Apr 5, 2024 - Music

Trisha Yearwood embraces songwriting for a new era

Trisha Yearwood performs onstage during the 16th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors at Ryman Auditorium

Trisha Yearwood in 2023. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM

Years ago, when Trisha Yearwood was a student at Belmont, a classmate heard songs she had written and told her to stick to singing.

The criticism stung. She carried it with her for decades.

  • "It was just a guy that I knew in school, and I let it be the truth," she tells Axios.

So when she signed a record deal, she turned to Music Row's top songwriters for material.

  • More than 30 years on, she's earned a reputation as one of Nashville's greatest voices. Her renditions of songs like "She's In Love With The Boy" and "Walkaway Joe" have become modern standards.
  • But she almost never wrote songs for herself — until recently.

The intrigue: In an interview last month at the Friends In Low Places honky-tonk, Yearwood told Axios she has finally found her voice as a songwriter with backup from famous friends, including her husband Garth Brooks.

  • What started as a one-off writing session bloomed into something bigger, and she now expects to release a full collection of self-penned songs next year.

What she's saying: "I've never done anything like this before in my life, so I'm terrified," she says. "But I'm also really excited."

The latest: She'll offer a first glimpse into the project this weekend when she premieres "Put it in a Song" during a performance at the CMT Music Awards, where she's also being honored with the first-ever June Carter Cash Humanitarian Award.

Behind the scenes: Yearwood credits her friend, songwriter Leslie Satcher, with helping her stretch into new territory. Satcher was adamant that she and Yearwood try writing together.

  • "It's totally her fault," Yearwood said. "I agreed to go. I was terrified and sick to my stomach."
  • "We wrote a song about my mom and I left there in tears. It just was like the light bulb went on."

Zoom out: Yearwood previously dabbled in writing a handful of times. But those experiences were different, she says, because she would come with a concept or story and then rely on Brooks or other collaborators to translate it into song.

  • "I felt like I know how to tell a story but I don't know how to rhyme," she says.
  • As she wrote with Satcher and others, she built up confidence.
  • "It turns out I also know how to rhyme."

The bottom line: Yearwood says songwriting has opened the door to a new musical odyssey.

  • She's written with more bold-faced names, including Erin Enderlin and Jim "Moose" Brown, who collaborated with her on the song she'll perform this weekend.

"I didn't start doing this to put it out at all. It was really just for me."

  • "But I've gotten a lot of really good feedback — I live with a guy who's in several songwriters halls of fame, and he's like, 'You need to put this out.'"

How to watch: The CMT Awards will stream live on Paramount+ at 7pm Sunday on CBS.

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