“You always wanted me to write one”: Karley Scott Collins Discusses Her Heavy Metal Influenced EP, ‘Write One’

Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato
Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato
Karley Scott Collins talks about how she made ‘Write One,’ her love of metal and rock music, her book buying addiction, and why it’s important for women to be seen front and centre playing guitar.
Stream: ‘Write One’ – Karley Scott Collins

Write One (via Sony Music), the second EP from singer/songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Karley Scott Collins, is that exquisite effortless blend of country and rock music, all told through the lens of a twenty-something woman navigating love, life, and loss in the South and in the music industry.

Write One - Karley Scott Collins
Write One – Karley Scott Collins

The cover of Write One sees Collins standing with her back to you in cowboy boots, her profile visible with her eyes downcast, her snake black electric guitar facing towards the camera and her amp off to the side; the words of the album scrawled across the front. The photograph perfectly captures Collins and her musical journey. From Floridian heavy metal listener to country music musician and singer, all the clues are in that one frame.

Atwood Magazine sat down with Karley Collins on a sweltering morning in Nashville to talk about her new EP, a collection of stories that range from a big fuck you to an ex-boyfriend who demanded she write a song about him to an ode to her grandmother, and to a beautiful musical salve for a dear a friend.

It finally happened
Guitar in my hand
Inspiration hit like lightning,
middle of the night
And I hope you understand
Might not be what you expected
‘Cause it don’t rhyme with love
But I’m singing about you,
can’t say you weren’t my muse
And I hope that it’s enough for you.

Collins is a 2024 CMT Next Women of Country honoree, made her C2C debut this year as part of CMA’s Introducing Nashville international touring series, and the day after we speak, Collins will make her Grand Ole Opry debut with Nathan Chapman as her backing musician playing “How Do You Do That?” for the first time with Charles Kelley.

Collins grew up in Florida and was raised on Alice In Chains, Metallica, and Guns N’ Roses. Then as she grew older, she started listening to Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan. Her grandmother was a big country music fan and got Collins listening to George Jones and Willie Nelson. All those early influences can be found in Collins’ recent releases and writing.

In 2023, she released her debut EP Hands on the Wheel, which spawned the single “Heavenly,” a love song about that pulls on the threads of country and rock.

You make all my demons want a halo
Make the devil in me wish he was an angel
Yeah you bring out the best in me
Yeah you make me feel heavenly

Sitting down with Karley Scott Collins at her home in Nashville, it doesn’t take long for me to realise that she is a true musician, in a constant state of evolution and wanting to learn from the best. The wall behind her is lined with vinyl covers of Joni Mitchell, the Altman Brothers, The Zombies and more. When we start talking guitars, she runs over and pulls out her favourite writing one – adorned with skulls on the wood.

Collins is a multi-instrumentalist who never shies away from playing guitar solos on stage or in the studio. For this EP, she specifically learned how to play bass so she could enact her vision. Collins co-produced Write One with Grammy Award Winning producer Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift, Mickey Guyton, Laci Kaye Booth, Keith Urban). All the instruments you hear on the record were played by either her or Chapman.

Collins tells me that Chapman is “one of the most talented people I know and he’s just good at everything.” The day after we speak, Collins will make her debut at the Grand Ole Opry playing “How Do You Do That?” with Charles Kelley. Collins was asked who she wanted to accompany her on stage. She told the Opry, “There’s nobody I want on stage more than him.”

Read our full interview below, and listen to Write One, out now!

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:: stream/purchase Write One here ::
:: connect with Karley Scott Collins here ::
Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato
Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato


Write One - Karley Scott Collins

Atwood Magazine: What music did you listen to growing up?

Kaley Scott Collins: My dad would play a tonne of Alice In Chains and Guns N’ Roses, and we would listen Metallica, and then I got a little bit older, and this is obviously a lot less rock, but I’d listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan and Tom Petty things like that. (Looking behind her) There’s probably some… see we’ve got The Altman Brothers, The Zombies and Joni Mitchell up there (on her wall).

What made you segue into country music?

Kaley Scott Collins: Florida is still the South. I grew up surrounded by a lot of country music and my Nana, she really loves country music, and she’s who I wrote my song “Marlboro Reds” about. She would play a tonne George Jones and Willie Nelson when I was growing up, and I think when I sat down to start writing songs, I didn’t think like ‘OK, I’m going to write this song and it has to sound like this, it’s got to be this genre.’ I just started writing and the way it came out seemed to fit the most with country music.

I saw in the liner notes that the title track, “Write One” was co-written with Heather Morgan, who I absolutely love and who I know also has a love of rock music. How did that co-write happen?

Kaley Scott Collins: Heather Morgan is one of my favourite co-writers in town but also probably one my favourite people. If you meet her, she just has she has like this kindness about her that is actually really rare to find in people, so I just I really appreciate about her she’s one of the people that you just you’re always going enjoy being around so shout out to her!

When we went into write that song, it was about an ex-boyfriend of mine who would ask me the whole time we were together, “When are you gonna write a song about me?” or “Was that song you just played me about me?” and that just makes you not want to ever write a song about them.

But we broke up and he wasn’t a very truthful person, so I took that to Heather and my friend Aaron Zuckerman who produced the demo for “Write One,” and I told them I want to write a song about him. I had this idea about how he used to always want me to write a song about him, but I want to write one that he wouldn’t like to hear.

That song it really came together super-fast but as far as the like the vibe of it goes… so I sing country music, but I was I was raised listening to a lot of rock music and that still is probably my favourite genre to listen to so that’s where that comes from.

I wanted to ask about your guitars, because you play guitar on all your songs, and they’re featured heavily with you when you play live. The cover of the EP has you holding an electric guitar, which is what grabbed my attention and wanted to listen to your music, as it’s so refreshing to see a woman playing electric guitar and it not hidden in the background.
I also wanted to ask your thoughts on the following: I don’t know why this is, but I feel like women when they start out in music, they play guitar on stage and then that kind of gets taken away. I don't know whether that's because as they become more successful, they have more money, so they can afford a band, so they don't need to play as much, or whether there's like a push aesthetically to have the artist front and centre without an instrument. Also, as we all know, girls aren’t encouraged to play instruments, it's always been the boys domain. I like to think it's changing; I hope it's changing.
When did you start learning guitar, is there a favourite one like you write with or you perform with?

Karley Scott Collins: I’ll grab this one real fast. This is the one I write on a lot, and I guess it leans into the edgy stuff because it’s got skulls all over it. [laughs]

It’s funny that you’re mentioning this whole thing about women not being encouraged to play guitar, because I just watched a documentary about Joan Jett last night and that was a lot of the conversation at the beginning of her career was people saying, ‘no girls can’t play guitar.’

My parents really encouraged me when I was growing up that if you have an interest in something you should do it. There was never that was ‘you’re too young to try this’ or ‘you can’t do this because only boys are allowed to do it,’ so when I had an interest in guitar, it was really fostered and nurtured. My parents bought me my first guitar and I was able to spend the time that I wanted to spend on learning it.

I’ve just always loved it, so I do make it a point to play some of the lead solos in my show and to play guitar on more songs than I don’t, because it’s just something that I really like. And like your saying, I don’t see that many women out there playing guitar and especially you know, playing it and playing lead, so it’s something that I feel sets me apart a little bit and it makes me want to lean into it more.

Do you play acoustic mostly or do you play electric or is it a mix?

Karley Scott Collins: When I started out, it was mostly acoustic because I didn’t have a band for a little while, but once I once I got my band, I split pretty evenly. It also depends on the song, but I play both probably 50/50 in my live show now.

It’s fun because on “Write One” for example, the title track, when Keith Urban laid down the solo, he put he put four overlapping guitar tracks on it, so it’s not just one guitar pass, and so you really can’t play that solo in one take live, so my guitar player and I will both play pieces of the guitar solo live. It’s very cool.

Coming back to the EP, how did Write One come about? How long did it take to write the first song to the last song? Was it a deliberate plan to write an EP?

Karley Scott Collins: I write five out of seven days of the week, every week for the most part. If I’m on the road, obviously, I have a little less time, but I write every chance I get.

I try not to go into any writing session thinking ‘this is what it has to be.’ I go in with ideas and I just I try to write whatever is on my heart to write that day because I find it’s hard for me to be creative when I put parameters on it. Like I have an EP and I need to fill a space with a love song, but I don’t feel like writing a love song that day, you know? I just feel like it never turns out well, so I just spend a lot of time writing in general.

Then knowing that the EP was coming up, I took the songs that I had already written and thought about which spaces I wanted to fill. The song I wrote first probably for this project was “Heavy Metal.” I think I probably wrote that song nine months ago maybe, so it’s been a long time coming.

That song stands out for me. The play on words is clever, and obviously a homage to your love of metal, and the chord progression is very repetitive and feels very heavy. Where did that song come from?

Karley Scott Collins: I had the title because of my interest in rock music, and I had it in my little my list of ideas. I just thought it would be a cool song title, but I didn’t know what it was going to be about for the longest time. I had it in my list for months, probably, and then a friend of mine was going through some struggles in in her marriage and she FaceTime’d me on a on a Wednesday night on her third glass of wine, which is the first line of the song, and I started thinking about my song ideas, because when I watch things that people close to me are going through it’s hard to watch people struggling.

My outlet has always been music and I started thinking about heavy metal as an idea and it being her wedding ring that was weighing her down. I brought it to my co-writers KK Johnson and Sam Backoff, I think it was the next day, and they were all excited about it, and that’s what the song became about.

She’s three wine glasses on a Wednesday
Thinking things she won’t say
She’ll talk herself down in the morning
Two warm bodies in a cold bed
Flowers that have been dead
He don’t even know that she’s mourning

What does your friend think about it?

Karley Scott Collins: You know, I’ve never told her but I’m sure she assumes.

My other favourite, to be honest I like all the songs on the EP, but my other favourite is “We Don’t Have That Anymore.”

Karley Scott Collins: That song will make me cry.

Do you do you write a lot from my personal experience or from little moments, like if someone says something and then it inspires you or from friends, or is it a big mix of all those things?

Karley Scott Collins: It’s a mixture.

That one is a personal experience for sure and that’s a super emotional song for me, but on that EP, it’s a big mixture of everything. “Heavy Metal” is about my friend, “Marlboro Reds” is about my grandmother, “Write One” and “We don’t Have That Anymore” is from my own life, but I also I read a lot. I love to read. Honestly, I probably I need someone to do an intervention because of the number of books I buy is unhealthy [laughs], but I read, and I make notes in the books and underline things. I’m always looking for song ideas when I read, so it comes from all those things.

One day everybody’s gonna wind up dead
Between a heartbreak and a hard place,
get pretty good at cheating death

I lose another lover and I just light up another
and it ain’t killed me yet, so

Good luck to the Marlboro Reds

What would you say has been the most like influential book or books that you have read that led to songs or books that you have just enjoyed?

Karley Scott Collins: Well, influential in my life and the choices I make, I read a lot of biographies about musicians I look up to because I think it’s helpful to just to read the paths of other people that have done what you’re doing.

As far as songwriting goes my favourite author of all time is Cormac McCarthy. He wrote a lot in the American West. He wrote the book that inspired that movie No Country for Old Men, but his writing is poetic, and he says a lot of things that are just like ‘Oh my God’! I never would have thought of that, but it you know it will inspire me to write in a more poetic way. He’s the only person I ever written actual fan mail to and sent it out, like handwritten letter. Sadly, he did pass away before he could respond.

Do you have a favourite track from the EP?

Karley Scott Collins: Honestly, my favourite one to play is “How Do You Do That?” the duet with Charles Kelly. I really like to play that song live, but I think my favourite song on the EP in general maybe is “Marlboro Reds “because that song just makes me smile because I think about my grandma, so I love that one.

The ‘pick me’ guy of “Write Me” does he know that it's about him?

Kaley Scott Collins: Oh God no! I haven’t spoken to him and forever.

I like the fact that he finally got his song, but there’s absolutely no clue as to who it’s about. It’s a nice middle finger to someone who kept asking “will you write a song about me?” I think it’s hilarious!
Are you working on a new EP or a longer project? Is there a reason why you’ve done EPs over full length records?

Karley Scott Collins: I’m working towards a longer project.

I wanted to be a little more established before I put out a full-length record. I’m still building a fanbase and getting myself out there. I think that’s kind of the thought behind doing EP’s, is continually releasing music and having something out to introduce myself to people.

I’m always excited when I write a song I love and I want to put it out people can hear it so it doesn’t it doesn’t bother me putting out music continuously, but at the same time even, I was raised on an album which has like a concept, a specific order behind it and there’s a storyline and this is how it’s set up so that people understand the story of the album. So that’s something I really appreciate. Being a reader, I appreciate a solid story that runs through something and that’s why I’m excited about doing a full project because I want to put that that thought behind it that it feels cohesive.

How did working with Nathan Chapman come about?

Karley Scott Collins: He was the first person I ever recorded with and was one of the first people I ever wrote with in town. I think it’s kind of similar to feeling, maybe you’re a little nervous to just commit to the first person you’ve ever dated, so I spent some time trying other things out, see what it’s like with this person or what it’s like with that person.

In the end, I just I really feel Nathan is one of the most talented people I’ve ever been in a room with. I feel like he can read my mind sometimes, so we came back together last year, and he produced “Hands on the Wheel” the title track on my first EP. Since then, we’ve been co-producing everything together since then. It’s an experience that I look forward to every time and we have so much fun in the studio and just can be so creative.

We don’t have studio musicians, it’s just he and I playing all the instruments on the record. I’m a very like a very detailed person so I want to hear only what the bass is playing only or only what the drums are playing and I want to dissect every little detail of it, and that’s what we do that when he and I produce together. It’s something I really like a lot.

Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato
Karley Scott Collins © Matthew Berinato

How did you end up co-producing as well?

Karley Scott Collins: I mean honestly it wasn’t even something that I went into it thinking about. I didn’t really do it intentionally. When we made “Hands on the Wheel, we did it together without planning on me being the co-producer, but we just worked on it together and he called me after, and he was like ‘I feel like you need to be listed as a co-producer because you put a lot of a lot of work into it.’ Nathan doesn’t have an ego at all, and he loves to like teach things and I love to learn things, and so I think we have a really good working relationship in that way.

When I see photos of him or if I read snippets of interview with him or about him, he always seems a bit very unassuming and doesn't have that kind of producer stature, and I get the impression he’s just a lover of music and so enthused by who he’s working with.

Karley Scott Collins: 100%. And it shows in what he does he is. He’s one of the most talented people I know and he’s just good at everything and is like family. He’s going play with me at the Grand Ole Opry with me tomorrow; he’s going to play acoustic guitar for me. When they asked me about who do you want to have as a backing musician, I was thinking there’s nobody I want on stage more than him.

— —

:: stream/purchase Write One here ::
:: connect with Karley Scott Collins here ::
“How Do You Do That” – Karley Scott Collins

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Write One - Karley Scott Collins

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? © Matthew Berinato

Write One

an EP by Karley Scott Collins

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