Hit songwriter Shane Stevens wasn’t exactly surprised when he Walker Hayes’ hit “Fancy Like,” which he co-wrote, was nominated for a Grammy award. He had longed for the prestigious award since he watched the Grammy Awards show at age 10.
“I believed it for a long time,” said Stevens. “I have a chalkboard wall at every house I’ve ever been in, that I write down prayer and scripture and things I want to see happen.”
“Before the song came out, before it even blew up, I drew a Grammy on the wall and wrote ‘Fancy Like’ underneath it. I didn’t know it was going to be a Grammy nomination, but I knew the way that we wrote it that something special had happened for sure.”
The Grammy nomination for Best Country Song was the cherry on top for the chart-topping song that Stevens wrote with Hayes, Josh Jenkins & Cameron Bartolini. Impressively, “Fancy Like” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, in addition to being #1 country hit. Also, the single was nominated for a 2021 American Music Award and it’s been featured in an Applebee’s commercial. Stevens first had a #1 hit as a co-writer on Lady A’s “American Honey.” He has penned songs in both the country and pop genres for such artists as Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, Ariana Grande, Lady A, Sara Evans, Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor, Jordin Sparks, Fifth Harmony and Little Mix.
A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Stevens also has other impressive credits. He has sold a country music musical to Paramount Pictures and co-wrote all of the film’s original compositions with childhood friend, Karyn Rochelle. In addition, Stevens wrote three songs on the My Little Pony soundtrack. Stevens has a worldwide co-publishing deal with Purplebeat.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Shane Stevens. He talks about the story behind “Fancy Like,” how his faith makes him receptive to being “tuned it, tapped in, and turned on,” and switching between pop and country music.
Here’s the video of Walker Hayes’ hit “Fancy Like,” which was
co-written by Shane Stevens.
BC: How did your hit “Fancy Like” come together?
Shane Stevens: I wasn’t supposed to be there at the session. I show up a day early…I was supposed to write with Kylie Morgan and there was a schedule mix-up. And I was over at SMACKSongs, which is (hit songwriter) Shane McAnally’s company that Walker Hayes writes for. And Walker was already in a session, and I was just making myself a cup of coffee, getting ready for my session. And he came out and said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Oh, I’m writing with Kylie Morgan.” And he goes, “I don’t think she’s here.” [Then they said] “We’re so sorry, we got the date wrong; your session is tomorrow.” But Walker said, ‘Just come into my session.” I said, ”Don’t you already have to other writers in there?” And he said, “I don’t care, I want you to come in.” So that’s how it happened.
So I went in, and there was a guy in from L.A. (Cameron Bartolini) who had never been in a country session before in Nashville, and Josh Jenkins, who I had wanted to write with for a while; it was the first time we met. And there was Walker. Honestly, we talked about God for three hours, and we talked about where we were faith-wise and spiritually with everything going on in the world. This was in March 2021. We had previously written this song “Make You Cry,” and they hadn’t heard him sing that way before or that kind of concept, and it got everybody excited over there. We started writing a bunch, and Walker was really comfortable with me and knew that if I came in I would bring something different. [For the “Fancy Like” session] we talked for several hours. We’re talking about Jesus, living life through a pandemic, writing on Zoom all the time, and how excited we were to be in the room together. Walker played us a song called “Country Stuff,” which ended up being the name of the EP and now the record. I was like, “That is so cool! That is so fun!”
Josh (Jenkins) said he had an idea to write a song called “Fancy.” I said, “[The song by] Reba McEntire?” He said, “No, just like country fancy. I was like, “You mean like upgrades for country people like going to a fancier kind of restaurant, shopping at Belk instead of Walmart?”
Here’s the video of Lady A’s hit “American Honey,” which was
co-written by Shane Stevens.
Everybody thinks songwriters and artists drive Teslas and really fancy cars and live in ginormous houses. Walker’s got six kids. He definitely doesn’t like in a ginormous house, and he definitely doesn’t drive a Tesla or Lamborghini. He drives a Nissan (laughs), and I think he just inherited his dad’s Hummer. Then I said, “Does anyone dip their fries in frosty? You know, you go to Wendy’s and you get a chocolate frosty and you dip your fries in it. It’s the salty sweet thing.” And Walker says, “Yeah, I’ve done that.” (Hit songwriter) Hillary Lindsey taught me that when we were both like 20 years old when we first started hanging out. We would illegally drink and go get Frosties. I had wanted to put that in a lyric for a song for so long.
So we were saying Fancy Like, like doing country things that are an upgrade. So that’s how it came about. And man, it just happened so quickly once the conversation was done. We sat there laughing, having so much fun. Walker said, “Fancy like Applebee’s as a date night like Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake. I said, “Whip cream on the top too.” I’m a real big inner rhyme person.
Everybody had their own thing that they brought to the table. I don’t even think we played an instrument. It just dropped…it just came straight from heaven. We had to get out of the way. I laughed and laughed…I had the best time. I looked over at Cameron, the guy from L.A., and I grabbed him on the shoulder. I said, “I want you to remember this day. Something magical happened here today. God showed up, and He’s going to show off.”
BC: How does the songwriting process normally work for you?
Stevens: I am an incredibly spiritual person. I call it tuned it, tapped in, and turned on. I go in with a full expectation of God giving me what I’m supposed to have. A lot of times I don’t even go into a room with a song idea. I will have a conversation, and I quietly or not so quietly meditate. I can just quiet my mind and tap into whatever it is. I fully believe that songs already exist, and we kind of tune our tuner to it like a radio for me because I see words, and I hear melody.
Here’s the video of Walker Hayes’ song “Make You Cry,” which
was co-written by Shane Stevens.
I wrote my first single (“Stompin’ On The Concrete”) for Sara Evans sitting on the porch with Morgan Stapleton, Chris Stapleton’s wife, at Major Bobs (music company). I hear melody and I hear words. I see words in my mind’s eye. I don’t know if that makes sense to many people, but for me, that’s just the way it’s always been. You hone your craft writing in Nashville, writing in L.A., writing in pop and writing in country, and you always want to step your game up. But for me, once the concept comes, the song comes usually, and if it’s not coming, then we’re not supposed to do it. I’ve learned over the past few years—just don’t force it. When we wrote “Make You Cry” with Walker, the guy who co-produced it, Nash Overstreet, said, “Do you have a song idea for Walker?” I said, “No, but I’ll get one before we get there.” Literally, by the time I put the car in reverse and got to the end of the driveway, I had a whole concept and a chorus. When I got to the studio and met Walker for the first time with Nash, I said, “I have this idea” and I sang it to him. He said, “That’s like my life! We have to write this!” That’s kind of what shifted everything with our writing relationship and for him and his team. It was different than anything else they had heard him do. He was really singing. It was fun to get him on something a little more smooth. That’s my process, and it usually starts with a conversation. Someone will say something. I’ll just hear it, and say “Let’s go!”
BC: It sounds like you’re equally strong in the lyrics as well as the melody.
Stevens: For sure. We wouldn’t have written “Fancy Like” the way we did if Walker and I didn’t love pop music and country music so much. We live for ‘90s country! But we also live for hip-hop beat. I said, “Look at that. We’ve created a new genre, hick hop” (laughs). If I hadn’t written with people like Kelly Rowland or been in the studio with Beyonce or Fifth Harmony or Ariana Grande, people in that world, I wouldn’t think the way I think melodically or lyrically. I grew up on Michael Jackson and George Michael and Mariah Carey, and I was so stunned and intrigued by the way Mariah Carey wrote the lyric. She’d have four or five syllable words and run on phrases and things like that. It was a very different thing. I don’t think a lot of people paid attention to that, but I did. I was always intrigued and turned on by the way Carole King wrote real stories, like Tapestry is an album I can’t live without. And Music Box is an album I can’t live without.
I love R&B and pop and real singers like Gladys Knight and Luther Vandross. I had a deal with my friend, Tina, when I was growing up. She was the person who drove us to school and back. She got her license first. If she would listen to pop music on the way, I’d listen to country music on the way home. She was the one who started playing The Judds for me, and she played “Is There Life Out There?” by Reba McEntire, plus Trisha Yearwood and the Wynonna solo stuff. I was like, “Oh my God! I have been missing out.” And I became completely obsessed with Clint Black, Ronnie Dunn, and Ronnie Milsap. I became obsessed with lyrics so people like Dennis Morgan who wrote, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” The Dennis Morgan’s of the world who wrote in both pop and country was always my dream. So I truly believe I’ve been blessed enough to get to stand on the shoulders of those kind of people. I’m that kid that sat in the room with the record and reading who’s producing, who’s playing and who wrote what.
I was blown away by songs in pop that had a lot of heart and had a lot of soul. I was born in ’78 so growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, there were a lot of people singing about hope, and joy and you can be and do or have anything. I feel like there’s been a shift away from that for such a long time. With “Fancy Like,” in particular, it’s such a phenomenon the way it has brought so much joy to people, especially during this time in our world and brought generations of people together. It’s the most magical thing to watch. When you’re the songwriter, you don’t usually get to experience that part unless you go to a concert. The first time I saw Lady A sing “American Honey,” I was in California. They were doing a concert somewhere. There were probably 15,000 or more people there, and they started singing “American Honey.” Somebody captured my reaction on film. Watching an entire venue sing every single word to the point where you can barely hear the band, was so overwhelming. So that’s what this feels like! I am so blessed to get to do what I do. I love 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].