Based on the roomful of accolades she keeps at her Bellevue home — a Grammy among them — you probably wouldn’t guess that Liz Rose happened upon songwriting almost accidentally.
“I wasn’t a writer,” she says. “I was gonna be a publisher. Then I started a publishing company and started writing with one of my writers. They’d be stuck on a bridge, and I’d go, ‘Well, how about this?’ ”
Rose moved to Nashville from Texas in the mid-’90s with her family — then-husband Johnny Rose, a songwriter, and their two young daughters. Rose says she’d never played an instrument or penned so much as a poem or a diary entry, but after writing her very first song with friend and fellow Texas expat Jill Welch (née Riley), she discovered she had a knack for it.
Since then, Rose has co-written songs for Billy Gilman, Gary Allan and Eli Young Band, and just last year, she and her collaborators Lori McKenna and Hillary Lindsey — the trio calls itself The Love Junkies — scored a hit when Little Big Town included their song “Sober” on the album Tornado. But Rose’s collaborations with Taylor Swift (one of which, “White Horse,” landed her that aforementioned Grammy) have brought her the most attention.
“I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever written with someone like that before,” she says of Swift. She says it feels a bit like the two are speaking their own alien language. “With Taylor, I mainly straighten it out or write it down or pull it out of her. But she’s so lyrical. Her lyrics are so ‘Taylor’ that you can tell that a young person wrote them, not an old lady. … She knows exactly what she wants. She’s brilliant.”
Rose’s daughter Caitlin is a gifted songwriter and performer in her own right; her last release, The Stand-In, landed in the Scene’s Top Local Albums of 2013 critics’ poll. But until recently, the two hadn’t ever worked together.
“We started writing this year, just a little bit,” Rose says, gushing over her daughter’s skill as both a solo songwriter and a collaborator. “We work really well together. And she’s fixed a couple of things of mine.” Rose continues to focus on her publishing company — Liz Rose Music, which now has seven writers — as well as material for Little Big Town and Jamie Lynn Spears.
“She will be huge next year,” Rose says of Spears, calling her “a true artist.”
As far as being a prolific female writer in an industry more inclined to praise the work of men, Rose is happy that it looks as though “the tide is turning.” When it comes to performers, however, she still sees a double standard.
“I think females have to be 10 times more unique, 10 times more talented, 10 times more good-looking, 10 times more creative,” she says. “I think it’s way harder on the females.”