Hailey Whitters isn’t just an accomplished songwriter who has crafted songs that were recorded by country stars like Alan Jackson (“The Older I Get”), Martina McBride (“The Real Thing”), and Little Big Town (“Happy People”), she’s also one heck of a musician in her own right. The up-and-coming artist turned heads last year with The Dream, her acclaimed album that struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. She followed it up last month with, Living The Dream, a deluxe album that features collaborations with Trisha Yearwood, Jordan Davis, and Little Big Town.

Before she was releasing excellent albums and writing songs that landed on the charts, Whitters was living in the small Iowa town of Shueyville and performing at sports bars, a Chinese restaurant, and anywhere else she was allowed to play. Recently, My First Band host Tyler Maas spoke to Whitters about her breakout album, this year’s deluxe release, the ins and outs of professional songwriting, and significant moments from her accomplished career. Over the course of the conversation, Whitters talked about a life-changing trip to Nashville as a teen, early struggles and successes, and how she came dangerously close to moving back to Iowa before putting everything she had into recording The Dream.

My First Band is sponsored by Mystery Room Mastering and Lakefront Brewery. The show is edited by Jared Blohm. You can listen to My First Band on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and wherever else you get podcasts. You can also listen to rebroadcasts of previous My First Band episodes on WMSE every Wednesday from noon to 12:30 p.m. CST. Music used in this episode comes courtesy of Devils Teeth (“The Junction Street Eight Tigers”) and Hailey Whitters (“The Ride”).