In addition to flaunting its insanely thick traffic, Nashville was demonstrating how quickly its merciless sun could bring your brain to a boil Tuesday afternoon (May 28) as a crowd of Music Row heavyweights streamed into The Sutler saloon to honor the writers of Brett Young’s latest No. 1 song, “Here Tonight.”
The venue was so packed that it was only after the speeches were made and the awards handed out that partygoers were able to circulate, back slap and graze at the Mexican-themed buffet.
“Here Tonight” was jointly written by Young, Charles Kelley (of Lady Antebellum), Justin Ebach and Ben Caver, all of whom stood side-by-side on the club’s tiny stage — along with producer Dann Huff. The honorees wore matching black t-shirts, blue jeans and black baseball caps with the number “5” prominently displayed above the bill.
The “5” referred to Young’s No. 1 singles. And here an explanation is in order. CMT uses Billboard magazine as the definitive source of its chart numbers. By that count, Young has scored four No. 1s, his first single, “Sleep Without You,” having peaked in Billboard at No. 2. However, the trade magazine Mediabase ranked “Sleep Without You” a No. 1. Ergo, the more impressive official total of five.
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ASCAP and SESAC, the performance rights organizations, sponsored the party. Young, Caver and Kelley are ASCAP affiliates; Ebach is signed to SESAC.
Speaking for ASCAP, Michael Martin reflected on his long association with Young. “The best part was meeting him at the beginning of his Nashville journey before he had a record deal.” That vantage point, Martin said, enabled him to watch Young evolve through a string of notable achievements, one of them being named ASCAP’s 2018 songwriter/artist of the year.
“The most important thing, though, “Martin continued, addressing Young directly, “was your getting married and starting a family.” Young married Taylor Mills in February of last year. They are expecting the birth of their first child this fall.
ASCAP’s Beth Brinker next stepped forward to praise the successes of Kelley, Caver and Huff. In his Lady Antebellum role, Brinker pointed out, Kelley has helped score nine No. 1 hits and sells more than 18 million albums.
“But today,” Brinker declared, “we celebrate Charles Kelley as a songwriter.” “Here Tonight” is Kelley’s eighth No. 1 in that incarnation.
For Caver, she said, it was his first No. 1 after 13 years of songwriting and associations with four different publishers. He has also developed into an acclaimed background singer, she added.
Brinker recalled first seeing Caver many years earlier at a songwriter showcase featuring Josh Kelley. It was memorable, she explained, because Caver came on stage to sing his song dressed in a suit and tie, rare costuming for Nashville composers. “I thought Nashville is so cool that an accountant could write that song.”
As has become a Music Row custom of late, Brinker presented Caver a Yeti cooler. The diminutive Caver promptly climbed on top of it, enabling him for the first time to stand taller than the elongated Kelley and Young.
Brinker lauded Huff for his long career producing chart-topping singles for dozens of major artists, among them Keith Urban, Rascal Flats, Thomas Rhett, Faith Hill, Billy Corrington and Kane Brown.
SESAC’s Shannon Hatch toasted Ebach, applauding him for penning his fourth No. 1 and noting that he had been named SESAC’s songwriter of the year [in 2017].
Scott Borchetta, CEO of Big Machine Label Group, for which Young records, capped the celebration by telling how close Young came to being a professional baseball player had not an injury sidelined him for good.
“He’s a great athlete,” Borchetta said, “but an even better artist.” The crowd concurred with applause.