I'll never forget the day I moved to town. Aug 23rd 2007. It was my dad’s birthday and I was breaking my mama’s heart leaving Georgia. That day was the first year Capitol Records put on the Pub Crawl on Demonbreun Street and some of my biggest artist/songwriter influences were all playing... Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, & Eric Church. Almost everyone I met that first day in town all said these words, "Welcome to Nashville!" It reminded me so much of the folks back home and that was comforting. I had no clue if I'd ever be able to write a song like the ones I fell in love with as a kid or if I'd ever get a record deal, but I did know how much I loved music and how much I really wanted to be a part of the industry. I didn't care what my job was as long as I got to be in Music City.
I didn't have much of a story at the time and felt that would be a disadvantage, but looking back now it's a story that I probably wouldn't believe unless I had lived it. Selling t-shirts straight out of college for new artist Luke Bryan, traveling the country, meeting fans- like myself- and seeing how it all worked on the road. What a huge opportunity! Toward the end of that gig I had written some songs that I was proud of and for some reason Kerri Edwards, Luke & everyone at Sony/ATV gave me the chance to write songs for a living. I signed my publishing deal and it has been wide open from there.
There I was sitting in rooms with the songwriters that wrote the hits I had covered all through college. I fell in love with the whole songwriting process and it became my main priority- even over an artist career. That feeling of coming up with a line that gave you chill bumps or made you high five your co-writer had taken over from even being on stage and entertaining. I will never be able to thank the writers, publishing companies, artists, and promotion teams enough for giving me and my songs a chance... for believing in me enough to book that 2nd write. Having written songs now for buddies like Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and Thomas Rhett - it was so huge for me getting my name out there. Soon after people were asking "why aren't you singing these songs?"
Clay Bradley and BMI sent me to Key West for the songwriters festival and that is where it all changed for me. My first show since college was a writers round at the Smokin' Tuna. I was nervous but I KNEW after that round that I HAD to be on that stage from now on. Only difference in that show and my college shows was I was singing songs I had written.
I signed my record deal with Warner on July 13th 2013, and had my first single picked, "Chillin' It". It was the best year of my life and I was in the middle of my radio tour when I got the call that we had lost my dad in a freak accident. How could that possibly be in the master plan? He was the best guy in the world, my biggest fan and was the first person I ever heard play the guitar and sing. I was in shock and lost. Who did I turn to?
Nashville. This town. My family. Country radio ... It was like everyone had my back no matter what media partner, label, publishing company or PRO they worked for and I'll never forget it. I realized that some of my heroes, like Dierks Bentley, had also lost their dads and were there for me. Things like that make me proud to live in THIS town and proud to be a part of this format.
"Country" means a lot more to me than the sound coming out of your speakers. To me it's a big family. It's how you treat others, how you were raised. It's lyrics that can change your life. All that. We are all getting to do what we love and that's because somebody took a chance on us. I remember calling radio stations as a kid, annoying the DJ's to play my favorite songs from George Strait, Reba, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and every other artist that I still love to this day. Now, to think there are kids doing the same for my music is mind blowing!
To every songwriter & artist that helped pave the way for a Georgia boy like me, taken me on tour, written a song with me, thank you! I am forever grateful and promise to take what I've learned and pass it on.
To every fan that buys the music, buys the concert tickets, supports us every single day from state to state and show to show. Thank you for changing my life. 9 years ago when I moved to TN, I'm not sure I knew why I was taking such a big chance/risk. But now I do. I realize everything I've been through was all to prepare me for the journey and to help others that that have gone through what I've been through. To hopefully make someone feel the same way I did when I listened to songs that moved me.
“You Should Be Here” will always be a special song for me. The first day it was played on country radio the messages I got on social media from fans everywhere broke my heart. I wanted to release a song that would help other people but hearing their stories made me know I wasn't alone... it wasn't about me anymore, it wasn't about only my dad. It was for everyone that had been there and knew that pain. Your stories have and will continue to change me for the better. People asked, “How did you film the video and release a song that personal?” I never looked at it that way. The fans give me all they have and I will always do the same. Although I don't like the circumstances of why I had to write the song. I know for a fact if my dad knew leaving this world a little early would inspire a song that would help so many, he would've had no problem with it. That's the kind of guy he was. That's the kind of guy I want to be. Every night I sing that song I know he's there, best seat in the house no doubt.
To Nashville, the Industry, the fans...thank you for letting me live this dream. Thank you for giving me a place to write a song like YSBH. I will always be here for you like you've been there for me.