Country music would look much different without Ross Copperman. The ace songwriter has penned hits for the likes of Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley, and that's not all: This Nashville insider is a triple threat, with producing and singing talents that rival his songwriting chops.
Born in Roanoke, Va., on Oct. 1, 1982, Copperman actually got his start outside the world of country music. According to a 2015 interview in Songwriter Universe, he grew up as a rock fan who loved Radiohead and Led Zeppelin. He then signed a record deal -- as an artist -- with Sony Records UK, moved to London and began to work to launch a career as a touring singer-songwriter. Copperman even charted in the UK with his first major single, "All She Wrote," which broke the Top 30 in Scotland.
But life on the road wore on Copperman, and he decided to move to Nashville and focus on being a songwriter and producer. He began carving out his lane in Music City, and ultimately scored his first single when Thompson Square sent "Glass," a song he co-wrote with Jon Nite, to country radio.
That song peaked at No. 15 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in 2012, and from there, Copperman's career started taking off. He notched his first Top 5 hit as a songwriter with Dierks Bentley's "Tip It on Back."
To date, Copperman has earned more than two dozen No. 1 Billboard hits. In April of 2020, he hit No. 1 on the Billboard Songwriters chart thanks to four simultaneous Top 20 hits: Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani's "Nobody But You," Luke Bryan's "What She Wants Tonight," Brett Young's "Catch" and Kelsea Ballerini's Halsey duet, "The Other Girl."
In a relatively short amount of time, this talented songwriter and producer has risen through the ranks in Music City, and he's still got plenty of years ahead of him in his career. Read on as The Boot counts down our 10 favorite songs by Copperman:
Copperman wrote this tune with the two artists who perform it, as well as fellow country songwriting giant Shane McAnally.
Ballerini traces the origins of the song back to a time when she was opening for Keith Urban, and using her downtime on the road to write new music. She says she wanted the song to be a different kind of cheating song: one where the two women in a love triangle focus more on their similarities than their differences.
"There's so much music -- and I'm partially responsible for this -- but there's so much music in the world about cheating partners," Ballerini explains. "People wanna pin it on the other girl, or make it the other girl's fault, so it was cool for us to be coming together and being like, 'You know what? Forget him. We're not gonna hate each other.'"
This brooding, lovesick tune wasn't just a big hit for Copperman as a songwriter: It was life-changing for A Thousand Horses, as it was the band's debut single and their first-ever No. 1 hit on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. It was an especially big deal, since no country group had landed that top spot with their debut single since the Zac Brown Band did so in 2008. The song also became a chart-topping hit in Canada.
Copperman co-wrote this tune with fellow star songwriter Jon Nite.
A quartet of ace songwriters -- Copperman, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Tommy Lee James -- penned this Shelton/Stefani duet that, despite its seemingly perfect encapsulation of their relationship, almost wasn't a duet at all. Stefani was a last-minute addition to the song, producer Scott Hendricks reveals, but even before she sang on it, she was integral in getting the track into Shelton's hands.
“I was at The Voice compound, and Shane McAnally is on Songland, so they were there doing some cross-promotion. Shane came to my trailer and said, ‘Man, I got a song for you.' I knew he had Gwen’s number from a write, so I told him to send it to her as I was being called to set," Shelton remembers, adding that Hendricks also set it to him. "Then one day I was driving with Gwen, and I said, 'Hey let’s listen to that song from Shane, because Scott sent it to me too – it must be pretty incredible.'"
"Nobody But You" became a No. 1 country hit in late April -- Stefani's first time at the top of the country charts.
This song was a deeply personal one for Bentley: It was inspired by and named after his wife, Cassidy Black, who also co-stars in the music video for the track. It became an important piece of the singer's career, too, as only did it become a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, but it is also the title track of Bentley's 2016 studio album.
Copperman co-wrote this song with the artist, along with fellow songwriter Ashley Gorley. Gorley later said of the process that Bentley's talents as a writer helped elevate the experience for all three men.
"He knows what he's after, and we come alongside to help him get there," Gorley recalled. "It's an ideal situation for me and Ross, with somebody like Dierks, who's kind of a writer first."
Another recent addition to Copperman's songwriting portfolio is Runaway June's single "We Were Rich," a song that exemplifies his talents for writing vulnerable, nostalgic and vivid lyrics.
Though the three members of Runaway June are all talented writers, they didn't have a hand in penning this particular track; rather Copperman wrote it with Ashley Gorley and Nicolle Galyon. Still, the three artists who sing it agree that of all the songs on their Blue Roses album, this is the one that feels most like home. "When we heard it, it was like, 'I couldn't have said that any better myself if [I] tried," Naomi Cooke remembers of her first impressions of the song.
This song has also had an unusual life since its release in 2019. When they first released Blue Roses, Runaway June consisted of Cooke, Jennifer Wayne and Hannah Mulholland. But in 2020, Mulholland departed the band, and the remaining two Runaway June members enlisted solo artist and fiddler Natalie Stovall to take her place. In light of the new addition to the group, they re-released a version of "We Were Rich" as a single, spotlighting Stovall's vocal harmony and fiddle lines and shedding a brand-new light on their ballad.
By 2016, Copperman's reputation as a country hitmaker was beginning to precede him -- and this song is a perfect example. He wrote "Kinda Don't Care" with Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, and seeing familiar names was what made Justin Moore's ears perk up when he first heard about the song, because he'd already had good experiences writing songs with them in the past.
"Rhett and Ross and I in particular have written a lot of songs together and had hits together," Moore explained to The Boot in 2018. "So when I see their name[s] on a song, I definitely pay attention, because they're buddies, and we've had a lot of success together."
A great songwriter can pen lyrics that tap into the personal experiences of the artist singing them, even if that artist had nothing to do with writing the song. There's no more perfect example than "If I Told You," which Copperman wrote alongside Shane McAnally and Jon Nite.
The three writers began the day with a simple idea: They wanted to describe the moment that you reveal everything about yourself, good and bad, to the person you love, and hope they still want to be with you. It was a moment that all three of them could connect to, and fortunately for the songwriters, so could Rucker.
"[Darius] called Shane when he heard the song and said, 'Shane, I can't believe you wrote my life story. I wasn't even there to tell it. How did you know?'" Copperman remembers. "Literally every line, Darius relates to -- every line throughout."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that "If I Told You" also became a huge hit. The song topped out at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Copperman co-wrote "Get Along" with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, two other Nashville songwriters known for their knack for crafting hits. Their ode to feel-good altruism and focusing on the good life found a perfect match in Chesney, who released the song as the first single off of his 2018 studio album Songs for the Saints.
The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, but it's reach didn't stop there: "Get Along" also topped the country chart in Canada and was a Top 30 hit on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. It also quickly became a fan favorite, with Chesney choosing to perform the song at that year's ACM Awards.
"Love Someone" became a Top 5 hit for Eldredge, but it was perhaps just as important a song to Copperman: Not only did he co-write the track with singer-songwriter Heather Morgan, he also co-produced it, along with most of the rest of the album, with Eldredge.
It's far from the only song that Copperman has written with or for Eldredge: They share No. 1 hits with songs such as "Beat of the Music," "Drunk on Your Love" and "Lose My Mind." Over the years, the two have formed a bond that makes it even easier for them to write music together.
"We have this connection now that we've written together and [have] known each other a long time where we know what we're going to say before we say it a lot of the time," Eldredge explained of his relationship with Copperman at his No. 1 party for "Lose My Mind" (quote via Sounds Like Nashville).
And while it's just one of many successful songs that Eldredge and Copperman wrote together, "Love Someone" ranks No. 2 on this list because of its sheer positivity and irrepressibility -- traits that Copperman is particularly known for in the writer's room, according to Eldredge. Plus, the singer released an extra-adorable music video for the song starring his dog, Edgar.
Copperman has been a part of several of Urban's hits, including "Break on Me" and "Female," but arguably none are as iconic as the chart-topping, feel-good single "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16."
Urban scored major praise for this song after its release, as the music combined his genre-blending bent and love of stylistic experimentation with his traditional country roots. It was the first single off of Ripcord, setting the tone for what would become one of the singer's best-loved albums to date.
Copperman wrote "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, and he also contributed some of the backing vocals in the studio version of the track.