Claire Carruthers: Turning Phrases & Twisting Words

written by Autumn Marie Buysse

While there are pure writers who eventually launch their own artist projects, like Emily Weisband and ​HARDY, there are numerous pure writers who happily spend their entire careers concocting hits behind the scenes. One of these geniuses behind the curtain is Claire Carruthers, an exceedingly kind and creative ​Song Suffragette with cuts like ​Jillian Steele​’s ​“Ex in the City,” “New Orleans,”​ and ​“Home With Me,”​ and ​Kiera Stella’s ​“Good Spirits.” You’ll notice throughout her cuts that she consistently turns phrases, twists words, and sneaks in as many internal rhymes as musically possible. I think it’s important to recognize the brains behind one liners, so I called Claire over Zoom and spent an hour and a half trying to figure out how she’s become the clever lyricist she is.

This San Francisco native started writing songs in high school, hiding lyrics in a notebook under her bed. Claire isn’t a songwriter because she can’t be an artist— she has a stunning voice— but when asked, she said “I think I always knew that I just wanted to be a writer.” Artists have a million things to focus on, from recording to branding, touring to merch, from Tik Tok to mental breakdowns. However when Claire’s in the room, all she’s focused on is the song. “I think the best part about being a pure writer is that I get to just focus on writing. I don’t have to be like ‘this isn’t something I would say,’ ‘cause everything is something I would say. I don’t have some sparkling clean reputation, you know. I can say whatever I want, and other people have to tell it to the world.”

In her senior year of high school, she was watching ​The Bachelor​ when a small envelope from Belmont arrived in her mailbox. What she thought was surely going to be a rejection letter ended up being a ticket to Belmont’s songwriting program.

Claire didn’t start co-writing until her songwriting classes kicked in during her sophomore year at Belmont. Once she started integrating into the Nashville music community, she quickly learned that “what makes the Nashville community so strong is that everyone feels like an equal.” Claire’s notorious for her humility— she’s someone who’s always grateful to simply be in the room, especially when she’s working with writers who are better than she is and challenge her to get even better. “You should never have an ego; you could be Celine Dion, don’t have an ego. At that point, you can know you have clout, but don’t be a bitch about it.” She loves how eclectic Nashville is and how all the transplants have created their own melting pot. “In Nashville, everybody’s starting fresh for themselves, they make their own name.”

When it comes to pop, Claire never wants to compromise a lyric since pop lyrics are notoriously dull. Claire looks up to pop and country songwriters like ​Nicole Gallyon, ​Meghan Trainor, and Emily Warren, and commends artists like ​Julia Michaels​ and ​JP Saxe​ who have made it more mainstream to write lyrics that are just as incredible as the melody. To Claire, a great song has unique lyrics, multiple great musical hooks, and a killer lyrical hook at the end of the chorus. A great chorus “needs to land perfectly on the hook line, and the hook line can’t be too long.” You need to find “a universal, memorable thing that people want to scream at the top of their lungs.”

“Weird lyrics excite me the most,” which is why Claire commends JP Saxe’s writing style. “I need lyrics that don’t fit into any sort of mold but their own, and he is that.” Claire urges writers to “use weird lyrics, use lyrics that might not make sense . . . some sentences are stupid until they’re in a song.”

One of Claire’s greatest strengths as a writer is finding fresh ways to communicate common expressions. Claire admits that she pretty much just writes about “booze and boys,” so she tries to find new ways to say things that have been said a million times. For example, she was writing a song with her best friend Jillian Steele, and instead of writing “I’m walking on eggshells,” she wrote “eggshells are cutting up my feet.” She often comes up with these ideas by trying to show instead of tell, and then trying to show in a way that’s unique.

This pop and country songwriter isn’t just trying to write great songs— she’s trying to express ideas in a way they’ve never been communicated before. Claire is truly an innovator, and if you’d like to stalk her as often as I do, you can follow her on Instagram at ​@go_shmoe.