You may not have heard her name, but you’ve definitely heard her songs. Over the past year and a half, Hemby has seen great success from cuts like “White Liar” and “Only Prettier”, by Miranda Lambert; “Play On” by Carrie Underwood and”Timing is Everything” from the Country Strong soundtrack. You’d think that someone who has had such incredible success would be basking in the light of recent accomplishments and maybe even slowing down and enjoying the praise; but not Natalie Hemby.
Currently heralded as one of the top songwriters on Music Row, she is known not only for her brilliance as a songwriter, but also for her laid back, girl-next-door charm. Her humility and lack of pretense is second only to her love for Christ; and although she has recently seen monumental success, it has been a long time coming. She has been writing for over 15 years, been in and out of publishing deals, spent time touring as an artist, working as a background vocalist and the list goes on; she even includes a stint working for Comcast on her resume. Needless to say, it has not been a quick process. Check out Amy Grant’s: “Overnight” (penned by Natalie) off of her newest release, Somewhere Down The Road, to hear Natalie’s thoughts on the matter of overnight success. “For me, songwriting was just something I HAD to do” Natalie says of the years its taken her to get to where she is now, “When you are truly a songwriter, you write even when you’re not writing.”
“Virginia Bluebell” (another Natalie cut off of Miranda Lambert’s Revolution) is a great example of the compulsion every true songwriter has to write, whether they are consciously doing it or not. “I came up with the title of that song during my time working at Comcast over 7 years ago” Natalie remembers, “Although I was working in the corporate world, I still had to write, I still had to express myself.”
When asked about her methods and how she finds inspiration, she drew upon the wisdom of her old friend, Amy Grant: “One of the best pieces of advice Amy gave me was to always appreciate other people’s music; so I will spend hours on iTunes just looking up obscure music and finding new songs and artists that I’ve never heard before.” Seeking out the new is just as important as diving into the old as well, “I read a lot” says Natalie, “Mostly novels and I especially love Southern literature; it keeps me fresh.”
Staying fresh is one of the most important aspects of keeping your integrity as a songwriter, according to Natalie. “In addition to finding new music, reading avidly and doing things that peak my imagination, I need to spend time alone. Spending time alone helps to refresh and rejuvenate my mind and creativity; and if I don’t do these things I can wind up in a bubble.” She continues: “A lot of the time writers can become so engrossed in co-writing and constantly churning out song after song that they forget to explore outside of themselves or even check back in with themselves spiritually. When you stop doing things that expand your creativity, you can start to copy others or even worse- copy yourself.”
When asked what advice she would give to a fellow songwriter she quickly replied with: “You need to stand back and judge yourself by what you think success is, you need to decide what you want from it or else it will leave you discouraged. I started writing “Timing is Everything” back in 2006. At the time, I had no idea it would be involved with a movie project nor did I have any illusions about what it could be. I just wrote. In fact, I re-wrote it twice before ultimately taking it to Troy Jones (a fellow songwriter) and he re-crafted it into the song that you now hear on Country Strong.” She adds: “If I had approached the process any other way than simply writing because I am compelled to do it, because it’s a part of me, the song may not have seen the success it has today.”
What’s next for Natalie? Welcoming her first child into the world this July with husband and producer, Mike Wrucke, tops her list; but from there…the world is her oyster. She is taking her time, enjoying the success, but continuing to write and looking forward to the new adventures as a mother that will undoubtedly bring new inspiration, new ideas and more of the same beautiful music she is so well known for.