Lily Rose’s Long Road to Becoming An “Overnight Sensation”

When Lily Rose wrote “Overnight Sensation” with Morgan Brock, Lauren Hungate, and Matt Morrisey in September 2019, she was headed into her overnight shift at Opry Mills—just one of several odd jobs she rotated to support her seemingly unavailing journey to a music career. That afternoon, beaten down by a relentless underpaid work schedule, she and her co-writers joked that it just might be easier to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, than reach their goals as musicians in Nashville.

The Atlanta native considers herself a “concept person,” usually bringing titles, hooks, and ideas to the writers’ room—as she did for her new track, “Overnight Sensation,” released April 30. She says, “I write down everything that pops in my mind.” She had the phrase Overnight sensation / 13 years in the making stowed away in her phone for almost three years, before she finally was able to pull it from her arsenal. 

On December 1, Rose posted a clip of her song “Villain,” a song she wrote with Mackenzie Carpenter and Kyle Clark. Produced by Matt Morrisey, the lyrics detail a break-up she believed ended cordially, only to find out she’d been painted as the ‘bad guy’ through social media. While delivering groceries to pay the bills, the artist found herself in a particularly tight spot at AutoZone after an unsuccessful car jump. As she recalls, “I had $173 in my bank account and that car battery cost me $162 bucks.” By some inexplicable twist of fate, “Villain” went viral on TikTok. She continues, “I don’t deliver groceries anymore.” 

She went on to independently release the song on December 15, where it climbed to the top of the iTunes all-genre chart and maintained its No.1 residency above Taylor Swift. When Big Loud / Back Blocks Music caught wind of the song—which debuted at 57 on Billboard—they teamed up with Republic Records to offer Rose a joint-venture record deal in January.

For Rose, her rise through the ranks is more than a personal feat. As an openly gay artist currently trending on country radio, the ‘overnight sensation’ feels this validation is a step forward for representation across country music.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t know Jimmie Allen was black when ‘Best Shot’ was at No.1 on the radio,” says Rose. “I’m here to be a trailblazer the way he was, solely by putting out good music. A lot of people have said, ‘I love that [‘Villian’] is a gay country song.'” She laughs, adding, “It’s not; it’s just a song. I want to write love songs, breakup songs, ‘you can do this’ songs for everyone—the more people I can reach, the better. My goal is just to share incredible music to show people there is nothing to be afraid of just being who you are.” She continues, “But I feel very fortunate to be able to say that, not everyone lives somewhere as open as Nashville.”

With overwhelming gratitude, she cites Shane McAnally and Cody Alan’s contributions to country music and Brandi Carlile’s exhibition of “how to have a beautiful family, regardless of what it looks like.” Each of these inspirations served as beacons that guided her path to authentic artistry.

Produced with the renowned Joey Moi, the pop-leaning artist took the opportunity to go “as country as [she’ll] probably ever be” with “Overnight Sensation.” The stripped-back track, which previously won over crowds at live acoustic sets, grew even more dynamic with thoughtful touches of movement in Moi’s production. Built into a slow-burning ballad, “Overnight Sensation” chronicles the trek across the past decade to an inconceivable present.

“When I sit in Apple Music, Amazon, Pandora playlist meetings, and I get to play them this song, I cry every single time,” she says. “It’s such a polarization from the day I wrote it to my day-to-day now. I hope 20 years down the line, I still have that feeling of overwhelming humility about it all.”

Across a percussion-backed bridge, Rose’s brazen vocals recite a sentiment penned by a younger, wearier version of herself: Ain’t a map for this promised Land / There’s no blueprint, there’s no master plan / And no way of knowing if, or how, or when.

“I’m trying to be a sponge this year,” she tells American Songwriter over the phone, on her way to another major co-write. Though she’s been in town for nearly four years, she only ever wrote with the same five or six collaborators. Now, Rose writes with two new people a day.

She continues, “I feel confident that I will be the writer with multiple No.1’s in a few years, but I really look up to the people who have done it before me. The best advice I ever got was ‘just show up.’ Even on my most exhausting days, I show up and see how these people work, what their process is.”

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