CMA Fest 2024: Chat With Greylan James

1) We’re gonna kick off with a big CONGRATULATIONS for your recent ACM Award for Song of the Year win as a writer on Jordan Davis’ “Next Thing You Know.”  What about that song do you feel really made it resonate so much with the listener?

It’s crazy. After we wrote that song, we really had no idea what we had. I write songs every single day and every one of them kind of feels like one of your kids, but this one resonated so much with me that I wanted to send it to my mom and dad. I never send them songs. I remember thinking, “hmmm, that’s weird!”

I think for us, it was just a gut feeling. As songwriters, when you have a song that makes you want to call your mom and dad…I think that’s what it did for the listeners too. That’s a special thing that I don’t think happens with every song we write, and it just makes you wanna go write more of them.

2) Your credentials as songwriter include cuts with Kenny Chesney, Chris Young, Cole Swindell, Bailey Zimmerman, and many more. But you’re also making the segue to the artist side as well. Do you navigate your songwriting any differently when you’re writing as an artist versus writing for pitching?

I did when first started doing this cause I was super in my head about it. Over the past year, though, I’ve really gotten in the groove of just writing songs and I don’t approach any day any differently than any other.

I just signed a publishing deal with Michael Hardy. Anytime that we’re writing together, that’s two artists in a room and we’re just honestly writing the best song that we can write that day. Just like with “Next Thing You Know.” We just sat down that day and weren’t trying to write a song that Jordan was gonna have to sing every weekend for the rest of his life. We just tried to write a song that we all connected with as songwriters and storytellers.

We just get in there and find the best title that one of us has in our phones and try to write the best song that we can that day.  

3) Both “Undermine” and “Young Man” have laid strong foundations for the current chapter of your artist career. Tell us about those two songs and how you really feel they provided a strong definition for you and your unique sound.

“Undermine” especially, that was a song that I had the title for in my phone and was like that’s something I can flip. I’m such a big fan of wordplay. When I first got to Nashville, I read Old Dominion’s lyrics and saw how they did it and I was like, “oh man, they’re writing these songs like poets and not just songwriters.” I think “Undermine” is a great example of that.

“Young Man” is in the same vein as “Next Thing You Know” or “Happy Does.” It’s a storytelling song. I’m someone who writes songs like a playlist. I don’t think you’ll ever have to go to another artist to find a poppy sounding song or a country song because I grew up listening to every single one of those.

4) “Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You” seems to be quickly becoming your breakthrough right now with SiriusXM’s The Highway playing it on heavy rotation right now. Were you expecting that song to propel the way it has?

I had that gut feeling. I watch TikTok and my social media every night. We were going into Christmas, and I knew people were gonna be on their phones a lot and so I wanted to put a song out and tease something.

When I wrote that song with my buddies Rocky Block and Brock Berryhill, we knew the day when we wrote that song. We were in a hot tub in Key West, and I was like, “Guys, this is gonna be one of my hits!” I posted one video on TikTok and it was like gas on a fire. It’s been really crazy to see people identify with that song ever since. I’ve been through that, thinking about somebody who isn’t thinking about me, and so to have a song like that in my set that people can resonate with and vibe with is really special.

5) With a few singles out now, what’s next this year for Greylan James? An EP? Album? More singles?

I’m talking to the label pretty much every day.  When they signed me, they signed a songwriter and I’ve written so many songs. It’s a good problem to have, but a blessing with the curse of just having so many songs and trying to figure out what’s the next best step.

We just decided to put out a plethora of songs. So, it’ll be really exciting for the people who have been following what’s going on.

6) CMA Fest is such a wonderful time of year for the artist and fans to come together as one big thank you note to each other. What are you most excited about with being a part of it this year?

I’ve got a lot of friends and family here this weekend, and I was explaining it to someone in my group that’s never been to CMA Fest…you know, I’ve been coming since I moved here when I was 18 and you kind of get used to it and it’s just kind of like my job. But explaining it to them rekindled my fire. CMA Fest is so cool. I’m just reexploring my fandom this weekend. I’m going to see Jordan play tonight, and then Cole (Swindell) play. It’s really fun to just hear country music from a different perspective in a town that I drive through every day.

7) We have so many aspiring songwriters and artists that read our website, so we always like to end by asking this…what is the best piece of advice you can offer?

I change my advice every time I talk to people because I really want to give the best advice that I can. When I got here to Nashville, I thought I was going to be an artist who was selling out Nissan Stadium right off the bat. That obviously didn’t happen. I took the songwriter route and really fell into it.

Still to this day, I really don’t think I’m good at what I do and that’s okay. Insecurity is okay. Be secure about your insecurity. That’s what makes you stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning trying to get better. Listen to songs and be jealous that you didn’t write them because that’s gonna make you want to go write a song that’s as good or better than that.

So yeah, I’d lock in on that…be secure about your insecurity and use that as positive momentum going forward.

(Interview by: Jeffrey Kurtis/Photo c/o Big Machine Label Group)


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