Late afternoon storm clouds were rolling across Nashville and rain had begun to pepper the streets of Music Row as a crowd packed the reception hall at the BMI building to toast Brett Eldredge, Ross Copperman and Heather Morgan, the writers of Eldredge's second No. 1 single, "Beat of the Music."
Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon
In keeping with the song's setting, a lavish buffet of Mexican food awaited the guests.
BMI's Bradley Collins hosted the event. Turning first to Morgan, who stood with the others behind him onstage, Collins said, "We're seeing the realization of a dream."
Noting that "Beat of the Music" is Morgan's first chart-topper -- after years of laboring toward that goal -- he presented her a black acoustic guitar to mark the occasion.
Collins said that apart from songwriting, Copperman is distinguishing himself as a producer, too, most prominently of Dierks Bentley's current album, Riser. He also co-wrote Justin Moore's hit, "Point at You."
Of Eldredge, Collins said, "In my mind, he's a future male vocalist of the year."
Collins then called Josh Van Valkenburg to the stage to speak for the song's publisher, Sony/ATV Music. He reminded the crowd that Van Valkenburg is the father of "a new baby boy, Wyatt." Van Valkenburg's wife is Vince Gill's daughter, Jenny.
Van Valkenburg congratulated all three writers and took special delight in ribbing Eldredge. He pointed out that besides recording and co-writing the song, Eldredge also co-produced it.
"The guy is a triple threat," Van Valkenburg intoned. "Too bad he's ugly, or he'd be a quadruple threat."
The tall and remarkably handsome Eldredge beamed at the faux insult.
John Esposito, president and CEO of Warner Music Nashville, Eldredge's record label, took the microphone to announce that "Beat of the Music" has sold 1.8 million copies.
Esposito said he was especially proud of Eldredge's achievements since he was the first artist he signed after taking over Warner's country division nearly five years ago.
"That voice," he said to Eldredge, "is as distinct as it gets, and you make us look smart every week."
Morgan gave heartfelt thanks to her parents, who stood in the audience. Referring to her earliest song pitches, she said, "I don't know if they knew when they had a kid running to the kitchen table, it would actually pay off."
Acknowledging she had worked hard to get into the winner's circle, she added, "You should have to work hard to get up here."
She said she came to Nashville with the song "Heartbreak Town" running through her head, but she has since discovered that the city is not that.
Morgan recalled Eldredge coming to her aid when her car broke down in Bellevue, a Nashville suburb.
"Actually, I'd had too many Margaritas," she confessed, "but I wanted to clean up the story."
"How do you follow that?" Copperman asked rhetorically when Morgan concluded her emotion-drenched remarks. "Brett said I should just dance. ... I wanted this song to be No. 1 more than anything else for Heather Morgan."
Eldredge clinked glasses with Esposito before addressing the crowd.
"I'm still recovering from Nantucket," he said, alluding to the time he'd spent on the resort island with Esposito this summer.
Eldredge said he became acquainted with Copperman and Morgan at an awards show after-party when they were just getting their start in the business.
He said they had "like five dollars" among them, which went toward buying a bottle of off-brand tequila.
"I like tequila," he continued, "but I don't like this kind of tequila." He held up a nearly empty bottle an assistant had handed him.
He explained that he and Copperman had agreed to finish off the bottle of inferior hooch, right down to the worm, if and when they had a No. 1 song together.
With that, he took a drink and passed the bottle to Copperman, who hesitated before completing the ritual.
(The assistant who'd handed him the bottle said afterward it wasn't the actual vessel the two men had drunk from on that long-ago occasion but rather one that had been brought in as a stage prop.)
Eldredge saluted his parents and his brother in the crowd. He said his mother had operated the sound board when he was still a struggling artist in Illinois, using a how-to book as her guide.
His father drove the van, he said, and his brother recorded his performances -- "every song I sang in the middle of cornfields in Illinois."