Frankie Ballard Celebrates No. 1 for “Sunshine & Whiskey”

Songwriters Luke Laird, Jaren Johnston in the Spotlight at Nashville Party

Sunshine was in short supply but whiskey flowed plentifully Tuesday afternoon (April 14) as a crowd gathered at Nashville’s City Winery to honor Luke Laird and Jaren Johnston, the writers of Frankie Ballard’s second No. 1 single, “Sunshine & Whiskey.”

The celebration was jointly sponsored by the performance rights organizations, ASCAP, with which Johnston is affiliated, and BMI, Laird’s home base.

BMI’s Clay Bradley described “Sunshine & Whiskey” as “one of the most unique songs on radio.”

He reminded the audience that Laird has just been selected as the Academy of Country Music’s songwriter of the year and that “Sunshine & Whiskey” is his 19th No. 1.

Bradley noted that beyond being a songwriter, Laird is also “a talent scout, a publisher and a producer.”

Evyn Mustoe, who is both Johnston’s ASCAP representative and wife, congratulated him on his fourth No. 1.

She pointed out he has twice been nominated for a Grammy award and currently has two songs in the Top 10 — Keith Urban and Eric Church’s “Raise ‘Em Up” and Billy Currington’s “Don’t It.”

Apart from writing songs, Johnston is also lead singer of the Cadillac Three.

Beth Laird, Luke Laird’s wife and partner in his Creative Nation publishing company, noted that of the 15 songs he and Johnston have co-written, eight have been recorded.

She presented whiskey racks to the two writers and Ballard.

John Esposito, head of Warner Music Nashville, Ballard’s label, said the singer has sold nearly 2 million singles. He pointed to Ballard’s scorching performances at the recent Tortuga Music Festival and at the 2015 New Faces Show at the Country Radio Seminar as proof of the singer-guitarist’s growing star power.

Ballard remained modest despite all the praise he was showered with.

“I still get this overwhelming feeling I don’t deserve to be up here,” he confessed to the crowd.

Then he thanked the songwriters for allowing him to keep a hold on “Sunshine & Whiskey” before he had any “mojo” as an artist. He said he knew he wanted to cut the song the first time he heard it.

Ballard celebrated his first No. 1 single, “Helluva Life,” last year. He will tour this year as an opening act for Florida Georgia Line.

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