Soon after his arrival in Nashville and an appearance on the famed Bluebird stage, McAnally signed with Curb Music Publishing. There, he continued to work on his songwriting and was introduced to producer Rich Herring. The two collaborated on the demo of McAnally's song ''Just One Touch,'' which eventually earned him a publishing deal and a recording contract. Along with Rich Herring, famed producer Brian Ahern (Emmylou Harris, Anne Murray) and Mark Bright were also part of McAnally's musical team for the recording of his 2000 self-titled debut. Three singles reached the country charts; "Are Your Eyes Still Blue" hit the Top 40, but McAnally soon began to focus more on songwriting than performance.
His first major success was "Last Call," the opening track and one of the highlights of Lee Ann Womack's 2008 album Call Me Crazy. By 2010, he had also placed songs with Kenny Chesney, LeAnn Rimes, Reba McEntire, and Luke Bryan. The following year was a bonanza for McAnally. Among the many songs he featured on were hits by Miranda Lambert ("Mama's Broken Heart"), Jake Owen ("Alone with You"), and Chris Young ("Neon"). He also began working more closely with one of his co-writers, Kacey Musgraves, and ended up co-writing most of the songs and co-producing her 2013 album Same Trailer Different Park. It became a big hit, and McAnally collected Grammy Awards for Best Country Song ("Merry Go Round") and Best Country Album, as well as ACM Awards for Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. ~ Zac Johnson, Rovi