By now, you may have heard that Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) played a huge part in the making of “A Star is Born.” Actor-director Bradley Cooper first spotted him in 2016 at the Desert Trip festival in Indio, Calif., where Nelson was playing guitar for Neil Young. The two hit it off and Nelson eventually became a music director on the film, teaching Cooper how to act like a real rock star.
The film never explicitly states a genre for Cooper’s character, singer Jackson Maine, but “country rock” seems about right. While Nelson co-wrote and produced many songs for the film (his band appears in the film as Jackson’s band), several of Nashville’s most powerful voices also helped shape the soundtrack.
It’s no surprise that two of the movie’s most soaring ballads (both in the top 10 on iTunes on Friday) were co-writes between Gaga, who plays pop singer Ally, and writers known for introspective country songs. The haunting “Always Remember Us This Way,” in the teaser below, was written by Gaga, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Natalie Hemby.
Lindsey, who has written hits for Taylor Swift (“Fearless”) and Keith Urban (“Blue Ain’t Your Color”), is one of Carrie Underwood’s frequent collaborators, including on “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Cry Pretty.” McKenna, who just released a critically acclaimed album, has written ballads with Lindsey, including Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and “Sober”; in 2016, she was the solo writer on Tim McGraw’s smash “Humble and Kind.” Hemby is known for co-writing a ton of Miranda Lambert hits: “Automatic,” “White Liar,” “Only Prettier” and many more, along with tunes for Kacey Musgraves and Kelly Clarkson.
Gaga, Hemby and Lindsey collaborated again on the searing “I’ll Never Love Again,” along with Aaron Raitiere. No spoilers here, but it appears near the end of the movie in a very memorable way. Billboard ranked the performance as the No. 1 moment of the entire movie, writing, “Not only are the lyrics devastatingly beautiful, but Gaga/Ally showcases her full, skyscraper-high range.”
The Nashville-based Raitiere, who had several cuts on Lambert’s last album, is signed to Dave Cobb’s Low Country Sound publishing company. Cobb, also a music consultant on “A Star is Born,” is famous for producing powerhouses such as Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell.
Cobb also tapped Isbell for the project, as the Americana superstar wrote “Maybe It’s Time” – one of Jackson Maine’s biggest hits, the chill-inducing song that opens the trailer with Cooper on stage playing to thousands.
While many fans are focusing on “Shallow,” the song that became a viral sensation when Gaga belted it out in the trailer, these tracks also seem to be striking a chord with listeners. And again, it’s really not a coincidence how they all came together. According to Esquire, Cobb and Nelson hosted a “writing camp” with Cooper and Gaga in Los Angeles last year. Then, Cobb simply explained, “I called the best songwriters I know in Nashville.”