The awards were a long time coming, but Billy Currington finally got an armload of them Thursday (June 21) at a party his record label, Universal Music Group Nashville, threw in his honor at a trendy Music City watering hole.
Label chief Luke Lewis presented Currington the big prize — a platinum album for Doin’ Somethin’ Right, the 2005 collection Carson Chamberlain produced for Mercury Nashville. That album most recently yielded Currington the No. 1 single, “Good Directions.” (A platinum designation means that 1 million albums have been shipped to record stores.)
Ben Kline, another UMG Nashville executive, gifted the singer with a platinum digital single plaque and a Mastertone Gold (ringtone sales) trophy for the song “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right.”
Unlike stars who’ve grown accustomed to such presentations, Currington seemed genuinely moved by all the recognition. “What a great experience!” he beamed. “What a great thing!”
The Georgia native recounted that he spent eight years in Nashville recording demos before he got his first break. Even so, he continued, “I have had the best time being here. I’m proud to be here. It’s so hard to get a [recording] deal.”
Recalling the tepid sales of his first album, Billy Currington, he said, “Everybody can’t have a gold album … but it does break your heart.”
He acknowledged that he had to be talked — indeed harassed — into recording “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” because didn’t want to become known simply as a singer of love songs. The song’s chief advocate, he said, was Brian Wright, UMG Nashville’s vice president of A&R. Ultimately, Wright prevailed. Currington wound up with what has become his signature song.
“[Wright] called me up,” Currington told the partygoers, “and said, ‘Do you realize how many panties have been thrown on stage because of that song?’” He thanked the writers, Jason Matthews and Marty Dodson, for “the most special song I’ve been given in this town.”
Before he signed with UMG, Currington said he had a six-month development deal with RCA Records. Although he expected great things from that first affiliation, he admitted he “screwed up” a showcase for the label and was summarily dropped.
At the time, Currington was sharing quarters with fellow songwriter Frank Dycus (“Unwound,” “Marina Del Rey”), and the two were heating their house by “burning hickory wood all day long.” He said Dycus gave him a piece of the wood and advised him to carve something.
Over the next year, Currington whittled out a pipe on which he inscribed the date “March 26, 20001.” (Some have joked that the extra zero suggests he was also smoking the pipe.) A month after he completed the project, he got his deal with UMG.
“It’s a long way from this pipe to a platinum party, I can tell you that,” Currington observed.