Greylan James: 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter

by Jim Casey

East Tennessee native Greylan James has been making a name for himself as a singer/songwriter/guitarist since moving to Music City in 2014. The Season 4 Voice alum signed a publishing deal with Nashville’s Universal Music Group in 2018. Greylan’s songwriting catalog includes cuts by Kenny Chesney (“Happy Does”), Chris Young (“If That Ain’t God”), Chris Janson featuring Blake Shelton (“Real Friends”), and Cole Swindell (“How Is She”), among others.

Greylan will release his debut EP, I Hope She Hears These, on Aug. 12 (pre-save here). Not only did Greylan self-produce the five-song offering, but also he played every instrument on the album, including lead single, “Anything Cold.”

Ahead of the release of I Hope She Hears These, Greylan James sat down with Outsider to talk about the 5 Songs That Shaped the Songwriter.

1. ‘Young’ – Kenny Chesney (written by Craig Wiseman, Naoise Sheridan, Steve McEwan)

Greylan James: When I was five years old, “Young” was the first song I ever learned to sing. For my sixth birthday, my parents took me to a studio and I got to record me singing it. Best present ever. My parents still have that CD too! Fast forward to when I’m 23 and living in Nashville, I got to write with Craig Wiseman and tell him that story. Full circle.

2. ‘Good Hearted Woman’ – Waylon Jennings (written by Jennings, Willie Nelson)

Greylan James: My Papaw was a huge Waylon fan. He would pick my little brother and I up from elementary school in his Dodge Ram. And Waylon Jennings’ Greatest Hits album was playing every time. Every time I hear this song, I think of my Papaw and how he raised me on music that would inspire me forever.

3. ‘The Way I Talk’ – Morgan Wallen (written by Jessi Alexander, Ben Hayslip, Chase McGill)

Greylan James: Growing up in East Tennessee—and right down the road from Morgan Wallen—I couldn’t have been more excited about this song the first time I heard it. I was proud and pumped hearing a fellow East Tennessean on the radio, but also blown away by how good this song was. The lyrics are so clever and the melodies are insanely good. 

4. ‘Boys of Summer’ – Don Henley (written by Henley, Mike Campbell)

Greylan James: My mom and dad were huge fans of the Eagles. So I heard this song a lot growing up. And I remember reading through the lyrics right around the time I really started writing songs, and being mesmerized by the intricacy of each line. I always listen and get chills. This song absolutely made me want to get details in my songs as cool as “I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac.”

5. ‘Turning Home’ – David Nail (written by Kenny Chesney, Scooter Carusoe)

Greylan James: I came across this song around the first week or two after moving to Nashville. Kenny Chesney co-wrote this song so I automatically loved it. I can’t listen to this song without getting emotional. Being someone that moved away from his hometown, I find myself missing everything about it more and more every day. This song changed how I approach writing. Every day since hearing it, I try to make someone feel something close to what I feel hearing “Turning Home.”