she was saying, “Everybody’s got a country song—country has all these stories. Mine’s my divorce.” And the girl next to her says, “Mine is that I have acne and wrinkles at the same time” (laughs). And everyone started going around this table, and this woman was asking others at our table, “What’s your country song?” I wrote down the title and thought, “Oh, man! I think this is a hit.”
Then later, I’m out on the bus with (hit songwriters) Ashley Gorley, Jesse Frasure, Rhett Akins and T.R. (Thomas Rhett). He was playing at a festival. We had a couple of days off in Dallas before he played there. So we flew into Dallas, and we were staying in a hotel for the days off. That day we wrote about five songs. We were in between songs, and Ashley’s sitting at the piano and he’s like, “Alright, Parker. Give me some titles.” I started throwing out some ideas. I threw out this idea how I think everyone has a country song. Ashley starts playing the keys and starts singing something that’s very close to what the chorus ended up being. I was like, “This is really cool—we should come back to it.” A couple of days later on the bus, we ended up tightening up the verses and digging into that lyric.
Here’s the video of Russell Dickerson’s hit “Love You Like I
Used To,” which was co-written by Parker Welling.
BC: You’ve also written several hits with Russell Dickerson. Can you talk about your collaboration with him?
Welling: We’ve written four hits together, which has been awesome. “Love You Like I Used To” is the most recent one we had. That one was crazy. It broke all these records. It tied for the longest Top 10 run in country music history with “Amazed” by Lonestar. It was #2 for the longest Top 5 run on Billboard. That song during [the past year of Covid] was really a bright spot for me.
BC: You also co-wrote Russell Dickerson’s hit “Yours,” that was nominated for Song of the Year at the ACM Awards. How did that song develop?
Welling: I think that was the second song I wrote with Russell and Casey (Brown). Casey had this spare bedroom in his first apartment right when he got married. All of us had only been married for a few months. We were in the same friend group. Casey and my husband were roommates in college, and Russell was buddies with them, and all of their wives were really good friends with me. It was very much like the TV show, Friends, but with 20 people instead of like five (laughs). When we sat down to write that day, Russell had this title, “Yours.” The idea he brought in was…I don’t want to kiss any lips if they’re not yours; I don’t want to whatever if they’re not yours. We started talking about what this title could be. We landed on this idea of what you were before you met the one. So we sat down to write it, and we kept getting stuck on the chorus. We ended up going back in and rewriting the lyric to make a little more sense and adjusting that melody. The work tape we had from that day was so special…I remember bringing it home. My husband works in the music industry on the business side, and I brought it home and played it for him. He said, “Wait! I think this is something—this is really special.” This song was the song that could. It got Russell his record deal. It got me my first publishing deal. It changed a lot for all of us and kind of got that train rolling.
Obviously, I knew Casey and Russell very well; I had known them for years. Then I had a vocal injury, and I took two years off from writing because of my injury. Then [I’d started to write with Casey], and one day, Casey asked Russell if he wanted to write with us. It was just this magic combo, and the second song we wrote together was “Yours.” The third song we wrote together was “Blue Tacoma.” And “Every Little Thing” wasn’t far after that.
Here’s the video of Russell Dickerson’s hit “Yours,” which was
co-written by Parker Welling.
BC: How did you guys go about writing “Blue Tacoma?”
Welling: “Blue Tacoma” is really special to me because prior to my vocal injury, I was pursuing an artist career. I had started “Blue Tacoma” before my vocal injury. I had that chorus. After I had vocal surgery, I was in my mid-20s and didn’t care to pursue the artist thing. I love writing songs—that was the whole reason I was pursuing that to begin with. I like singing my own songs, but I really like writing.
I had started writing with Russell, and “Yours” had gone so well. That day in the room, I was like…if I was going to trust someone else to carry a song that meant so much to me, I feel like it would be Russell. I played Casey and Russell the chorus I had for “Blue Tacoma.” We tweaked it, and then wrote verses. Then Russell and his wife Kailey ended up doing this trip to California, so we went back in and changed some of the verses to make it a little more their story.
That song is really special to me, because it’s very similar to what I would have done if I had pursued the artist’s path. It’s really cool that it ended up being a big hit for Russell.
BC: Originally, you wanted to be a singer/songwriter, and then you had a serious injury to your voice. What happened?
Welling: I had aspirations to be like Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert or someone like that. I was pursuing that path pretty heavily but I got a pretty severe vocal injury. I had two very large polyps on my cords, and my cords couldn’t touch. And so I was on-and-off vocal rest for two and a half years before I had to have surgery. By then, I was kind of over all of it. I enjoyed writing, and I liked not being in the spotlight as much. It was really nice…I didn’t have to grind as hard. I could write multiple songs a day and it doesn’t wear me out.
BC: What do you believe your greatest strength is as a songwriter?
Welling: I would definitely say the lyrics. I study the craft of lyric writing and the structure of a song. Most people who write with me, if you asked them, would say she retreats into her little hole (laughs) and when she comes out, most of the song is done. Usually, it’s not a melody. Usually, I have a phrasing in my mind and a structure of the song, and then we fill in the blanks together. So it’s kind of like a bird’s eye view and then a very zoomed-in view. I don’t like the in between stuff.
Here’s the video of Russell Dickerson’s hit “Blue Tacoma,” which
was co-written by Parker Welling.
BC: How does the songwriting process work for you?
Welling: It depends on who I’m writing with, honestly. It’s so fun to write for other people. It’s way different than it was writing for myself as an artist. When you write for yourself, you’re always like, “What do I want to say?” It’s really fun to sit down with someone else and say, “What do you want to say?”…to put on their skin for the day and figure out how their brain works and how they like to attack a song.
I think my favorite way to write is starting from a title, having a concept, like what we did with “What’s Your Country Song.”
BC: You’ve had a dream start as a songwriter. Where would you like to see things go from here?
Welling: I would love to just continue to do what I’m doing. Honestly, I’m so happy with what’s happened, and I feel lucky and blessed to be able to do what I do.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].