Behind the Song: Pillbox Patti

Pillbox Patti burst onto the scene last year with her record ‘Florida’, a raw and authentic record that saw the new artist open up about her journey to this point. Although many had never heard of Pillbox Patti before last year, the majority of country fans will have heard a glimpse of her creative endeavours as Pillbox Patti is the stage name of songwriter Nicolette Hayford. This new disguise was a chance to tell her own story, use her own voice and write the songs she needed to write. 

“I always wrote songs even as a kid,” she reflects. “It took me a while before I started putting together music and words. I really started doing that after I watched the Last Waltz, which is a music documentary about The Band. After that, I sat down at my dad’s piano, I was out in Arizona and I wrote my first song, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was the first time that I wrote a song complete, like music and lyrics from top to bottom.” 

After moving to Nashville, Tennessee, it took Hayford around six years to land her first cut and she still remembers that feeling. “My very first cut was by an artist named William Michael Morgan. It feels like you’re never gonna get anything, you’re in the grind. Nashville, and navigating the music business, is like a spiderweb. You’re trying to get to the middle, and you don’t really realise how far away you are from the middle until you realise the things that were going to be really big and life changing that didn’t quite materialise. They are still life-changing in some sense, because you’ve hit a milestone, you get a hold, you get a meeting, and you’re like, this is it! So when you finally get one that sticks, for me, it felt like an exhale, I felt like a real writer. There was one thing that you could put down at that point that was true and valid. I had accomplished something.” 

Since then Hayford has gone on to have several notable cuts including one of my favourite Steve Moakler songs ‘The Picture’ and Ashley McBryde’s ‘One Night Standards’ and her breakthrough single, ‘A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega’. The process for writing for other people and writing for Pillbox Patti was very different. “When you’re writing for another artist, it’s your job to navigate it in their voice. I always come from a place of truth as a songwriter, because better songs just happen that way, I think. Everybody tells the truth with their own voice in a different way. I always just try to navigate and kind of prompt a conversation that is going to lead to lyrics. Ashley and I are really good at that because we have lots of conversations, even when we’re not writing songs, so when we get into writing, that’s a real natural place for us to go. When it’s me, I’m not thinking about any of that. I’m just saying exactly what I would say in my own voice. You put more of your ego into it, when you’re writing for you, as a songwriter, it’s your job to make sure your ego is not present, because it doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t say it or sing it like that – it’s not your song.” 


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