For Jason Aldean, it was both a sentimental and a triumphant journey Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 2) when he returned to Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon to bask in the glow of three more No. 1 singles — “Lights Come On,” “A Little More Summertime” and “Any Ol’ Barstool.”
This brought his total of Billboard chart-toppers to 18.
What made the journey sentimental was the fact that he had been “discovered” and signed by his Broken Bow Records while performing at the Wildhorse 12 years earlier.
It was a success story Aldean wanted to share with his fans, 100 of whom stood in line on the sidewalk outside the bar, waiting patiently to enter while the artist held an hour-long press conference inside.
Sharing the spotlight with Aldean were the 11 songwriters who composed those three latest hits.
Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Tyler Hubbard, Brian Kelley, Jimmy Robbins and Jordan Smith jointly penned “Lights Come On.” (Hubbard and Kelley are also known as Florida Georgia Line.)
Wendell Mobley, Tony Martin and Jerry Flowers wrote “A Little More Summertime,” and Josh Thompson and Deric Ruttan crafted “Any Ol’ Barstool.”
As they waited for the guests of honors to appear, dozens of music industry guests foraged and chatted along the Wildhorse’s several bars. Others collected around a food table laden with a Mexican-themed buffet. Baskets of fried pickles adorned each table.
The stage was cluttered with tall stools, microphones and guitar stands and illuminated by three giant JA logo projections.
BMI’s Bradley Collins and ASCAP’s Beth Brinker served as the event’s hosts.
Collins began by calling the 11 songwriters to the stage, noting that seven of them were BMI-affiliated. He added that, collectively, the 11 had written a total of 150 No. 1 songs.
“Lights Come On” was the third No. 1 for Hubbard and Kelley as songwriters, Collins said, adding that the Warren brothers have racked up eight chart-topping singles.
For Mobley, Collins continued, “A Little More Summertime,” earned him his 10th trip to the top, while it was the 16th big one for Martin. Collins also pointed out that Martin has been nominated for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. (This year’s inductees into the Hall will be announced Aug. 9.)
Collins reported that Thompson has scored 27 cuts within the past 18 months but that “Any Ol’ Barstool” is his first No. 1. For that distinction, BMI, as customary, awarded him a new acoustic guitar.
Brinker announced that “Any Ol’ Barstool” is Ruttan’s fourth No. 1. “Lights Come On,” she said, is the seventh for Robbins and the first for Schmidt.
“A Little More Summertime” is the second topper for Flowers, who, besides writing songs, is Keith Urban’s bandleader. Brinker said that Flowers can now claim a third No. 1 as co-writer of Billy Currington’s “Do I Make You Wanna,” which is this week’s top country song.
Jon Loba, executive vice president of BBR Music Group, the parent company of Aldean’s label, told the crowd that BBR founder, Benny Brown, had to pressure him to come see Aldean at the Wildhorse back in 2005.
At the time, Broken Bow Music was a relatively new label and already had confirmed hitmakers Joe Diffie and Craig Morgan on its roster. Moreover, Loba knew that Aldean had been dropped by both MCA and Capitol Records.
Nonetheless, Loba said, Brown directed him to accompany him to the Wildhorse, a very glitzy tourist venue not known for fostering exciting new acts.
“Benny said, ’I don’t want to go where those [music] industry assholes are. I want to go where the fans are,'” Loba recalled.
Loba said Aldean had barely gotten into his set when it became clear to him that Broken Bow needed to sign him.
After all this insider buildup Wednesday, Aldean finally walked onto the stage to rapturous applause. Dressed casually in a baseball cap, short-sleeved blue shirt and stone-washed jeans, he began by thanking his non-industry fans in the audience.
Then he brought out the songwriters to accompany him in playing and singing the songs they’d written
He spoke briefly about each song — how he got it or what he most liked about it. He said he and his longtime producer, Michael Knox, had selected all the songs they wanted to record for his They Don’t Know album when someone sent him the demo of “Lights Come On” on his phone.
He said he listened to it during a break in the record session and after hearing it told Knox, “I think I might have found my first single.”
He was driving with his wife to their house in Florida, he recalled, when he listened to the demo for “A Little More Summertime.” He remembered thinking it would be hard to top the demo, he said.
“I love songs that paint a picture,” he said. “I thought this was one of those songs.” When he and the songwriters sang the song, he let Mobley do the lead vocals, just as Mobley had done on the original demo.
Of “Any Ol’ Barstool,” Aldean said, “This is one of my favorite songs on the [They Don’t Know] album. I love traditional country music. This was one of the best-written songs on the record.”
At the close of the mini-set, Knox came out and told the crowd that Aldean is already in the process of recording his next album.
Then it was time for photos and a final drink.