"Hands down, [this is the] best No. 1 party I've been to," Keith Urban declared Wednesday afternoon (April 11) as he stood beside Preston Brust, Chris Lucas and Jarren Johnston, the ecstatic writers of his latest hit, "You Gonna Fly."
Brust and Lucas also perform and record as the LoCash Cowboys.
Co-sponsored by the performance rights organizations BMI and ASCAP, the celebration was held at Chappy's restaurant in Nashville the day after it was announced that Urban has been invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Urban's delight at the party was sparked by the stories the three writers told about the excitement they felt as they watched their song climb the chart and of receiving congratulatory calls from the singer himself. They even tried to imitate Urban's Australian accent as they recalled his remarks.
Although the writers have had plenty of time to adjust to their song's success -- it spent two weeks atop the Billboard country songs chart in February and March -- they acted and sounded as giddy as if they had just heard the news.
It was, however, their first No. 1 -- and Urban's 14th.
Guests arriving at the party were confronted by two impressive displays: a stage crowded with musical equipment, signaling that live music lay ahead, and white-cloth-covered tables with heated trays of Creole-themed food, the restaurant's specialty.
While the crowd gathered and jockeyed for the best vantage points, Urban stood at the side of the stage, his back against a table filled with awards and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, beside him.
Jeffrey Steele, the award-winning songwriter who also produces the LoCash Cowboys, lingered near the front of the stage, hugging and being hugged by a procession of friends and well-wishers.
BMI's Jody Williams called the assemblage to order, noting he first witnessed Urban singing "You Gonna Fly" live at last year's CMA Awards show.
He pointed out Urban had hosted the wildly successful We're All for the Hall fundraiser for the Country Music Hall Music Hall of Fame and Museum the evening before and that it was his third time to take that leadership role.
"He's simply a great guy who does great things for our community," Williams summarized.
Of Brust and Lucas, who are BMI writers, Williams said, "They were born to be onstage."
ASCAP's Mark Driskill gave the thumbs up for Johnston, informing the crowd that Johnston also plays in a band -- Cadillac Black -- and that he wrote Sara Evans' next single.
Troy Tomlinson, president and CEO of Sony/ATV Music, the publisher of "You Gonna Fly," then came to the stage to congratulate and pass out awards to the writers.
"Keith's had 14 No. 1's," Tomlinson intoned. "We've only have five of those." Turning to face Urban, he asked, "Can we work on that?"
Dann Huff, who's co-produced 10 of Urban's top hits, followed Tomlinson and observed, "To work with a guy like [Keith] makes me and everyone else [involved] better. That's the way it is with a great artist."
Huff was also quick to praise the engineers who assist him and Urban in the studio.
A representative from Capitol Records gave Urban the label's notorious "Impaler" award, a spear-pointed trophy conferred for No. 1 singles.
"Your mantle must look like the Rocky Mountains," he cracked.
Brust said he and his fellow writers watched nervously as "You Gonna Fly" inched its way up the charts, growing more excited as the song went Top 20, then Top 10.
He said it was "around midnight" when someone called him from Capitol to tell him the label was going to try to push the song all the way into the No. 1 spot, which it did on the 18th week after its release.
When Urban spoke about the hit during interviews, Brust continued, "It was never about Keith Urban. It was always about the song."
The high point of Brust's remarks was his story about the writers receiving three bottles of Cristal champagne -- 2004 vintage -- from Urban at the studio where they were writing and having to Google directions on how to open it.
The opening of the first bottle did not go at all well, he confessed, as $200 worth of bubbly spewed into the air.
Spewing words with equal velocity, Brust said he was overjoyed that Urban's recording of their song featured the shrill sound of a police whistle before the first chorus.
That touch, he gushed, was sonic perfection.
Johnston said the success of the song meant that he and his girlfriend -- on whose couch he had crashed for years -- could now put down an offer on a house.
He said Urban came to visit him at a friend's house in Burbank, Calif., driving a Lexus that virtually took his breath away. When he commented on the splendor of the car, he said Urban responded he had asked the rental company for the least ostentatious model it had.
After that, he and Urban drove to a nearby music shop to buy some sound equipment. The clerk who checked them out didn't recognize the star and thus asked him for his name and address, Johnston recalled.
Lucas said he was paralyzed with indecision about what to say when Urban called him to thank him for the song.
"Do I say, 'Hey, how's Nicole and the kids?' Or ask him about [judging] The Voice [in] Australia? Anything to keep him on the phone."
The writers presented Urban a box containing a "24-carat gold whistle" bearing the inscription, "Best use of a whistle in a song."
"Where do you get a gold whistle?" Urban asked.
Urban said "You Gonna Fly" was the first song he put on hold for his current Get Closer album.
"It's got all that cool swagger," he explained.
Not yet done with his largesse, Urban presented each of the writers a custom-made electric guitar.
With the awards out of the way and the guests clustering around the food tables, Urban and the three honorees serenaded them with a one-of-a-kind performance of "You Gonna Fly."
The writers still looked as pumped as when the party started.