Party Honors Writers of Sara Evans’ “A Little Bit Stronger”

Song Inspired by Hillary Scott's Heartbreak

Taylor Swift isn’t the only songwriter who can turn a heartache into a hit.

ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, the performance rights organizations, threw a party Wednesday (May 25) at Nashville’s trendy Cabana restaurant to celebrate the writers of Sara Evans’ latest hit, “A Little Bit Stronger.” The song, co-written by Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, was inspired by a shattered love affair Scott suffered through.

“I personally would like to thank that dumb boy who broke your heart,” Lindsey told Scott as the three writers stood side by side onstage with Evans to accept a torrent of plaques and certificates.

Scott is a SESAC writer, Lindsey is with ASCAP and Laird with BMI.

Tan and standing tall in six-inch heels, Evans gloried in the song that brought her back to the top of the charts after her career hit a long dry spell during which she divorced, remarried and started a new family.

“The first time I heard it,” she remembered, “I called [manager] Clarence [Spalding] and said, ’I just know it’s a hit.'”

She was especially thankful to Lindsey, noting that she hasn’t recorded an album since 2000’s Born to Fly that didn’t include one of Lindsey’s songs on it.

“The next time you get together,” she told the writers, “you better call me. To write.”

Because she had been away from the recording arena so long, Evans explained, “I knew that every single song in this album had to be top notch.”

She thanked Spalding for helping her “get back on my feet” and reserved special praise for her husband, Jay Barker, whom she married in 2008.

She told the celebrants Barker vowed he would support her in any endeavor she chose, whether it was trying to be an actress or quitting the music business altogether.

“As an artist, she’s as strong as she’s ever been,” BMI’s Jody Williams told the packed room. He noted that this was Evans’ fifth No. 1 single.

It was Laird’s sixth No. 1, Williams said, four of which have been Carrie Underwood cuts.

Williams also brought Evans’ producer, Tony Brown, to the stage. “His influence on our genre is simply huge,” Williams declared, pointing out that Brown has produced more than 100 chart-toppers for a wide variety of artists.

Mike Sistad, who spoke for ASCAP, said Lindsey was a powerful songwriter from the outset, scoring eight cuts during her first year with a music publisher. She now has eight No. 1 singles to her credit, he said, and added, “She also happens to be one of the best singers in Nashville.”

Lindsey’s parents were at the party and simultaneously celebrating their 37th year of marriage. “Thank you for doing that thing I don’t like to think about you doing,” their grateful — if red-faced — daughter told them from the stage.

To her co-writers, she said, “You make writing fun.”

Laird’s parents, his wife and mother-in-law also attended.

“I see Hillary Scott’s family is here, too,” joked SESAC’s Tim Fink, as he acknowledged the presence of Scott’s Lady Antebellum bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood.

“Invite us to the writing session the next time,” Kelley shouted in response.

Fink pointed out that “A Little Bit Stronger” is the first No. 1 Scott has co-written for an act other than her own group.

Josh Van Valkenburg, the director of A&R for EMI Music, Scott’s publisher, applauded her for all the work she’s done on site and through fundraising to help victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

In recognition of her contributions, EMI announced it is making a donation in her name to Brent Gambrell Ministries, an organization involved in rebuilding that country.

Scott said Evans had been a big influence on her career. “I sat in my room and sang ’Suds in the Bucket’ and ’Born to Fly,’ ” she recalled, alluding to two of Evans’ biggest hits.

“This song is the most autobiographical song I’ve ever written,” she concluded, “and I want to thank Hillary and Luke for being my therapists.”

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