Brass monkeys were wincing all over town late Monday afternoon (Feb. 2) as guests scurried through the subfreezing gloom and into the warm embrace of Nashville’s Pour House saloon.
They were there to honor the writers of Brantley Gilbert’s chart-topping drinking song, “Bottoms Up,” which Gilbert co-wrote with Brett James and Justin Weaver.
The celebration was sponsored by the performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP.
BMI’s Bradley Collins told the crowd Gilbert’s singles have racked up more than 5 million airplay performances. “Bottoms Up” alone is nearing the 1 million mark, he said.
Speaking for ASCAP, LeAnn Phelan announced “Bottoms Up” is Weaver’s first No. 1 and James’ 21st.
She praised Weaver for his perseverance, explaining that he started his musical career at age 14 playing country music in an Italian restaurant in Georgia. One of his friends and fellow toilers at the time, she added, was Jason Aldean.
Weaver moved to Nashville when he was 24, Phelan said, and met with 67 music publishers over a period of nine months before he found one who would sign him as a songwriter.
Phelan pointed out both he and James have songs on Meghan Trainor’s new album, Title. (Weaver’s is “Like I’m Gonna Lose You; James’ is “No Good For You.”) She also spotlighted Gilbert’s producer, Dann Huff, noting “Bottoms Up” is his 41st No. 1.
George Briner, vice president of promotion at the Valory Music Co., Gilbert’s label, presented the singer with a plaque denoting that “Bottoms Up” has sold 1 million copies. But he said the sales total has since risen to 2 million.
Reading notes from his phone, his voice cracking, Weaver declared, “I told you guys I’m gonna cry” — and soon he was doing just that.
He spoke of the emotional ordeal of “pulling up and coming here” to Nashville where he had no family connections and of the loneliness that entailed. He cited several people who had been brusque in their criticism of his work but who were ultimately helpful to making him a better and more effective songwriter.
Summing up his feelings at finally being recognized for his music, he said, “Doing this (celebrating) is awesome, and it’s awesome to share it with friends and family.”
Gilbert told the celebrants he was almost happier for Weaver than for himself and acknowledged many people had nourished his own career.
“When I came here, I was anti-Nashville,” he admitted, “but through the years (I’ve found that) country music is a big family.”
He reminded his well-wishers that while he had quit drinking three years ago, he had still downed enough alcohol for “five lifetimes” and thus retained his honky-tonk credentials.
“I’ve got my ‘I-Can-Write-Drinking-Songs’ card,” he proclaimed.
The plaques he held confirmed that point.