Hunter Hayes’ No. 1 Party Becomes a Family Affair

Co-Writers Luke Laird, Andrew Dorff Join Singer in Celebrating "Somebody's Heartbreak

If you’d taken away the wives, children, parents, siblings and assorted cousins of the three songwriters BMI honored Tuesday (Jan 25) in the capacious reception area of its Nashville headquarters, you’d have emptied half the room.

The occasion was an early afternoon party to celebrate the No. 1 success of Hunter Hayes“Somebody’s Heartbreak,” which Hayes co-wrote with Luke Laird and Andrew Dorff.

It topped Billboard’s country airplay chart in April and was Hayes second chart-topping success as both writer and recording artist. His first was “Wanted.”

Hayes and Laird’s kinfolks were sprinkled throughout the audience. Dorff’s father, the hit songwriter Steve Dorff, stood near the stage, drinking it all in.

BMI’s affable Clay Bradley emceed the proceedings. He told the crowd he’d first encountered the younger Dorff when the singer-songwriter was signed as a recording artist to Lost Highway Records.

“His music was insightful and full of great songs,” Bradley declared. He added that Dorff’s songs have since been recorded by Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Billy Currington, among others.

As is customary for its writers who score their first No. 1 single, BMI awarded Dorff a monogrammed acoustic guitar.

Bradley went on to observe that “Somebody’s Heartbreak” was Laird’s 13th No. 1 — an achievement spread out across albums by eight different artists.

Calling Hayes “always poised and professional” and complimenting him for “always making the audience feel comfortable,” Bradley also pointed out that the 21-year-old wunderkind played all the 31 instruments heard on his Atlantic Records debut album.

He also noted that Hayes will launch his first tour as a headliner later this year.

John Esposito, president and CEO of Warner Music Nashville (the corporate parent of Atlantic Records), said Encore, the expanded edition of the original Hunter Hayes album, has sold 850,000 copies.

“By the time he goes on his first headlining tour,” Esposito continued, “Hunter will have a platinum record.”

Hayes’ individual tracks have sold 6 million copies, he said.

Dann Huff, Hayes co-producer, stepped forward to add his praise.

“Usually, this is the time I thank all the musicians who’ve played on the record,” he said. Then, with a grin, he turned to Hayes and said, “Thank you, Hunter.”

“Rarely do we see a talent like this,” Huff added. “He’s as good in his heart as he is a musician.”

Steve Dorff — whose country hits include Eddie Rabbitt’s “Every Which Way but Loose,” Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years,” Anne Murray’s “I Just Fall in Love Again” and George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart” — came to the stage to congratulate his son and present him with a plaque that bore copies of the charts for both his and his son’s first No. 1 song.

“I thank you, Dad, for paving the way for me,” Dorff responded. Noting his mother had died five years ago, he said, “I hope she’s looking down today and feeling proud.”

Laird thanked BMI for holding the party and for “not doing it outside” in the stifling afternoon heat. In earlier No. 1 parties for Laird, the celebrations have taken place on BMI’s sun-scorched sixth-floor balcony.

Laird also saluted his pregnant wife who stood watching a considerable distance from the stage.

Hayes seemed overwhelmed by the adulation he was generating both musically and personally.

“If you look at the [many] people we work with on a daily basis, it’s amazing we get along as well as we do,” he said.

“The most fun we have [writing songs],” he observed, “is when we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

With him and his team, he said, “It’s not about an agenda. It’s not about a strategy. It’s about making music.”

Then it was time for pictures and a last trip to the bar.

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