By Lisa Morgan

Chris Stapleton pulled huge crowds last year at both Coachella and Stagecoach. Who was he?  A songwriter who finally got his day to be a headliner. Once again, those sporting their Stagecoach wristbands will be entertained by arena favorites, timeless icons and yes, songwriters…songwriters who have seriously taken it in the proverbial shorts in this era of free digital music.  Some, however, like Chris Stapleton, will get their moment on stage (all-be-it the smaller stages) to collect what is gold to the music community – a fan base.

As a die-hard traditional country music and Americana enthusiast, my heart has always been with the songwriters – the ones who pen the songs that move us.  For me, there is nothing better than hearing the songs I love direct from the source.  So with an assignment to write on Stagecoach picks and a 500 word limit to do it in, I went straight to a few of my favorite published songwriters in Nashville.

Travis Meadows (singer/songwriter whose penned songs for Dierks Bentley, Wynonna Judd, Tyler Farr, Randy Houser, Hank Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Church, Jake Owen and more):  “John Moreland is about good as it gets for sad songs. Ryan Hurd is great, as is Anderson East, Steve Moakler and Brent Cobb. Bobby Bones’ new thing I’ve heard is a riot. Tyler Farr and Randy Houser just recorded one of my songs so I’m partial…but I pick Randy, Wynona and Willie for the win on live shows. Cody Johnson teaches everybody a lesson on how to make it huge without a label. This is really impossible. This festival is really a little too good. There’s too much great in one spot.”


Jordan Simpson (songwriter, booking agent and PR Manager for artists such as Wanda Jackson and Bang! Bang!):  “I pick John Moreland, Anderson East, Nikki Lane, Margo Price, Brent Cobb, Ruston Kelly for the Nashville Songwriter List.  Those who like to rock a bit harder than a Nashville writers’ round will enjoy Elle King and Jonathan Tyler. I would of course not miss Cowboy Junkies either… not sure if it would be a Nashville songwriter pick, but they are definitely one of mine!”

Elizabeth Elkins (singer/songwriter The Swear, Granville Automatic, Farewell Angelina, BMI Publishing Songwriter, Co-Writer on “Drinking Town With a Football Problem,” Billy Currington): “Kip Moore is the closest thing to dark rock and roll that music row has to offer. Margo Price (because Granville automatic can’t be far behind) and Kenny Chesney, because he cuts great songs like ‘Anything but Mine.’”

For what it’s worth, my personal strongest recommendations would be to see Jamey Johnson, Rhiannon Giddens, Son Volt (lead by one half of the creative force of Uncle Tupelo), Justin Townes Earle (Steve Earle’s son), John Doe, Los Lobos. 

While I could go on and in more detail, I’d like to save my last words to encourage you to hydrate and savor your adult beverages so you can remember this festival of incredible music.  Be sure to show your love to Willie, who is, hands-down, the best gift in the lineup.  Thank you Goldenvoice.

  • Dierks Bentley

  • Shania Twain - Photo By Brian Bowen Smith

  • Kenny Chesney - Photo by Allister Ann

  • Willie Nelson & Family

  • Wynonna & The Big Noise

  • Los Lobos

  • 38 Special

  • The Zombies

  • Kiefer Sutherland

  • Cyndi Lauper

  • Cowboy Junkies

  • Elle King

  • Jamey Johnson

  • Justin Townes Earle

  • Randy Houser

  • Rhiannon Giddens