Music Row Honors Co-Writers of Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey”

Band Members Join in Celebration of Sweet Success

The consumption of large amounts of honey can cause euphoria.

That medical fact was demonstrated Monday evening (May 17) when Lady Antebellum’s friends, fans and functionaries packed the third floor of Nashville’s Bound’ry restaurant to honor the writers and co-producer of “American Honey,” a two-week No. 1 song for Lady A and the trio’s third consecutive chart-topper.

Spotlighted were songwriters Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens, along with Paul Worley, who co-produced the track with Lady Antebellum.

Lady A’s Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott arrived early to amp up the festivities. Now touring with Tim McGraw, they had remained in Nashville from the night before when they sang at a flood-relief concert.

Generating almost as much attention as the stars was a 15-inch high cake that sat on its own table near the buffet bar. The cake was shaped like a Mason jar, complete with a screw-on lid, and colored a honeyed gold. A brightly hued bee sat on top the “jar” beside an American flag.

The confection, which took 25 hours to make, was crafted by Shane Stevens’ cousin, Lorie Burcham, the proprietor of a bakery called Crumb de la Crumb. Dozens of partiers who passed by the sugary confection stopped to photograph it with their cell phones.

The performance rights societies ASCAP, BMI and SESAC jointly sponsored the celebration.

By way of background, BMI’s Clay Bradley told the crowd the three songwriters were travelling to Gatlinburg, Tenn., for a writing session when they stopped at a liquor store and spotted a bottle of liqueur labeled “American Honey.”

That was sufficient inspiration, he said. “By the time they finished writing the song, they knew it would be perfect for Lady Antebellum.” Instead of recording a slick demo, the writers simply did a rough version called a “work tape” and sent it to Worley, who was already in the studio recording the group.

“American Honey” is Lindsey’s seventh No. 1, ASCAP’s Mike Sistad reported. He also pointed out she had won a Grammy for co-writing Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

Since ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, the song’s publishers, the Country Music Association, Country Radio Broadcasters and Capitol Records (Lady A’s label) all passed out multiple awards, that part of the ceremony alone took more than half an hour to complete. At times, it came close to losing the audience’s attention.

During the awarding, Bradley broke out a bottle of American Honey liqueur and passed it to Kelley, who, in turn, poured shots for the honorees standing beside him. He then held up his own glass in a toast to the crowd.

“Shane Stevens and I met when he was washing my hair in 1997,” Lindsey explained, referring to the former hairdresser who’s now a hit songwriter. “He said, ’Honey, what have you done with your roots?’ And he still asks me that.” Addressing her fellow composers, she added, “The three of us together — I really do feel it’s pretty magical.”

Speaking for Lady Antebellum, Scott said, “I loved the [honey] metaphor and how artistically perfect it was.”
Barlowe said of his co-writing experience with Lindsey and Stevens, “I never had as much fun making music in my entire life. … I’ve got to thank Wild Turkey [the distiller of the American Honey brand], because if there was no Wild Turkey, there’d be no ’American Honey.'”

Stevens, who seemed genuinely moved by all the praise directed at him, periodically lapsed into tears as he spoke to the crowd. “It’s something I prayed for and asked for because I knew I had music in me,” he said. “Hillary [Lindsey] is my family. She’s my sister. She’s my safe place. I trust her with everything.”

He said “American Honey” was the last song his grandmother heard before she died, and he dedicated his awards to his father, “who liked to drink Wild Turkey, bowl and fall down” and who was now “in Heaven.”

Stevens saluted by name a host of relatives standing in the crowd and reserved special commendation for his cake-making cousin.

“She will be taking over Nashville,” he proclaimed. “Get your picture taken with her.”

View photos from the No. 1 party.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to