After celebrating his 14th No. 1 prize as a songwriter Monday (Dec. 2) and seeing his son, Thomas Rhett, score two chart-topper awards the same day, Akins returned to the winner’s circle to haul away yet another No. 1 songwriting trophy.
This one was for “Hey Girl,” the Currington hit Akins co-wrote with Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano.
All three composers and Currington were spotlighted Tuesday afternoon at the Country Music Association building in Nashville in a ceremony co-sponsored by the performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI.
Akins is a member of BMI. Gorley, DeStefano and Currington are affiliated with ASCAP.
ASCAP’s LeAnn Phelan and BMI’s Leslie Roberts jointly hosted the event.
“Ashley is basically the perfect songwriter,” Phelan told the crowd, citing both his work habits and his professional approach to his craft.
“Hey Girl,” Phelan said, was DeStefano’s third No. 1 and Currington’s eighth as a recording artist.
Phelan also announced that Currington will headline a tour this coming spring with Brett Eldredge and Chase Rice as supporting acts.
Summoning Currington’s producer Dann Huff to the stage, Phelan pointed out that “Hey Girl” is Huff’s 37th hit as a producer and that Billboard magazine had earlier proclaimed him its Country Producer of the Decade.
Roberts toasted Akins by reading him congratulatory notes from his son, Thomas Rhett, and daughter, Kasey.
Of his dad, Rhett wrote, “I admire his work ethic. The fact that he bounced back from a tough time five or six years ago — put his mind to songwriting and became the best — is a story I tell everyone. For a guy that doesn’t have a shortage of hits, he’s still in the writing room five days a week — and then he has to save his good titles to bring on the road for me on the weekends!”
While said as a joke, Rhett’s last remark had a grain of truth in it. His first No. 1 song as an artist — and the one he and his dad won awards for Monday — was “It Goes Like This,” which his dad co-wrote. Rhett also won his own songwriting award that day for co-writing the Florida Georgia Line hit “Round Here.”
Kasey took a more personal approach, saying, “My favorite thing about my dad is his personality and his mindset. His extremely strange mind is what helps him write all of these No. 1 songs. He’s quick and witty and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He’s a bad-ass, and he knows it.”
Akins told the celebrants that “Hey Girl” was the first song he ever co-wrote with Gorley and DeStefano and that he wondered initially if DeStafano, who has roots in the Los Angeles music scene, might try to steer the song in a pop direction.
He needn’t have worried. “Hey Girl” emerged as pure barroom come-on. Akins joked that after his co-writers told him they were writing a song with that title, he had to resort to Google to find the authentic bar patter.
He recalled meeting fellow Georgian Currington soon after Currington arrived in Nashville in “this big old jacked-up truck.” The newcomer, he said, asked him for advice about breaking into the music business.
Looking straight at Currington, Akins beamed, “The only advice I have [now] is to keep cutting our songs.”
DeStefano thanked his parents, who stood in the audience. He announced he got engaged in October and will be marrying his fiancée on Jan. 9.
To Currington, he said, “I was blown away the first time I heard you sing [’Hey Girl’], and it still blows me away when I hear it on the radio.”
Gorley said he was pleased the way most of his songs sound on record, but added, “This one took it up a notch.”
He also praised the sense of community that prevails on Music Row.
“This town’s a little high school — which I love,” Gorley said.