Frankie Ballard, “Helluva Life” Writers Celebrate No. 1 Hit

Award-Winning Rodney Clawson, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins Share Spotlight

Frankie Ballard and the songwriters of his first No. 1 single, “Helluva Life,” gathered with friends, family and business associates Monday afternoon (June 9) at Nashville’s Pour House bar to celebrate the achievement.

“I had a couple of songs that didn’t go No. 1,” Ballard told the crowd. “This feels a lot better. There’s no No. 33 parties.”

“Helluva Life” co-writers Rodney Clawson, Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins stood beside him, sharing the applause.

The event was jointly sponsored by the performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP. Ballard and Clawson are BMI writers. Kear and Tompkins are affiliated with ASCAP.

Clawson and Kear are the reigning songwriters of the year for BMI and ASCAP, respectively. Along with Tomkins, they co-wrote Luke Bryan’s megahit, “Drunk on You,” along with several other chart-toppers.

Alluding to the various No. 1 songwriting configurations Clawson, Kear and Tompkins have been part of, ASCAP’s Mike Sistad quipped, “This is very incestuous up here.”

Also honored were the producers of “Helluva Life,” Marshall Altman and Scott Hendricks.

Peter Strickland, vice president and general manager of Warner Bros. Nashville, Ballard’s label, presented the singer with a gold record, signifying the 500,000 digital sales of “Helluva Life.”

Nodding toward his co-writers, Tompkins joked, “I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than in a room with these guys watching them write the song.”

He pointed out that “Helluva Life” had been around for a while before Ballard recorded it. “This song needed a home — and we were like ’WTF?'”

Kear thanked Ballard for finally giving the song a home and making it a keystone of his career, an achievement, he said, that is always gratifying to a writer.

Clawson said that releasing one’s songs to a new and untested artist is “kind of a scary time” since writers never know what might happen to “our babies.”

“I hope to stand here as a [No. 1] songwriter someday,” Ballard said. He thanked the writers for giving their song to “a punk from Michigan.”

He said that when he first heard “Helluva Life,” he “just knew it was a special song,” one that reminded him of high school — “the girls who did me wrong and the girls who did me right.”

Ballard also expressed his appreciation to Altman for returning with him to the recording studio time after time to tinker with the song.

He said many of his fans have told him what “Helluva Life” meant to them personally. “It really mattered to a lot of people,” he said. “It felt like it was my song from Day 1.”

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