Carrie Underwood Takes a “Smoke Break” Celebration

Singer Penned Song With Frequent Collaborators Hillary Lindsey and Chris DeStefano

An annoyingly persistent light rain failed to deter the swarm of Music Row worker bees that gathered Tuesday afternoon (March 1) at Nashville’s Sutler saloon to honor the writers of Carrie Underwood’s latest hit, “Smoke Break.”

Underwood joined her co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Chris DeStefano in leading the celebration, which was jointly sponsored by the performance rights organizations ASCAP and BMI.

The writers were presented awards from several organizations, including their publishers, the Country Music Association and Country Radio Broadcasters.

While waiting for the ceremonies to begin, partygoers availed themselves of a drink menu specifically designed for the occasion. It included such exotics as “Whisper Creek Coffee Break” (Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream and fresh-brewed coffee) and “Irish Cream Coffee Break” (Bailey’s Original Irish Cream, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and cold, fresh-brewed coffee, served over ice and topped with whipped cream).

Praising Underwood’s long record of achievements as both a performer and songwriter, BMI’s Jody Williams noted she sold out the first nine shows of her 2016 tour in the U.S. and will be heading to Europe next week for a series of concerts in Stockholm, Oslo, Glasgow, London and Dublin.

Williams said Underwood is such a consistent hitmaker that — from a songwriter’s point of view — every song she records is a “holy grail cut.”

ASCAP’s Beth Brinker congratulated DeStefano for his series of successes writing for Underwood, which began with the No. 1 “Good Girl.” Then turning to Lindsey, she pointed out that she is a double Grammy winner. Her first Grammy was for Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” her second for Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.”

Publisher Chris Oglesby joined in the chorus, lauding Lindsey for writing “songs that resonate with honesty and truth.” He added that via “Girl Crush,” she’s now in the running for two Academy of Country Music awards.

Speaking of DeStefano, publisher Josh Van Valkenburg said, “From the moment he came to Nashville [from New Jersey], he made an effort to immerse himself in the Nashville community. … I think we can call him a Nashvillian now.”

Ron Cox, whose Avenue Bank co-sponsors BMI’s hit celebrations, told the writers the bank had made a donation in their name to Underwood’s C.A.T.S. (Checotah Animal, Town and School) Foundation. (Checotah, Oklahoma, is her hometown.)

Responding to Van Valkenburg’s use of the word “community,” DeStefano said, “I almost want to use the word family [instead], because it is that.”

Lindsey, who came to Nashville from her native Georgia in 1994, observed, “You kind of forget when you’re in [songwriting] daily how long you’ve been in it.”

She thanked “God for the sunshine” that lured her and her co-writers outside for a break in their labors and thus inspired the theme of the song.

“I’m blessed beyond measure to have this team around me,” Underwood said, alluding not only to the other songwriters but to her management, publishing and record label personnel.

She said that no matter how many good songs they wrote, it would come to nothing without the work of those who make sure their songs get heard.

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