“Bob Kingsley’s Acoustic Alley” brought together ten of the most accomplished songwriters for an unforgettable round during last week’s Country Radio Seminar. Kingsley emphasized that none of us would be here without this lineup but most notable was when he made mention that between them they had ninety #1 hits….ninety! That doesn’t include the songs in the top ten, those are too numerous to even mention.
Round 1: Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally, and Luke Laird.
Josh opened the show with a song he wrote for Eli Young Band that went all the way to the top, “Got A Little Drunk Last Night”.
Shane took the stage introducing the next song with “the only thing that makes it ok when a song of yours doesn’t win a grammy is when another song does”. He went on to sing “Mamas Broken Heart”. (“Merry Go Round”, also penned by Shane McAnally along with Josh Osborne and Kacey Musgraves won Grammy for Song of the Year)
Luke Laird said the very first guy he met when he came to Nashville was Rhett Akins. The first song they wrote together still holds special meaning and he opened with “Take A Back Road”.
Shane talked about how awesome it is working with The Band Perry. When someone puts that much into a performance its fulfilling. He said when they first wrote “Better Dig Two” they didn’t realize there was a hook at the end. They submitted it as “Put Me In The Ground”.
Luke sang his post recent hit penned for Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”. He spent time at Eric’s cabin the in mountains and wrote numerous songs hoping something would make the cut. He said he had never played this one live but it has 3 chords like the rest of them.
When Josh first heard Bob Kingsley say his name over the countdown he was sitting with his wife in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. He joked that when you have a #1 you no longer have to go to Shoneys. He went on to sing a beautiful rendition of “Come Over”.
“Ive personally never had any luck writing songs about trucks”. Brandy Clark and I were sitting around, neither of us came with any ideas and this song just hit us. Shane went on to sing the song recorded by Wade Bowen, “Songs About Trucks”.
Josh told the story behind the Grammy award winning “Merry Go Round”. There were a lot of cars at a party down the street from Shane’s moms house. She said the phrase that would be life changing “I don’t know if they are selling Mary Kay or Mary Jane”. They looked at each other and knew instantly there was a song there. Luke said when his friends penned that song in less than 2 hours he knew it was a masterpiece. He didn’t know whether to cry or slap the sh$t out of them. He predicted then that they had just written the song of the year and was honored to be the first to hear it.
The group also sang “Keep It To Yourself” (Luke Laird), “Fuzzy” (Shane McAnally) and ended with the audience singing along to Little Big Town hit “Pontoon”. (Luke Laird)
Round 2: Matt Jenkins, Brett James, Rodney Clawson, Ashley Gorley
Matt opened the second round with “Running Out of Air”, recorded by Love and Theft. The song was written by Matt Jenkins, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally and started with a simple idea in Josh’s phone. They started hearing the music and before long had a song they thought was relatable.
When the round turned to famed songwriter, Ashley Gorley, he joked that he immediately regretted the decision not to go first. Everyone had “manly guitars” and he was there with a piano. He started his set with “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight”.
Brett James was sitting around the kitchen with his family on Christmas Eve when he got a call from Kenny Chesney inviting him to the islands in 2 days to write. The first night away was wild and inspired the song “Out Last Night” which peaked at #1 on Billboard Hot Country Songs.
Although we were somewhat oblivious, there were 98 mile/hour winds and tornados all around us that night. Ashley’s kids were worried about him and called to check on him as he was getting on stage. He dedicated this next song to his three children…a song that was originally inspired by them. The story tells itself but a repairman came to the house and the kids were running around, screaming, Ashley was apologizing. The man looked at him and said “you’re going to miss this” and the rest was history.
They say that songwriters are retired for a couple of years before they know it, Brett James says. When a friend called and told me I had 4 songs in the top 20 I knew I wasn’t quite retired. Brett went on to bring the house down with the song he wrote with Dierks Bentley, “I Hold On”.
Rodney Clawson sang the hit made famous by Blake Shelton, “Sure Be Cool If You Did”. The other guys said they thought there should be a CMA award for the best lyric and it should go to that song for “and now you’re standing in the neon looking like a high I wanna be on“.
The second round also included songs such as “Cop Car” (Matt Jenkins), “Amarillo” (Rodney Clawson), “Crash My Party” (Ashley Gorley), “Tipsy” (Matt Jenkins), “Rewind” (Ashley Gorley), and “Drunk on You” (Rodney Clawson).
Round 3: Ben Hayslip, Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson aka The Peach Pickers
Their set opened with “Boys Round Here”. They celebrated the #1 party the day before with Blake on hand but sans food and drink, they joked. They made a point to say they could put the most ridiculous lyrics together and for some reason, Blake will just record them. Dallas said, “you know its backwoods legit when Bob K says your song is #1” so theres that.
This group of guys from Georgia has written together and been friends for years. When they decided to become the Peach Pickers they threw a peach themed party with peach ice cream and peach cobbler. They had a 10 song CD and all songs ended up being cut.
Rhett Akins sang “When She Says Baby”. He said it wouldn’t be good but he’d give it a try. The song was penned for Jason Aldean and went #1 on Aldeans birthday.
Ben started singing “Anywhere With You” and stopped when he was interrupted by Rhett. Rhett said, “All I said was your girl is simple. She would live in a double wide trailer” Ben asks if Rhett would live in it? He responds with, “Id go with you, Id go anywhere with you”. The chemistry between these 3 guys is natural and magnetic.
Rhett told the story of when Dallas Davidson‘s mom met Justin Moore. She says to him, “Your name should be Justin Less” forgoing any chance of Justin recording a DD song.
Ben Hayslip – Every songwriting session starts with Rhett saying how much he hates songwriting. We bring no ideas to the table. We have no energy. Thats how “Honeybee” happened. We were sitting there looking at each other and finally decided to grab lunch. We were drinking sweet tea and looking at a local paper. The word “huckleberry” jumped out and we changed it to honeybee. Thats how the magic is made.
Dallas Davidson – my friends think we don’t do sh$t. Its so annoying. Songwriting is like doing an SAT every single day. We may not be digging a ditch but our brain is.
Rhett Akins – songwriting is like porn. Ive seen some of your movies, you’ve seen some of mine. Now my producer and yours put us together. They want “Debby Does Dallas” every single day.
I never knew when I wrote “It Goes Like This” that my son would record it and it would be his first #1 single, says Akins. We pitched it to absolutely everyone and kept getting turned down. I thought it was a good song and needed to be heard. God knew that Thomas Rhett was meant to record this song.
Randy Houser was passed out on the couch when we wrote “Kiss My Country Ass”. We made sure he didn’t get a single credit for that song.
Round 3 continued with “Thats My Kind of Night” (Dallas Davidson and Rhett Akins), “Country Girl Shake It For Me” (Dallas Davidson), “Gimme That Girl” (Ben Hayslip), and “That Aint My Truck” (Rhett Akins).
The night ended with all singing “Don’t Want This Night To End” which collectively echoed the feeling in the room.
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