Nicolle Galyon performed at the CMA Theatre at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday, November 1 for what would be the first and last night of her firstborn tour. Gaylon has written nine number one hits like Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” but now she’s telling her own story, her own way.
Leading up to the performance, she shared why she decided to put together a live show for the album on her Instagram stories.
“making firstborn was just me writing a story, and that turned into songs. because songs are what i do. and those songs just happened to turn into a record. in the music business when you make a record, it is implied that you now must automatically tour. or at least desire to do so. I’m not touring. in fact, my fear and insecurity around “performing” is probably what kept me from making a record for so long. but that’s the beautiful thing about age and experience, you reconcile who you are. i am not a performer. I am a creator and a storyteller. and i’m very proud of the story i’ve lived and the story i’ve written. and I felt the story wasn’t complete if i didn’t tell it face to face at least one time. so tonight i’m going to play firstborn from top to bottom, and some of my friends are coming out to support me. one more first. and maybe my last. haha. i’ve learned more in the past couple of weeks about putting together a live show than I have in 20 years in nashville. it has brought me immense appreciation for every artist I know and don’t know. truly am in awe of anyone who was born to perform, because I was not. I was born to create. so tonight – for those who are coming – I hope y’all enjoy what my team and i have put together. I am very nervous. but will wake up tomorrow with a sense of peace and pride that I didn’t let my fears short change my gifts. and then I can end 2022 knowing that I did it, dammit.”
Songwriters Tiera Kennedy, Lauren Watkins, Mackenzie Carpenter, and Carter Faith opened the night with an acoustic round, sharing their gratitude for Galyon’s influence and support of their careers. “She has been such a champion of mine and I’m so excited to be her champion tonight,“ said Kennedy. Watkins added, “She was the first person here to believe in me and what I was doing. I think she saw the artist and the writer in me before I even did…She has literally taught me so much about writing songs and being myself and just standing your ground in this industry and being who you are.” Carpenter praised Galyon’s work ethic and superwoman prowess. “She literally does it all… she’s an artist, she’s a mom, she’s a business owner, she’s a record exec, she’s a publishing exec… it’s really cool to see and really cool to learn from.” Faith echoed their sentiments, complimenting Gaylon on her authenticity. “I think she’s done an amazing job owning her truth and wanting to put out a record for herself, for her kids…Nicolle is who we all want to be as songwriters.”
Before taking the stage, Galyon showcased another aspect of her creativity with a video introduction.
“I was spending most of my creativity invested in the narrative of those that came after me. My children, the songs, the record label, the next generation of artists. All for the future. But as Shakespeare once said, the past is prologue and my life is a part of the prologue to all of these stories. If it all ended tomorrow, did my children understand why I was the way I was? If it all ended tomorrow would the songs I helped others write suffice as the playlist of my lifetime? How could I justify my calling as a storyteller without ever having told my own? So on my 20th year in Nashville on my 38th birthday, this will be my first try at a first record in first person, because before I could truly live this one beautiful life, I had to be first born.”
Galyon performed the entire firstborn album in order of the track listing, complete with eloquent video content on the screen behind her and special guests including Walker Hayes, Kimberly Perry, and Hillary Lindsey.
Two songs in, Galyon ditched her high-heeled shoes and told the audience, “I can’t do it, sorry” and became visibly relaxed as she settled into her own skin as an artist. Her first special guest was Hillary Lindsey, who was just inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on October 30. The pair performed “boy crazy” with incredible harmonies and sly grins, as if they were remembering the stories that led to writing the song together.
“Welcome to opening and closing night of my tour,” Gaylon laughed as she spoke to the crowd. “I wrote this music with an audience of two in mind, that’s Charlie and Ford Clawson. So the fact that there are more than two people here is a miracle and is so fun. I’m having so much. I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
Gaylon introduced her next guests, producers Jimmy Robbins and King Henry, calling them the VIPs of firstborn. “They’re so VIP we gave them a couch on stage for the whole show because I spent all of 2021 secretly on both of their couches making this music and it was our own little secret for a long time,” revealed Galyon. “The very first two people who showed up for firstborn were Jimmy Robbins and King Henry.” She joined them on the couch to perform “disney world,” calling it a song for all the realists.
In addition to songs off her album, Gaylon sprinkled in music that inspired the tracks of firstborn, including “House With No Mirrors,” which she co-wrote and was recorded by Sasha Sloan. Performing the song with Sloan, Galyon said she didn’t know it at the time, but it was a prequel to her song “self care.”
One of the most poignant moments of the night was when Galyon sat at the piano to perform “boy,” which became a number one song recorded by Lee Brice. As she played, a video of her son Ford appeared on the screen behind her, leaning out of a vintage truck with a shy smile and tossing a football in an open field.
Perhaps the most unexpected collaboration of the night was with Walker Hayes, who performed his hit “AA” before Galyon joined him to sing “Halloween,” which the pair recorded together and released in 2016.
“I do have some ‘tendencies’” said Hayes, referring to Gaylon’s previous song. “I have a tendency to love to write with Nicolle. She is hands down one of my favorites. When I heard this album that she’s performing for you all, I was intimidated. I’m a competitive person and it was better than anything I’ve ever done. I was just really jealous, so I’m honored she had me today.”
Gaylon’s husband, fellow hit songwriter Rodney Clawson, joined her on stage to sing “five year plan” as video footage from their wedding, career highlights, and moments with their children played behind them.
In another nod to an artist who influenced her music, Galyon brought out Kimberly Perry of the Band Perry to perform “If I Die Young” before joining her for the last song of the night and of the firstborn album, “death bed.”
“This whole record really started a couple years ago when I started thinking about the brevity of life.” Galyon shared. “I started to think, well what if something happened to me tomorrow? What’s still left on the table? Or when you’re 80, what do you not want to be left on the table? This record is what happened out of those thoughts.”
boy crazy. (with Hillary Lindsey)
consequences. (with Emily weisband)
House With No Mirrors (Sasha Sloan)
self care. (with Caroline Baker)
AA (Walker Hayes)
Halloween (with Walker Hayes)
five year plan. (with Rodney Clawson)
younger woman. (with Hillary Lindsey)
If I Die Young (Kimberly Perry)
death bed. (with Kimberly Perry)