Chase Rice Celebrates First No. 1, “Eyes On You”

Composers Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano Share the Spotlight

The Tin Roof saloon, just off Nashville’s Music Row, has the quaint charm of an underground coal mine.

It’s long, claustrophobically narrow and darker than a security guard’s scowl. But had you been there Tuesday afternoon (June 11), as Chase Rice and his two co-writers celebrated the No. 1 success of Rice’s “Eyes On You,” you might have thought you’d stumbled onto an overcast street festival.

As it turns out, the Tin Roof has some sentimental significance for the celebrants. It was the first bar Rice went to after he arrived in Nashville, and it’s only a few doors down from the studio where the chart-topping song was written.

While guests adjusted to the futility of trying to order a drink in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, Rice and “Eyes On You” co-writers, Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano stood on the tiny stage at the back of the bar, posing for pictures with various members of the song’s support team that had helped “Eyes On You” spend two weeks at No. 1.

ASCAP’s Beth Brinker hosted the event, which was co-sponsored by BMI, the competing performance rights organization. Gorley and DeStefano are ASCAP members; Rice is affiliated with BMI.

Brinker reminded the partygoers that Rice had already racked up another No. 1 as a songwriter — Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” She explained that DeStefano, a New Jersey native, had studied screen scoring at Berklee College of Music before setting his sights on country music. To date, Brinker continued, DeStefano has written or co-written 17 No. 1 singles.

Gorley, she pointed out, is ASCAP’s reigning country songwriter of the year — an honor he’s held six times. She said that “Eyes On You” is his 41st No. 1. Brinker also labelled Gorley “a champion for the songwriting community” for his extensive work in lobbying for songwriter-supportive laws and regulations.

David Preston spoke for BMI and for Rice as a composer. He said he met Rice at a pool party in Key West. “I felt like I was in the presence of greatness,” he said of that first encounter. Noting that Rice had been runner up on the Survivor TV series, Preston said, “He’s come in first on Survivor: Music Row.”

Josh Van Valkenburg, senior vice president of Sony/ATV Music, which handles Rice’s publishing, took the stage to comment, “It was never a matter of if [Rice would succeed]; it was a matter of when.” Turning to Rice, he proclaimed, “You’ve written songs that have changed the trajectory of country music.”

Carson James, senior vice president of promotions for Broken Bow Records, Rice’s label, told the crowd that Broken Bow’s senior managers were in Texas attending services for the three-year-old son of label artist Granger Smith who drowned last week.

James acknowledged that Rice had come to Broken Bow from his previous label with a somewhat intimidating reputation. But he said the reputation didn’t square with the harmonious reality of actually working with the singer. He said that although it had been a struggle for Rice’s earlier singles to climb the charts, Broken Bow had gotten him to No. 1 on its second effort.

“I’ve been kind of a wreck since I moved to town,” Rice admitted when it came his turn to speak, “but it’s all cleaned up.” Still, he added, “I’ve partied my ass off for the last few weeks.”

Looking at the notes on his phone, Rice thanked a wide range of supporters and enablers, among them the aunt who gave him $3,000 to make his first album, which he assessed to be one of the worst in history. He also praised his mother, who stood near the edge of the stage.

At the very end of the ceremonies, when all the speeches were over, Rice called the crowd’s attention back to the stage where he presented his mother a real Louis Vuitton bag to replace the New York knockoff version he’d originally bought her.

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