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Thomas Rhett and Co-writers Bask in Success of “Marry Me” and “Life Changes”

Also Honored: Rhett Akins, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley and Shane McAnally

The first thing you noticed when you walked into Hi Fi Clyde’s saloon in Nashville Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 2) was a ping-pong table sagging under the weight of plaques, trophy cups and various other symbols of congratulations.

All the hardware was there to mark the No. 1 success of Thomas Rhett’s two most recent singles, “Marry Me” and “Life Changes.” The former, Rhett co-wrote with Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley and Shane McAnally, the latter with Frasure, Gorley and his dad, Rhett Akins. The songs are Rhett’s 10th and 11th No. 1s. The eternally busy McAnally was unable to attend.

ASCAP and BMI, the performance rights organizations, organized the event. The place was so packed with well-wishers that only the most resolute partygoer could shoulder his or her way to the bar. But many did. Almost as soon as the celebration started, the songwriters were summoned to the stage.

Rhett found a tiny open space on the ping-pong table and ditched his beer there until the awarding was over.

BMI’s Leslie Roberts presented the writers to the crowd. Noting that “Life Changes” was the last song picked for Rhett’s current album (also titled Life Changes), she observed that Rhett’s songs are notable for chronicling “the changes so many young adults go through.”

To be sure, “Life Changes” is nakedly autobiographical, tracing Rhett’s trajectory through college, his success as a songwriter and recording artist, his marriage, he and his wife’s adoption of “the cutest little girl you ever saw” from Uganda and his wife’s unexpected pregnancy after the adoption was underway.

Akins remarked later in the ceremony that the song is perhaps the most specifically personal one since Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

Roberts lauded Frasure for having earned two CMA Triple Play awards, an honor given to songwriters who score three No. 1’s within a calendar year. With “Life Changes,” she continued Akins has racked up a total of 29 No. 1’s. Also, he was twice BMI’s country songwriter of the year.

Jody Williams, also speaking for BMI, recalled going to see Rhett perform at Joe’s in Chicago early in his career. It was a dismal turnout, Williams said, with perhaps no more than 12 people showing up.

“But then a remarkable thing happened,” he continued, “{Rhett] took those 12 people and made a personal connection with each one. He simply connects with people.”

Beth Brinker took the stage for ASCAP and to recite Gorley’s formidable achievements. “Marry Me,” she announced, was his 37th and “Life Changes” his 38th No. 1. He is also ASCAP’s reigning country songwriter of the year, she said, a distinction he’s won more often than any other composer.

Rhett was lavish in his praise of his co-writers. “I’m not saying we don’t write some bad songs,” he said, “but when you’re with these guys you know something good is going to happen.”

The overburdened ping pong table was proof of that.

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