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'Songland': Everything to Know About the Show's Judges

Shane McAnally, left, and Ester Dean, from the cast of "Songland," attend the NBC 2019/2020 Upfront at The Four Seasons New York on Monday, May 13, 2019. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Songland is unlike any other music TV show you've ever seen before. Instead of focusing on the next big singer, this NBC show lets aspiring songwriters perform for some of the biggest names in the music industry for the chance to have their songs recorded. 

Unlike The Voice or American Idol, each episode only features 4 different contestants. Each performs their song for the guest artist who narrows it down to 3 people who get paired with a Songland judge to perfect their song for the artist. The show has welcomed performers from every genre of music looking for the next great song including Meghan Trainor, Macklemore, Kelsea Ballerini, John Legend, the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum, Charlie Puth and Leona Lewis. 

We all enjoy hit songs when we hear them on the radio, but most of us probably don't consider what goes into the actual songwriting process. You get to see firsthand what it's like for three incredible songwriters and producers to work each episode and help aspiring writers tailor their songs to fit the guest artist's sound.

Songland season 2 is currently on the air, so there's plenty of time to catch up on Hulu. Here's a peek behind the curtain at three of the biggest songwriters in the music industry who just so happen to be the judges on Songland.

Shane McAnally

Songland Judges
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

McAnally is the country music guy of the three judges. He's worked with pretty much all the big names in the genre, including Kacey Musgraves, Lady Antebellum, Old Dominion, Kelsea Ballerini, Kenny Chesney, Sam Hunt, Keith Urban and more. 

McAnally moved to Nashville when he was 19 to pursue a singing career. He was signed by Curb Records and released one self-titled studio album before moving to Los Angeles. It was there that he started composing music for independent films before deciding to return to Nashville. Since 2007, he's been focused on writing for other artists as well as producing records. He won a Grammy Award for Best Country Song for co-writing Kacey Musgraves's "Space Cowboy" as well as the 2019 ACM Award for Songwriter of the Year.

Ester Dean

Songland Judges
Damairs Carter/MediaPunch/IPx

For those of you thinking "Wait is that the girl from the Pitch Perfect films?," it totally is. But she's also an incredibly sought after hip-hop songwriter and producer who's worked with some of the biggest names in pop and hip-hop like Rihanna, Usher, and Kelly Clarkson. And let's not forget she wrote Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" and Katy Perry's "Firework." Simply put, Dean knows how to make a hit song. 

The Oklahoma native drove out to Atlanta with $500 and the dream of breaking into the music biz. After landing a small publishing deal she was able to move out to LA where she proved her skills and got her big break. Her breakout came with Rihanna's "Rude Boy" and she's had a booming career ever since. Playing Cynthia Rose in "Pitch Perfect" gave her the chance to show off her own singing skills as well.

Ryan Tedder

Songland Judges
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

While Tedder is best known for being the lead singer of OneRepublic, he is also a skilled songwriter who's worked with the biggest names in pop music including Taylor Swift, Adele,  Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Ed Sheeran, Beyonce and more.

Tedder moved to Nashville with the dream of becoming a successful artist. He secured an internship with DreamWorks SKG and even landed a publishing deal, but he still wanted to perform. Soon after, he won an MTV competition to land a record deal with Lance Bass. Though that didn't come to fruition, he was able to move his way up. He hit it big with "Apologize," which he wrote for OneRepublic. He also co-wrote Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," which went on to be another massive hit. He's won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year three times as a producer for Adele's albums 21 and 25 and Taylor Swift's 1989.

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'Songland': Everything to Know About the Show's Judges