Laura Veltz on Her Songwriter of the Year Grammy Nomination, Writing With Maren Morris, Demi Lovato & More
When the slate of Grammy nominees was announced on Tuesday (Nov. 15), Big Machine Music-signed songwriter Laura Veltz was among the inaugural class of nominees in the newly minted songwriter of the year (non-classical) category, nominated alongside Amy Allen, Nija Charles, Tobias Jesso Jr. and The-Dream.
Veltz’s multifarious songwriting talents cinched the nomination following her contributions to a lengthy list of songs in country and pop circles, including songs with Maren Morris (“Background Music,” “Humble Quest”), Demi Lovato (“29,” “Feed”) and Ingrid Andress (“Pain”). Veltz has previously been nominated a Grammy three times, all of them in the best country song category, for her work on Morris’ “The Bones” and “Better Than We Found It,” as well as Dan + Shay’s “Speechless.”
But to be nominated in the inaugural year of an all-genre category dedicated to songwriters is another thing entirely, Veltz says. “I’m still sort of in shock about the whole thing, just because of its historical nature,” she explains. “And I’m friends with a lot of the people who made this category happen, and I know a lot of people work so hard to make sure songwriters are recognized this way — so it’s so much beyond an honor.”
Fittingly, Veltz says she was entering a writing session in Nashville with co-writer Alysa Vanderheym when she learned of her nomination.
“I started getting so many text messages that just said, ‘Congratulations!’ and it took me a full three minutes to get the tea of what I actually got. Then I just fell to the ground. I was so shocked. [Alysa] was getting like 50,000 phone calls, just like I was, so our co-writer was like, ‘You guys should just go celebrate.’ So we did, we bailed on the session and celebrated and I went home and hugged my husband and all that stuff. It was so special.”
Below, Veltz talks with Billboard not only about the meaning the nomination holds for her, but how she hopes the songwriter of the year (non-classical) Grammy category serves as a harbinger for the songwriter advocacy being done on Capitol Hill.
What does this nomination mean to you, personally — as it is recognizing an overall body of work from a songwriter, instead of a specific song or songs on a specific album?
It is so centralized to my life experience — but it’s weird having my name in the list. I’ve been nominated for Grammys before, but it’s so tough within the wordage that it’s not as recognizable. It’s just absolutely bizarre to know that I moved around a lot as a kid, just thinking about all the high schools I’ve ever been to and all the churches I went to and everyone I’ve ever known. It’s just a weird thing to have my name associated with something like this.
You don’t sign up for that as a songwriter, typically, because we purposefully put ourselves behind the scenes. The fact that my name is associated with a body of work… it really is humbling, because it’s so different.
What does it mean for the songwriter community as a whole to be recognized with their own category at the Grammys?
It’s just such a change for my community, and such a change for the industry at large to have this on the ballot. It’s wild, too, because it’s such a community-driven thing. I’m watching my friends nominated in song categories. The song [of the year] nominations were really all we had for a really long time. Then people like Ross Golan and so many others expanded it to having a larger body of work on an album, that we suddenly are credited in that way [for the album of the year category].
So seeing all these people getting these nominations and now the crown jewel of it — having its own very own category — it’s very humbling and beautiful. Then, when it comes to things in on Capitol Hill and such, the fact that this might begin a new era where the recognition of the beginning of music — which is in fact the writing of a song — the fact that that might be a little bit more seen might lead to it being a little bit more valued.
“Background Music” is one of the songs you are being recognized for, which you wrote with Maren Morris and Jimmy Robbins.
As with me, Maren is continually willing to gut punch a song — and [get into] talking about the passing of time, talking about mortality and what we leave behind, and the truth that in a hundred years our names will be virtually forgotten no matter how dominant we are as creators. Just to write to that directly was so f–king fun. It sounds dark, but it really kinda helped me to live in the moment. And the fact that this was her idea, of “Background Music.”
My favorite lyric in the song is “Not everybody gets to leave a souvenir.” That is just the most true statement, and it makes being a songwriter, or any kind of creator… you just feel so lucky that you get to live a little longer, so to speak, than the average person, through such a gift. I’ve written so many songs with Maren, but I think that was the first time that we collectively made ourselves cry. All three of us were like, “Wow.”
Your work with Demi Lovato, especially on songs like “29,” is also being recognized.
The 13 songs that Demi and I wrote together [for Lovato’s album Holy Fvck] are some of my absolute most proud moments as a creator. Her willingness to say the uncomfortable thing and heal out loud. I am so proud of Holy Fvck. Every single song has a sting and a sweetness of just truth.
And “29” in particular — because the value of what you do as a songwriter, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes you earn a No. 1, sometimes you just reach the right person that needed to hear what you wrote. And this song falls under that feeling of “there are a group of people that needed to hear this song.” Most of them are young women. And just the idea that you can unplug the power of feeling of “Oh, he thinks I’m mature for my age.” I used to say that s–t. I used to feel that s–t, and I used to take it as a compliment. And I feel like we wrote a song that unplugged the power of those words. You are not mature for your age, they’re predators, and you need space to be a kid.
I love TikTok, and watching all of the thousands of women who use “29” as a reality check for their own dating history. Then the idea that those women will have daughters, then those daughters will have daughters. I can’t even wrap my head around the power of that song, by way of butterfly effect. We just decided to address something difficult. We said something difficult, we said it in the most eloquent way, and in a commercial way that it wasn’t in innuendo, it was clear as crystal. I feel like that is such a win as a songwriter.
Is there anything else you want to add about the songwriter of the year nomination?
I truly feel that the value of what a songwriter is could very well go extinct if we don’t put some actual value on what it is to write a song. I feel like it’s something that can just go unnoticed so many jobs that just go unnoticed. Then, when somebody goes on strike, you realize, ‘Oh, we do need those people.’ I feel like music would change entirely if it wasn’t appreciating the poets in the back of the classroom who just want to tell stories. We were meant to tell stories. Many of us are just born to tell stories and to not have the music medium for that — we’ll find our way because we’re resilient and because honestly, nothing in this world could stop us from telling these stories.
But [also], I just feel the gratitude that this category is now in play. I imagine the future, and it’s realizing that things need to change. I’m gonna be fine. I caught the right era. But the next generation of songwriters will literally go away. There’s no way it’s sustainable. Kids that are writing songs that are getting streamed millions of times, but they can’t keep their lights on at home — that’s not okay. I’m just really grateful that this category is in play and I’m really hoping that it traces itself backwards to how songwriters are paid. It needs to be addressed.