Trailblazing Country Songwriter Aimee Mayo On Taylor Swift, Writing For Women & Her New Memoir

If you aren’t yet familiar with Grammy nominated Country Music songwriter Aimee Mayo, we guarantee you you are already very familiar with the music she has written for some of the industry’s biggest artists. Her songs have spent twenty-six weeks in the #1 spot on the billboard charts, and albums featuring her songs have sold over 155 million units worldwide.  “Amazed,” recorded by Lonestar, is her most popular song to date. In 2004 it garnered an 8 Million Plays award from BMI, vaulting it into the top 125 songs in the BMI catalog out of 6.5 million works. 

Her song “This One’s for the Girls,” recorded by Martina McBride, went on to be a theme song for the morning show “The View.” Aimee has penned songs for Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Sara Evans, Backstreet Boys, Kellie Pickler, Caitlyn Smith, Boys to Men, and many more.

But her accolades don’t stop there. Aimee is one of the few female writers to receive both BMI’s ‘Country Song of the Year’ and BMI’s ‘Country Songwriter of the Year,’ putting her in the elite company of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift. In an industry and genre that is still dominated by men, this is no mean feat!

Not the kind of person to rest on her laurels, Aimee has expanded her repertoire into a new memoir called ‘TALKING TO THE SKY: A Memoir Of Living Your Best Life In A Sh*t-show’ (out now), which took almost 15 years to write.

Her tragic, yet triumphant story begins one Christmas eve in rural Alabama with the shocking news of her father’s attempted suicide when she was just eight years old. Aimee was gifted a journal that fateful night in which she began to record her mind-blowing experiences with her bipolar father, who drifted in and out of her life, an abusive stepfather, caring, but deeply wounded relatives, and a nomadic childhood.

Aimee invites the reader into her wild youth growing up in the deep south, switching schools, bouncing from one family home to the next, and accidentally burning down her house…and car. After a close encounter with death, at the age of 19, Aimee eventually makes her way to Nashville to pursue her dream of becoming a songwriter, and falls right into the arms of another abuser. Aimee must once again, with wit and unflappable humor, pick herself up and walk away. 

We spoke with the trailblazing songwriter about her new book, her passion to write music for women, and why there aren’t more major female country music stars today.

Where did you songwriting career begin, and what was your “big break”?

I wrote my first song at eight years old with my dad. He made a little 45 record of this song, and when I saw my name printed on the record, that locked the dream of becoming a songwriter in my heart. My big break came when a new artist —Mark Wills, recorded my song “Places I’ve Never Been.” 

You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in country music including Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, and more. Who has been among your favorite to create music with, and why?

I’ve written with a lot of famous country stars and some pop stars. Ryan Tedder, the lead singer of OneRepublic, blew my mind. We wrote three songs, and all three got recorded. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. In the beginning, I wrote with Taylor Swift a lot. She is an anomaly. We never wrote a hit together, but we did write one of the craziest songs I’ve ever been a part of. I think because we kind of do the same thing- both obsessed with lyrics. We hit it off other ways- decorating diaries.

Most of my biggest hits have been written with songwriters. My husband Chris Lindsey, Marv Green, Bill Luther, The Warren Brothers, Caitlyn Smith, and the list goes on and on. Tim McGraw has recorded more of my songs than any other artist. He has always been one of my favorite people to write for because he takes chances creatively. I’ve had songs recorded by Tim that no one else would or could do. “Drugs or Jesus” and “Good Girls.” 

Your new book ‘Talking to the Sky’ has just been released, and it was 13 years in the making. Can you tell us more about this writing journey?

I could write a book about the crazy shit I’ve gone through writing my book, Talking to the Sky. It was an almost fifteen-year soul-testing, heart-wrecking, mind-bender journey getting the book out. My OCD went into overdrive, and every day that I sat down to write, I started over on the chapter I had been working on the day before because I knew I could do it better. This went on endlessly day after day. I struggled with paralyzing self-doubt and fought that little nonstop fucker in my head that wouldn’t shut up. “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re never going to finish this book. You’ve wasted over a decade, and everybody thinks you’re crazy.”

I got to the point where I couldn’t even talk about my book without crying. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t know how to do it, but it felt like something in the universe wanted me to write this book. Even when I prayed for God to take this dream out of my heart, it didn’t budge. One day I realized that my kids had watched me work on this book their whole lives, and for it not to come out would be more painful than for it to fail. So, I let it go. It still doesn’t feel real. I get on Amazon sometimes just to make sure it’s there. 

In your book you share about growing up in Alabama, how your bipolar father’s life impacted you in deep ways, escaping death, an abusive relationship, and pursuing your music career in Nashville. Why was it important for you to share the intimate parts of your life?

I never knew why I was writing my memoir. It just felt like it was going to kill me if I didn’t get it out. Now that I am getting some feedback on the book, I’m starting to figure it out why I wrote it. People have told me they feel less alone after reading it. When you are vulnerable with people, they let down their guard and feel safe. I had a sixty-two-year-old man tell me the book healed him in a way. I think what I love most is when you tell people your story, they’ll tell you theirs. 

How did writing become your “way out” and bring healing to you?

I got my first diary when I was eight years old on Christmas Eve. It was the same night my dad shot himself. From that moment on, writing is where I went to figure things out and get my feelings out. Nothing feels real to me until I write it down. 

You are one of the few female writers to receive both BMI” s ‘Country Song of the Year’ and BMI’s ‘Country Songwriter of the Year’. What did these accolades mean to you personally given everything you have experienced personally?

It showed me if you want something bad enough and work hard enough; it will give up it’s secrets. I believe that anybody can do anything if they work their ass off and don’t give up. Once you prove to yourself, you can do something– you can do it again. I just wish my dad could’ve been there to see it.

Can you share your thoughts on why there hasn’t been a huge female country superstar in the last decade, from your perspective as someone who has worked with and watched the top country artists develop for the last 25 years?

I’ve thought about this a lot. About five years ago, I looked at the country chart, and there were three girls in the top 40. And one of those was a duet with Florida Georgia Line.

I think there are a few reasons there are not more women on the radio.

The women I’ve watched become superstars all have a couple of things in common. They all knew exactly who they were, and nobody was gonna get them off that. A few that come to mind are Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain, Deana Carter, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, and Maren Morris. 

Most of the record labels are run by men, and they try to mold artists into who they think they should be. They usually want to copy whatever is currently working on the radio. It never works.

This happens with guys too.

I watched Taylor Swift walk away from the biggest label in town because they wouldn’t let her write her songs. They were trying to force her to record songs written by 50-year-old men. I remember standing in my driveway with her, and her mom and her mom said, “this will never work if she doesn’t record her own songs.” Meanwhile, she was 15 and no 15-year-old that I know of had ever written a hit song.

Another thing these women have in common is they are all songwriters first. They wrote hit songs. They could kill you with a ballad and make you dance with a tempo. 

There have been plenty of female stars who recorded outside songs and had huge careers. Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and Tammy Wynette. Most of the male country stars (Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan) that have been having hits on the radio for decades record outside songs. They might write a couple of songs on each record, but they are always looking for a hit, and the whole town is pitching songs to them. 

I’ve heard so many people complain about country music in general not being as good as it used to be. I do agree that I turn on the radio sometimes, and it sounds like one long song. For some reason, radio will still play mediocre music by a male. There is a double standard there. 

After Taylor Swift hit Nashville like a tsunami, nothing was ever the same. Every female artist that showed up wanted to write all the songs on their records because Taylor did. The difference is she had a publishing deal from the time she was thirteen. And, she’s an anomaly – a generational songwriter. 

For the most part, the town quit writing songs to pitch to female artist because there was nobody to cut them. I realized the other day that more female songwriters had won the Grammy for Song of the Year in the last ten years than men. The crazy part is that men sang them. 

If the song is not a hit, nobody cares who’s singing it. It’s just like going to see a movie with all your favorite actors in it. If the story sucks, you don’t like it. 

Maren Morris is currently working on country and pop radio. She’s a badass songwriter. She had a writing deal for a long time before she signed a record deal. 

These days before I write with anyone new (male or female), I want to hear their songs first. An average singer can have a hit on an amazing song. To me, music is about connecting and making people feel something. 

What are you currently working on music-wise, that we can look forward to in the near future?

I have a song on Tim McGraw’s new record called “Doggone.”  The title sounds a little cheesy but it is such an emotional song. it’s about losing your dog, and I love it so much. Almost everyone has been through that, and I had never heard a song about it. It’s such a lonely grief because people tend not to talk about it and hold it all in. I also have the title track “Supernova” to a new artist that I love, love, love, Caitlyn Smith. She’s my favorite new female artist. 

I’m very excited to record a soundtrack to go along with the book. I’m going to ask some of my favorite singers to cover songs, and I’m going to write some original songs with my favorite songwriters. Stay tuned because I think it’s going to be amazing! 

What do you hope readers will take away most from reading your book?

My dream is that this book will inspire people to choose faith over fear and go after their dreams – to reboot if they’re living the wrong life. I hope that it will linger with everyone that reads it in some emotional subconscious way. I want to make people laugh and cry– sometimes at the same time. I also pray it will help people who feel lost in their life or stuck in an abusive relationship to see there is always a way out. 

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman? 

After everything I’ve been through, I finally learned to think for myself and go with my gut. So many women second-guess themselves and can be swayed so easily. Anytime I’ve ever been talked into something I didn’t want to do and didn’t think would work, I usually regretted it and blamed myself later. 

It can be hard for a woman to stand up for what she believes or wants, especially in a room full of men. But it’s always worth it. 

I’ve learned so much from so many women. About ten years ago, I got to speak to the poet laureate (my favorite poet for sure), Maya Angelo. I’ll never forget the first words she said to me on the phone, “I’m so happy the deciding genies have put us together. She also thanked me for writing “This One’s for the Girls” by Martina McBride. she said thank you for writing such an inspiring and empowering song for women and girls. We were supposed to write a song together, but she got sick before we could.

I could never explain what makes a powerful woman like Maya Angelou does in her iconic poem. 

Phenomenal Woman

BY MAYA ANGELOU

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.


Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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