Hours after being honored with CMA Triple Play Awards, River House/Columbia Nashville artist Luke Combs and songwriters Josh Kear, Josh Osborne, Chase McGill, Nicolle Galyon and Ashley Gorley told the stories behind their winning compositions for a sold-out show at Nashville’s Marathon Music Works on Tuesday night.
“Everyone on this stage tonight was a CMA Triple Play winner today,” Galyon told the audience attending the CMA Songwriters Series. The Country Music Association hands out the designation to songwriters who have achieved three No. 1 songs in a 12-month period. “It’s really, really, really hard to get a No. 1 song in your entire career, let alone three in a year. We’re all mildly buzzed and ready to play some songs for you.”
She then kicked off the round on keyboard with “All the Pretty Girls,” her Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 hit for Kenny Chesney. Kear performed next and confessed that he has made a career out of writing fiction until recently.
“A few of these new songs in the last year or two are actually my life now. This is definitely one of those. This was written about my wife,” he said before he launched into Dierks Bentley’s hit “Woman, Amen.”
Combs brought the star power to the stage as the audience sang along to many of the singer/songwriter’s hits, including his debut No. 1 “Hurricane” and its follow-up chart-topper “When It Rains It Pours.” It was the story behind his latest single, “Beautiful Crazy,” however, that drew a collective “awww” from the audience.
“[This] is the most important song I’ve ever written. I got engaged this past year. This is the song that helped me pull it off because it definitely was not the guy I look at in the mirror every day that pulled it off,” he said. “This is the song that won her heart. … We weren’t even dating at the time when I wrote it. She could have been like, ‘You’re creepy. Don’t write songs about me.’ I probably would have been writing songs about her for the rest of my life even if she said that.”
Both Galyon and Kear are parents, and each songwriter told comical stories about their children’s reaction to their songs. Galyon, who delivered a stirring performance of Dan + Shay’s Grammy-winning hit “Tequila,” said her 5-year-old daughter recently asked her, “Mom, why did God make tequila?” Kear joked that he will never win a Father of the Year award as his young daughter’s favorite song is Bentley’s “Drunk on a Plane.”
Additional highlights included Kear receiving a standing ovation after he sang a moving rendition of Lady Antebellum’s Grammy-winning record of the year “Need You Now”; Osborne creating a group sing-along as he performed Sam Hunt’s 34-week chart-topper “Body Like a Back Road”; and McGill’s story of learning he was nominated for a Grammy with Cole Swindell’s “Break Up in the End” while perched in a tree during a deer hunting trip. Throughout the night, the camaraderie between each songwriter was apparent.
“It’s really special to be in a town like Nashville where we’re all real friends and we all cheer for each other,” Galyon said. “That doesn’t happen in other cities. It’s cool that I get to be in Nashville to do this thing called writing songs. Country music is my first love and it will be my last love.”
Gorley closed the evening with Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It,” his latest Grammy-nominated single, which Gorley wrote about his youth.
“Country music in Nashville is a unique thing,” he says. “It’s not just about making up and breaking up. It’s about tequila, it’s about a body like a back road, it’s about scratch-off tickets. It can be about the way you walk, the way you talk, and there’s so much subject matter involved that we get to cover as writers because you’ve all been through that and can relate to that.”