Rhett Akins, Lee Brice & More Bring 'A Night of Georgia Music' to Nashville Charity Concert

The Peach Pickers
EB Media

The Peach Pickers

"Georgia on My Mind: Peach Pickers & Friends Host a Night of Georgia Music" goes live from the Ryman Auditorium on Tuesday.

Nashville powerhouse songwriter Dallas Davidson told Billboard there must have been something in the water in South Georgia, since three of the men who turned out to be some of his best friends and musical partners all hail from the area.

"Rhett Akins grew up at high school in Valdosta with Ben Hayslip, while I grew up about an hour and 20 minutes away, and then you have Luke Bryan, who's from Lee County.

Davidson said he has been blessed with a close relationship with Bryan almost from day one. "We have a lot of memories. We were big hunting and fishing buddies. We went to college together at Georgia Southern in Statesboro. We were so unprofessional that Luke invited me to go to the meeting with him to get his first gig," Davidson recalled. "I remember celebrating that. He was already a star in my eyes, as well as the whole town. We've had a lot of fun together, I used to travel with him and was his tour manager for a while -- or hauled keyboards, just whatever was needed. I got paid in beer," he said with a grin.

Luke Bryan Makes Chart History

With Akins and Hayslip, Davidson has enjoyed considerable success writing in Music City. Together, their hits have included "All About Tonight" (Blake Shelton), "Put a Girl in It" (Brooks & Dunn) and "Gimmie That Girl" (Joe Nichols). They play around the region from time to time as the Peach Pickers. Davidson said it's a partnership that works. "We all speak the same language. Fortunately for us, Georgia's language has become a huge presence in country music right now and other genres of music. It's so easy to write with these guys."

Of course, the land of the Bulldogs and Braves has become a mecca of sorts for many of the format's most successful artists, including Bryan, Jason Aldean, Cole Swindell and Brantley Gilbert. Why the influx of so many acts from Georgia? "I can only speak for myself, but I think a lot of it has to do with the way we grew up and what we were influenced by -- whether that was Otis Redding or Alan Jackson. I would say Zac Brown has been influenced by the same people as well. It kind of goes into this style of music that I call Georgia Music. It seems to connect very well with people in Washington and Oklahoma, as well -- just our way of life. It all translates into a competitive spirit and a charming way of talking. I'm not saying that other states don't have manners, but you definitely do in Georgia, especially the southern part of the state."

On Tuesday night, the Peach Pickers will be hosting the second annual Georgia on My Mind: Peach Pickers & Friends Host a Night of Georgia Music at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. Davidson is excited about the event, saying it's a way for the songwriters to give back. "The Georgia Music Foundation, which I chair, is receiving all the proceeds from this. We've done some programs for some underprivileged kids in schools that are underfunded or not funded at all. The event itself has an all-star lineup, with Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell and Tyler Farr" -- and Davidson said there are a couple of mystery artists involved. "There's two acts I can't tell you who have an entertainer of the year trophy under their belt. It's going to be a great show at the Ryman. I've actually had to turn artists away from it, because we've had so much support."

When asked what his favorite song was that he has written, Davidson chose "Rain Is a Good Thing," a chart-topper for Bryan in 2010. "I wrote it with Luke, who is my best friend, and we had a No. 1 record together. I remember that feeling of walking up on stage at a party with my friend from my hometown and getting a No. 1. I can't imagine what the odds of that would be. Everything that came with that song would make it my favorite, as far as the singles go."

And what about overall? "That one is easy. Rascal Flatts cut a song I wrote with Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace called 'Hot in Here.' To this day, I still think that's the biggest hit I've ever written that wasn't released as a single," he admitted.

Though they work well together, the guys do draw the line when it comes to their long-standing high school football rivalries, which Davidson says continue to this day. "You're dang right they do. Don't think we don't know who won on Friday night. Fortunately, we all pull for the same college team, and we cheer on the Braves and the Falcons, but when it comes to high school football, there's still a rivalry. Though, when it comes to me, Westover isn't usually much good. Rhett and Ben are from 'Titletown, USA,' in Valdosta, as ESPN calls them. So they usually have bragging rights…but we're competitive in a fun way."