BMI honored the writers of “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” — Tracy Lawrence’s first No. 1 single in 11 years — with a party Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 7) at its Nashville headquarters. Spotlighted were composers Casey Beathard and Ed Hill.
“I’ve had a lot of No. 1′s over the years,” Lawrence told the crowd of well-wishers, “but I don’t think any has been as gratifying as this one.” Lawrence released the song on his own newly formed label, Rocky Comfort Records, after he found himself lost in the shuffle from a succession of major label mergers and closings. He noted that this is the fifth label he’s been on since 1999.
“Everyone rallied behind this song,” Lawrence continued. “I’m glad that we lived up to your expectations. We’ve lived through the fire, and there’s no way but up.”
Glancing over at a table filled with plaques, certificates and other trophies, Lawrence joked, “With all the No. 1 records I’ve had, I never had this much stuff. I’m going to have to build a kiosk.”
BMI’s Jody Williams praised Beathard and Hill for their long string of hits. Beathard’s credits include “Hot Mama,” “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” and “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo,” while Hill has scored with “Be My Baby Tonight,” “It Matters to Me” and “Songs About Me,” among others.
“I thank all of you. I thank America,” Hill said in accepting his awards. Said Beathard, with characteristic modesty, “I’m as good as the songwriter I’m sitting with — unless they’re extra good songwriters.”
Like Lawrence, Beathard was astounded by the number of awards bestowed on him, one of which was an acoustic guitar, BMI’s traditional gift to its writers of No. 1′s. “I can’t believe all this stuff,” he said. “I’m not going to let my kids see this. I might give it to them for Christmas.”
Williams read a letter from music publisher Lisa Ramsey that told of Lawrence’s generosity toward other performers who were on their way up. She recalled an incident in which he gave part of his stage show for a local charity to a young upstart named Kenny Chesney, even though the charity sponsors were less than enthusiastic about his zeal for a singer who was still unfamiliar to the public. Chesney and Tim McGraw, another artist Lawrence befriended, sing with him on the album version of “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.”
Williams told the crowd that when Lawrence lost his last major record contract, he took to lunch the publishers of the songs he had already chosen for this next album and asked them to let him keep his “hold” on the songs. He said he didn’t know what label he would put the songs out on — or when it would happen. But he promised to eventually record and release them. The publishers acquiesced, Williams continued, and the success of “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” is the first result of that trust.
“You’ve generated a lot of income for the people in this room,” Williams told Lawrence.