Nearly five years after his first No. 1 party, Steve Holy was back in the spotlight again Wednesday (Nov. 8) as friends helped him celebrate the chart-topping success of “Brand New Girlfriend.” Sharing the applause at BMI’s Nashville headquarters were the song’s co-writers, Jeffrey Steele, Shane Minor and Bart Allmand.
Speaking to reporters before the celebration started, Holy said he recorded “Brand New Girlfriend” around three years ago and lobbied two years for his label, Curb Records, to release the song as a single once he saw how much enthusiasm it ignited at his live shows.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that live [reaction] doesn’t translate into [heavy radio] airplay,” Holy said, alluding to his difficulty in convincing people at his label that the song would be a hit. “Three opinions on [what should be] a single are great,” he mused, “but 300,000 opinions should be listened to.”
Holy recalled he had some very mixed feelings back in 2001 as his “Good Morning Beautiful” approached the top of the charts. Standing between him and the No. 1 spot at the time was George Strait’s “Run.” And Strait was his idol. “I thought I was George Strait until I was 10 years old,” said the Dallas native.
When “Good Morning Beautiful” leapfrogged “Run” to land at No. 1, where it would stay for five weeks, Holy said, “I left a message for Erv Woolsey [Strait’s manager], thanking him for going easy on a fellow Texan.”
At the height of the party, BMI’s Jody Williams mounted the stage to introduce the three songwriters and present awards. He observed that Steele had had more than 200 of his songs recorded, 17 of which have earned more than 1 million airplays each. He also pointed out that the party coincided with Steele’s 26th wedding anniversary.
Williams told the crowd that Minor had been a bull rider, a Los Angeles cop and a recording artist before becoming a successful songwriter. Allmand, he continued, had worked in radio promotion for Monument Records during the time Steele recorded for that label. Williams described Holy as “absolutely one of the best singers in this town.”
After Williams handed out awards to the songwriters, publishers, Holy and producer Lee Thomas Miller, he relinquished the stage to Gary Overton, head of EMI Music Publishing’s Nashville division.
Overton presented framed certificates to each of the songwriters. He told them, however, there was a new company policy in place that required them to sign for anything they are given. Then he turned the certificates around to show them the “documents” they needed to sign. The one on the back of Minor’s certificate was titled “100 Years Co-Publishing Contract,” while Steele’s said “Unbelievable Publishing Deal.”
Miller, who has amassed formidable credits as a songwriter, told the crowd that this was his first No. 1 as a producer. He said he wanted to acknowledge two key figures in his success: mix engineer Billy Decker (’my ears on this record”) and bandleader and bass guitarist Steve Bryant.
Award-winning songwriter Craig Wiseman (“Live Like You Were Dying”) came up next to distribute gag awards on behalf of his publishing company, Big Loud Shirt Music. He gave Miller (“my Republican friend”) a pair of fur-lined handcuffs and presented Steele and Allmand each a small windmill. “Nothing says love,” Wiseman intoned, “like whatever’s 90 percent off on the Internet.”
Finally, the songwriters spoke. Minor expressed his admiration for Steele. “Every time I write with this guy,” he said, “it’s like I’m going to school.” Minor, who recorded for Mercury Records in the late ’90s, also noted he used to tour with Holy.
“For one day — and one day only,” Allmand proclaimed, “it’s good to be me.”
Reflecting on the writing session that produced “Brand New Girlfriend,” Steele said, “No more fun could be had in a room. I don’t even know how the song got written we were having so much fun.”
“Thanks for making me cool again,” Holy said.