Colleen, who recently released her new songs "Best Friend" and "The Road You Take" following a battle with COVID-19, says it was folk singer James Taylor, a favorite of her father's, who helped open her eyes to the possibilities of songwriting.
"There was not a lot of country music in my house growing up. I feel like everyone expects the opposite...But dad didn't listen to country music," Colleen says. "He only listened to like Seal and Queen and KISS and Journey. If it was country, it was Randy Travis or James Taylor. And I remember hearing James Taylor songs and thinking, 'This isn't a song. This is just a story.'"
But it was an artist closer to her own age who Colleen most appreciated for her storytelling: Taylor Swift. Swift's self-titled debut album, featuring her breakout hit "Tim McGraw" and "Teardrops on My Guitar," was a revelation to Colleen.
"There's no songwriter that's ever grabbed me like Taylor Swift did. I was in that age -- in that generation of kids that was just finally noticing boys at the time that she was writing songs about them. And I just felt like every single one of those was about me. Like when 'Teardrops On My Guitar' came out, I was in love with this kid named Andrew and I was like, 'This is my life!' Colleen says, laughing. "So to have her take all these things that she personally lived and put them out and be brave enough for everyone to say, 'Hey, there's a different guy's name in every one of your songs' -- Who cares? To do that and to be brave enough to do it as a woman and a young woman -- as a kid, I just clung to her. I thought she was amazing. I still think she is."
Colleen says Swift's songwriting made her feel connected to the lyric-driven story songs she grew up hearing.
"Taylor's songwriting really grabs me because it was the first time that I was hearing new, fresh music that sounded like what all my friends were listening to, but it still told stories like Randy Travis did and like James Taylor did," Colleen says. "She was a huge light to my songwriting."
Colleen says she understands the value of sharing life experiences in song.
"My dad always told me that you never tell somebody whether a song is true," Colleen says. "But I have found that there is nothing more powerful than saying that my songs are true -- saying that someone has lived this and this is what it's about...I always tell them that they're true stories, but I won't always tell them if I lived them or if my best friend lived them."
The "Work in Progress" singer says her vulnerable, true-to-life songs have helped her connect with fans.
"It's just opened up conversations for a lot of women to have with me and a lot of people to have with me that they wouldn't have had if they didn't have that trust," Colleen says. "I think songwriting -- as long as it comes from a place of love and a place of vulnerability and a place of honestness -- I think that it always has room to be more than it is."