Keeper of the Plans

Meet the Kansas songwriter behind mega-hit song ‘Tequila’

Nicolle Galyon and her two children at a Nashville party to celebrate Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country charts earlier this year. She co-wrote the song.
Nicolle Galyon and her two children at a Nashville party to celebrate Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country charts earlier this year. She co-wrote the song.

If they’re not at the top of the country-music world right now, Dan + Shay are certainly near it with their song, “Tequila.”

The track has hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, as well as No. 21 on the all-genres Hot 100 this year.

It was written, at least partially, by a Kansan.

Nicolle Galyon, who grew up in Sterling, Kan., has been a professional songwriter in Nashville since making a brief appearance on “The Voice” in 2012.

Galyon co-wrote Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” alongside Jordan Reynolds and Dan Smyers.

And though she won’t be in attendance at the Kansas State Fair this year, Dan + Shay will be performing the hit song Saturday evening.

Another twist: Galyon’s mother is a State Fair employee.

“It’s just a massive song — the song of the summer, basically,” said LaMonna Galyon, her mother.

Kansas roots

The Galyon family moved to Sterling when Nicolle was 4 years old.

Nicolle Galyon graduated from Sterling High School in 2002 and immediately moved to Nashville, where she attended Belmont University. She was intent on being an artist manager, she said.

Eventually, though, she came to realize her passion was in songwriting — after all, she was classically trained on the piano, she said.

She was signed to Warner/Chappell Music in 2007, and remains a songwriter for that publishing agency.

After a few years where she “wasn’t having any success,” she tried auditioning for “The Voice.”

That appearance in 2012 was a boon to her songwriting career, she said.

“Ironically, when I came back from filming, everything in my writing career immediately took off and started to click,” she said. “’The Voice’ doesn’t really have anything to do with songwriting, but it really was a pivot for me.”

After the show, she befriended fellow country artists RaeLynn and Miranda Lambert, both of whom have since recorded her songs.

Now, living in Nashville, she’s written for a wide gamut of country artists, including Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney, Florida Georgia Line, and, of course, Dan + Shay.

One of her songs even reached the ears of pop artist Ed Sheeran, she said.

Galyon said her song, “Consequences,” was sent to Sheeran, who liked it but thought it would work better for singer Camila Cabello (known for the hit song “Havana”).

Cabello ended up recording “Consequences” on her debut album earlier this year.

Returning to Kansas

Nicolle Galyon “has a lot of loyalty to Sterling,” her mother said — so much so that she recently built a house there.

Though she lives full-time in Nashville with her husband — fellow songwriter Rodney Clawson — and two children, she plans to spend a month in Sterling every summer, she said.

Clawson, her husband, is responsible for country hits like Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender,” Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” and Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids.”

“It’s a big part of our creativity — going back there and getting to just exhale for a bit and remember who it is we’re writing songs for,” Galyon said.

She said Sterling “and the people who live there are the litmus test for me to see if a song is real or not.”

“Whenever I’m writing a song, in the back of my mind I’ll ask myself, ‘Would a high-school girl in my hometown care about this? Would she relate to this? Would anyone in my hometown really relate to this?’” Galyon said. “We live in a city now and we write songs about country. It’s really good to go back and drive dirt roads.”

Just this February, Galyon performed a show at Wichita’s Crown Uptown Theatre alongside other country-music songwriters (and a fellow “The Voice” contestant).

Before the show, she conducted a teacher inservice for music teachers at Wichita East High School.

The day after, Galyon surprised students at her alma mater, Sterling High School, with a sizeable donation to the school’s music program: nine guitars gifted by a donor, along with a drum kit and baby grand piano provided by the CMA Foundation.

She also funds a student scholarship in partnership with the Wichita Community Foundation – the Autobiography Scholarship – for a Sterling High School senior to go to college every year.

Dan + Shay

Dan + Shay will perform at the Kansas State Fair on Saturday night, a concert that officials say is the second-best selling at the fair this year.

The duo was recently nominated for four CMA Awards, including Best Single and Best Song for “Tequila.” The Best Song category honors the songwriters, which includes Galyon, Jordan Reynolds and Dan Smyers.

The band will perform with special guest Cassadee Pope on the Nex-Tech Wireless Grandstand at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets, which range from $25-$60, are still available at www.kansasstatefair.com.

Songs written by Nicolle Galyon

A few examples of songs Galyon has written:

“Tequila,” Dan + Shay

“We Were Us,” Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert

“Automatic,” Miranda Lambert

“Coming Home (ft. Julia Michaels),” Keith Urban

“Consequences,” Camila Cabello

“All the Pretty Girls,” Kenny Chesney

“Smooth,” Florida Georgia Line

“Music,” Kelsea Ballerini

The perennial racing pigs at the Kansas State Fair on September 11, 2015 in slow motion. (video by Jaime Green)

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