A Q&A With January/February 2023 Lyric Contest Winner Tracy Richardson

“The Woman in Black” 
Written by Tracy Richardson

Tracy Richardson scored 1st Place in the January/February 2023 American Songwriter Lyric Contest for her song “The Woman in Black.” American Songwriter caught up with Tracy to get the scoop on the lyric’s inspiration and other musings.

Interview by American Songwriter

What made you decide to enter the American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest?

I’ve entered a few times over the past couple of years. I really just wanted to see if any of my lyrics would stand out among the other entries and maybe get an honorable mention. 

How did you feel when you learned you won? 

Shocked and elated! It felt great to know that I had written something that was recognized by pro writers as something that was really good.

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter today before the deadline:





What was the inspiration for your submission? Why did you want to write it?

I didn’t really “want” to write this song. It started coming to me a couple of weeks after my husband died. I was on a walk one morning, which is often when I get ideas. I recorded the melody and some beginning lyrics on my phone as I walked. I didn’t know if the song was “good” or not and in a way, I didn’t care. I just knew it was my truth. I honestly never planned to share the song with anyone, but over the past couple of months, it wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew I had to share it in some way.

What’s the story behind the song “The Woman in Black”? 

My husband, George, passed away suddenly in April of 2022. To say it was a shock is an understatement. We had battled his MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for our entire 33-year marriage, but we didn’t know he had a heart problem. He had a heart attack, was in the hospital for about 10 days, and got stents; we (our kids and I) had been there with him every day. Then the kids went home because he was ready to be discharged. And then his heart just stopped, and he couldn’t be revived. He was the very best husband and dad and was loved by literally everyone who knew him. His visitation was 4 hours long, with some people waiting 2 hours in line. Every word of the song is true; he was the rock of the family, and that foundation was shaken when he died. Calling my kids to tell them he was gone was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. My message to everyone reading this is to please get your heart checked.

How long have you been writing lyrics?

I’ve been writing songs since I was about 10 years old. But I am always eager to keep learning and improving, so I’ve really been studying the craft of writing for the last 10 years or so. I love the journey of being a songwriter.

Have you written music for this lyric? If so, how would you describe it?

I wrote this on the piano and it is somber. It’s in a major key but there’s a feeling of tension in the sus2 chords and minor chords. The verse melody is low in my range and the chorus melody jumps up an octave. It ends on a 4 sus2 chord…unresolved. That reflects how I feel.

What keeps you motivated as a songwriter?

 I’m motivated by the things that inspire me to write, like spending time in nature, reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking to friends. When I get an idea for a song it’s exciting and makes me want to keep writing.

What’s the best piece of advice another songwriter has ever given you?

To join NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International). Through NSAI I’ve met publishers, developed my writing, met co-writers and industry pros, etc. So much of what I’ve learned and who I have met can be traced back to that decision. Another songwriter, Emily Shackelton, said something like “don’t overlook yourself; live life so you have something to say when you write.” I love that advice.

Who are your all-time favorite songwriters and why?

Lennon/McCartney and Henley/Frey are high on the list. They wrote songs I can relate to with melodies I love to sing over and over. I also love Carole King for her tender melodies, her relatable lyrics, and her style of piano playing. I really admire Natalie Hemby and the “Love Junkies” (Lori McKenna, Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey); their lyrics are very conversational, and they always tap into something emotional for me.

What’s next for you?

I have an album of hymns (The Church in the Wildwood) coming out in January; I recorded it for my mom. I go to Nashville regularly to write, meet publishers, play rounds, and deepen relationships with folks I’ve met. I have lots of goals and dreams as a songwriter including people I want to write with (including those writers I listed above). I want to be a songwriter that not only has cuts on the radio but also is respected by other songwriters. I think I’m getting there one step at a time!

Since 1984, American Songwriter’s Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters get noticed and have fun. Enter today before the deadline:





Tracy Richardson stopped by the studio to share the heartfelt inspiration behind her winning song “Woman in Black.” Watch her touching performance below.

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