Singer-songwriter Randy Houser loomed over the event like a benign older brother Tuesday afternoon (July 12) as Music Row folk gathered at Nashville’s Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge to celebrate the writers of Houser’s latest No. 1 single, “We Went.”
Being honored were John King and Matt Rogers, who are members of the ASCAP performance rights society, and Justin Wilson, an affiliate of SESAC.
“We Went” is the first No. 1 for King and Rogers and the second for Wilson, who also scored a chart-topper as co-writer of Michael Ray’s “Kiss You in the Morning.”
It’s Houser’s third No. 1 as an artist.
Nashville was baking in the mid-90s when the party got underway in Tootsie’s second-story barroom in downtown Nashville. Stepping in from the dirty sidewalks of Lower Broadway, guests were confronted by a staircase so steep and endless it should have been staffed by Sherpas. Depending on whether you were walking down or up the stairs, there were 52 or 152 steps to deal with.
The long, dark barroom at the top turned back the heat from outside with a series of fans so loud and powerful they appeared to have been appropriated from a wind tunnel.
But the mood was relentlessly upbeat as Houser, the three songwriters and producer Derek George were called to the stage to be praised and loaded down with trophies from ASCAP, SESAC, the song’s various publishers, Houser’s record label (Stoney Creek) and the Country Music Association.
As has become a tradition, ASCAP presented its writers guitars.
Carson James, senior vice president of promotion, for Broken Bow Records, Stoney Creek’s parent company, told the crowd that it had taken 42 weeks — an inordinately long time — to push “We Went” to the top of the charts.
“This song didn’t have a great hook,” he admitted, “but it did have personality.”
Addressing the partygoers, Houser recalled his own struggles as a songwriter and semi-apologized that his first success in that capacity was the much-maligned Trace Adkins hit from 2005, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”
The writers took turns praising Houser for his fluid rendition of “We Went,” a word-propelled adrenaline odyssey they agreed was difficult to sing effectively.
Houser said that despite the slow movement of “We Went” up the charts, the song still seems to be “gaining momentum” with the crowds he sings to.
Turning to the newly-laurelled songwriters standing behind him, Houser encouraged them to be patient and persevering in their craft. He cited his own gradually evolving career as an example of how it’s done.
“You keep working,” he assured them, “and things happen.”