‘Songland’ Winner Griffen Palmer Explains That In Songwriting There’s Always More To Learn

“You always hope that the song goes over well, but I think the big win was to have gone through the experience and to have gotten the song out there,” Griffen Palmer told American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

While his initial hope was for the song to just ‘go over well,’ even Palmer was amazed by how well it went over — on Monday night, he became the newest winner of NBC’s “Songland,” the show which features songwriters pitching their songs to a panel of celebrity ‘producers’ — Shane McAnally, Ryan Tedder and Ester Dean — and a guest artist. This week, the guest was the seminal modern country band, Florida Georgia Line, who ultimately chose to record Palmer’s song “Second Guessing.” 

Originally hailing from Toronto, Canada, Palmer moved to Nashville in early 2019 to pursue songwriting. While being on “Songland” tends to be the initial exposure of many of the contestants to the ‘real deal’ industry side of things, Palmer has already had some success being signed to Big Loud Publishing and co-writing Keith Urban’s new single “Polaroid.” The tune he won “Songland” with was co-written by Griffen along with Ben Simonetti (a songwriter and member of Zac Brown-led trio Sir Rosevelt) and Geoff Warburton (a prolific songwriter best known for his work with Shawn Mendes, penning “In My Blood” and “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”). 

“I wrote “Second Guessing” with Geoff Warburton and Ben Simonetti in March of 2019 in a writing session,” Palmer said. “We wrote it all in one day. It was one of those things where everything came quick and worked and we walked away with something pretty cool. I was carpooling to the session with Geoff and we were trying to get a jumpstart on the day by talking about ideas that we had. I had this idea kicking and pitched it to him in the car, saying ‘well, what if we did a song called ‘Second Guessing’ and everyone thinks it’s about having doubt or being unsure but then we flip the lyric and make it ‘I haven’t spent one second guessing’’ and he was in on it right away. We kinda barged into the studio saying ‘Ben, I think we’ve got it!’ We started right away and there wasn’t too much dilly-dallying.”

The song’s twist — flipping ‘second guessing’ into ‘haven’t spent one second guessing’ — was so brilliant that after Palmer gave its initial performance, McAnally said “of all the songs that have been on this show I’ve never been mad at a hook. That is out of this world, congratulations.” Florida Georgia Line immediately took a liking to the song as well, which was surreal for Palmer, who is a longtime fan of theirs. 

“That was really crazy, it was this surreal full-circle moment,” Palmer said. “I remember being 16 or 17 when Florida Georgia Line’s first record came out and I would just binge it back to front over and over again. It was the soundtrack of my summer that year. Then, coincidentally, in my first year of college they were the band that played our homecoming. That was my first big country show. They were the full jumpstart for me getting into the genre, they were the ones I wanted to be like and write songs like. To be able to pitch them a song on this episode, for them to pick the song and now for it to be on this project that’s about to come out, it’s the craziest, most surreal coincidence that could’ve happened. They’re kinda the bridge between country and classic rock. It was a really easy way for me to jump into country, and I think it was like that for a lot of people. A lot of people who weren’t necessarily that familiar with the roots of country could see themselves getting into it through Florida Georgia Line. Listening to them was kinda like dipping my toe in the water of country, which opened up this whole catalog of music.”

Palmer’s musical upbringing revolved around classic rock — being raised by a musician, Palmer received a great deal of exposure to the music world from his father. 

“My dad always surrounded us with music,” Palmer said. “He played in Top-40 bar bands and stuff like that, so I grew up on a lot of classic rock, singing whatever he listened to. On weekends I’d go watch his band play in bars and during the week I’d go jam at their rehearsals. That really influenced my musical ear. I liked what he liked and what he sang, and then I developed my own preferences as I got older. He’s really fun, it’s cool to share this passion with him. Then, I started writing songs in my early teenage years, maybe 13 or 14. I was in a couple of really terrible garage bands and we tried our best to write cool songs and played them at school events and stuff like that, but we never released anything. I didn’t really know anyone who was writing a lot, it was just me in my room finding my way to do it without learning from anyone or getting tips or tricks. I was just grinding it out writing terrible songs until I started writing what I thought were pretty okay songs.”

Now Palmer is writing songs that most would agree exceed the label of ‘pretty okay.’ Yet, even as someone who has found some vocational and commercial success as a songwriter, Palmer is quick to point out that there’s always more to learn. 

“I definitely learned a ton from being on ‘Songland,’” he noted. “When you’re going in to work with these big producers and getting feedback from people who have done what you’re trying to do, you know that you’re going to pick up on some tips and tricks and grow. But, going through the whole experience I definitely grew even more than I thought I would. The smallest little things they do in the writing room can make all the difference — there are things you can’t read up on in a book or an article online, you just have to experience it. Working with Shane [McAnally] was like writing 100 songs with other people all in one day.”

While Palmer’s episode of “Songland” aired Monday night, it was filmed several weeks ago. In that meantime he made himself busy working on new songs and pondering his future.

“Right now I’m trying to soak in all the ‘Songland’ stuff,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of songs that I’m writing — I’ve written probably another 40 songs since the episode — and I’m shopping them around hoping someone picks them up. I’m writing songs for myself too, hoping to put out a project within the next year. I’m kinda just riding this whole wave out, I’m not blocking out any opportunities. I’m just hoping that I can write great songs and put them out in the world.”

Watch Griffen Palmer’s performance of “Second Guessing” and Florida Georgia Line’s version of the song from NBC’s “Songland” below:

Leave a Reply

Tyler Boone Ready To Release Autobiographical Tune, “Gettin’ High”