Little Big Town, “Pontoon” Songwriters Celebrate a No. 1

For Co-Writer Luke Laird, It's His 10th Song to Top the Charts

It couldn’t have been more fitting that the hottest country song of the summer would be celebrated on the last day of summer.

That song, of course, is Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” co-written by Luke Laird, Natalie Hemby and Barry Dean. It was saluted with great fanfare by the Music Row gentry Friday (Sept. 21) at BMI’s Nashville headquarters.

“Pontoon,” which topped the Billboard country songs chart two weeks ago, was Little Big Town’s first No. 1. A week later, the group’s Tornado debuted at No. 1 on the country albums rankings.

Guests arriving for the 5 p.m. festivities strolled past a mammoth Manitou pontoon boat squatting on a trailer parked directly in front of the BMI entrance.

The celebration was held on the spacious sixth-floor balcony, where cool afternoon breezes fluttered the three flags on their tall standards.

On one side of the balcony, a bar served wine, beer and frozen margaritas. On the other, a long, serape-draped table was lined with Mexican food.

The members of Little Big Town — Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook — came early enough to mingle with the well-wishers who surrounded the stage where the honors were to be handed out.

BMI’s Jody Williams began the formal part of the program by praising the songwriters, all of whom are BMI affiliates, as are the member of Little Big Town.

Williams cited Hemby as “one of Nashville’s coolest musical treasures” whose “view of the world [as expressed in her songs] is fresh and real.” He noted that “Pontoon” is Hemby’s second No. 1 single, the first having been Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar.”

“For Luke Laird, it’s all about the party and the spotlight,” Williams said in mock despair. “His Bentley is parked around the corner, and his fragrance will debut during country music week.”

The quiet, self-effacing Laird looked surprised and slightly pained as Williams continued.

“Actually, none of this is true. I made it all up. He really is this humble, soft-spoken songwriter.”

Obviously, Laird has let his songs speak for him since, as Williams pointed out, “Pontoon” is his 10th No. 1.

“He’s almost depleted BMI’s party budget for the year,” Williams joked.

It was Dean’s first No. 1, Williams announced, but not likely to be his last since he has cuts on albums by Carrie Underwood, Alison Krauss, Jason Aldean and Martina McBride since moving to Nashville in 2005.

As is BMI practice for writers earning their first No. 1, Williams awarded Dean a specially monogrammed acoustic guitar.

Williams then turned to Little Big Town, standing behind him on the stage. He reminded the crowd that Fairchild, Schlapman, Sweet and Westbrook are formidable songwriters as well as singers. They jointly wrote the group’s two biggest hits — “Boondocks” and “Little White Church” — before “Pontoon” took them to the top.

“They’ve been together 13 years and on three different labels [Mercury, Monument, Equity] before signing to Capitol,” Williams enumerated.

Moreover, he added, the group is up for three CMA awards this year: vocal group, single and music video.

“They never copied a fad,” Williams concluded. “Their sound is theirs.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to