CMA Triple Play Awards Celebrate Nashville’s Hit Songwriters

The 13th CMA Triple Play Awards were held in Nashville on Wednesday (March 1) and honored 16 songwriters who have penned three No. 1 songs within a 12-month period. Hosted by Jim Beavers, the event included surprise performers Eric Church, Ashley McBryde, and Robert Earl Keen in celebration of CMA Songwriter Advocate Award recipient Jody Williams.

Videos by American Songwriter

“I met Jody in my formative years, my songwriting years,” Church said ahead of performing “My Nebraska,” a song he wrote that morning that was inspired in part by people who have told him he has to make his Nebraska album. “You write one song called ‘Springsteen’ … So I was sitting there and I thought, ‘Okay, when am I going to write my Nebraska?’ And my lizard songwriting brain kicked in this morning and I wrote this song. … Jody I love you. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.”

McBryde echoed a similar sentiment ahead of performing her newest song, “Light on in the Kitchen.”

“Jody Williams is an incredible champion for songwriters,” she tells American Songwriter. “He understands what it is we do and supports us sharing our truths, and he knows how much it means to be able to share those stories. I’m so grateful to have him in our community and in my corner. Congratulations Jody on this incredibly well-deserved honor.”

[RELATED: Jody Williams on Receiving the CMA Songwriter Advocate Award: “I’m Really Honored”]

Liz Rose presented Williams with his trophy and gave an emotional introduction. “I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it wasn’t for Jody,” she said tearfully. “That is literally the truth. If there was a thread that tied the songwriting community together, it would more often than not lead back to Jody Williams.”

Williams’ 10-minute acceptance speech served as a career retrospective. He thanked his colleagues and the mentors that came before him, as well as the songwriters.

“The truth is, I would not have a career at all if not for the songwriters in this community,” Williams said. “You’re all incredibly special to me. You’ve blessed me beyond any expectations I have ever had.”

Several songwriters spoke with American Songwriter before the ceremony and reflected on the recognition from the industry. Ashley Gorley, the most decorated songwriter, received two trophies for writing six No. 1 songs in a calendar year. Amassing 62 No. 1 hits throughout his career, Gorley now has a total of 20 CMA Triple Play Awards.

“It’s a good time to reflect,” Gorley tells American Songwriter of the CMA Triple Play Awards. “Songwriters don’t do a great job of that because we’re always like, ‘Oh, what’s next? What’s the next thing?’ So, to have one little moment where you have to reflect and think about writing the song is fun for us.”

Gorley says he was in Nashville 11 years before he had a hit. He admits that he needed that time and practice to get to where he is today. “Now it’s remembering how lucky we are to do it and remembering it’s a privilege,” he says of songwriting. “I’m loving writing right now as much and more than ever, so as long as I can stay in that zone, then I should be good.”

One of Gorley’s six No. 1 songs honored was Morgan Wallen’s “You Proof,” which set a record for spending 10 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. “I didn’t have that goal in mind, but it was pretty cool when it happened,” Gorley admits. “It was definitely the longest No. 1, by double, that I’ve ever had. That’s a special one this year [and] to be able to, even after all this time, still be hopefully hitting the marks.

“It’s a weird song,” he says of the track, which includes a guitar loop and hip-hop drums in the chorus. “I still love when people will take chances and think that the weird stuff that we’re trying to come up with in the room was cool and let it out there in the world. That’s always a privilege; when they trust us with that, and when it works, it’s great.”

Nicolle Galyon also received a Triple Play Award. Her second trophy, Galyon was recognized for No. 1 hits by Dierks Bentley (“Gone”), Kelsea Ballerini (“half of my hometown”) and Wallen (“Thought You Should Know.)”

“It’s just so cool that we have an industry that recognizes songwriting,” Galyon, the sole female awarded, says. “I think this is going be the last year that I’m the only [female awarded]. There are so many good ones coming up that are honestly just keeping me inspired. … I feel like this is the last year that we’re going to have this conversation.”

[RELATED: Nicolle Galyon’s Songwriting Journey: A Decade of 10 No. 1 Hits]

Galyon recently notched her tenth No. 1 hit with Wallen’s “Thought You Should Know,” which she penned with the singer and Miranda Lambert. She says she knew it was a special song the day it was written.

“I remember sitting there writing thinking, ‘You’re gonna think back on this write when you’re 80 years old because you’re with two legends at the same time.’ That day was really pure because we were just writing to write. Morgan’s album was done, and Miranda wasn’t working on an album at the time, so we were just writing to write. The fact that we’re here means the song did all the work for us. We just kept finding a way through.”

As a mother of two, Galyon says the lyric been losing sleep since ’93 holds special meaning to her. “As a mom, I feel that sentiment so hard. You’ll just never fully sleep again once you have kids.”

Among the veteran CMA Triple Play Award winners were several first-time recipients. Kurt Allison, Charlie Handsome, Ben Johnson and Tully Kennedy all took home their first trophy. Johnson reflected on the honor and the hard work it takes to get one No. 1 hit.

“To get one cut is really hard,” he notes. “To get one single is really hard. To get one No. 1 is really hard. To stack them up in a row takes a lot of luck. I feel very fortunate to have a great team and great co-writers. I didn’t write any songs by myself. I think that’s an important thing to remember.”

Johnson, who is signed to Gorley’s independent music publishing company Tape Room Music, says sharing the evening with his mentor “means everything.” The pair wrote two No. 1 songs together – Parmalee’s “Take My Name” and Dylan Scott’s “New Truck.” Johnson says “Take My Name” was a memorable write as the song was penned during a snow day over the phone.

“We were all at home and we all got on the phone and wrote this song going back and forth on text messages,” he remembers. “It’s been really cool to see how it organically blew up and became a wedding anthem for so many people.

“When I go out and play it at writers’ rounds I’ve had people propose to their girlfriends to it. So that one’s taken on larger-than-life than I knew it would have. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song like that. So, that was a special one.”

Gorley describes Johnson as “extremely musically talented” and “overqualified for the songwriter gig.”

“He can play everything,” Gorley raves. “He can produce, he can write lyrics, hooks, melody, so he was a special one. We very much speak the same language, which is probably weird to most other people. We always know what each other is talking about when we’re writing songs. He’s a really fun co-writer. He had a great last year and three [No. 1 songs] happened for him way quicker then it did me so I’m excited for him.”

The 13th CMA Triple Play Awards recipients follow:

Rhett Akins

“To Be Loved By You,” recorded by Parker McCollum

“Slow Down Summer,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

“Half Of Me,” recorded by Thomas Rhett featuring Riley Green

Kurt Allison

“Blame It On You,” recorded by Jason Aldean

“If I Didn’t Love You,” recorded by Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood

“Trouble With A Heartbreak,” recorded by Jason Aldean

Luke Combs

“Cold As You,” recorded by Combs

“Doin’ This,” recorded by Combs

“The Kind Of Love We Make,” recorded by Combs

Jesse Frasure

“Whiskey And Rain,” recorded by Michael Ray

“One Mississippi,” recorded by Kane Brown

“Slow Down Summer,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

Nicolle Galyon

“Gone,” recorded by Dierks Bentley

“half of my hometown,” recorded by Kelsea Ballerini

“Thought You Should Know,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

Ashley Gorley

“Sand In My Boots,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

“Beers On Me,” recorded by Dierks Bentley featuring BRELAND and HARDY

“You Proof,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

“Slow Down Summer,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

“Take My Name,” recorded by Parmalee

“New Truck,” recorded by Dylan Scott

Charlie Handsome

“I Love My Country,” recorded by Florida Georgia Line

“More Than My Hometown,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

“Wasted On You,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

Michael Hardy

“Single Saturday Night,” recorded by Cole Swindell

“Sand In My Boots,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

“Beers On Me,” recorded by Dierks Bentley featuring BRELAND and HARDY

Ben Johnson

“Take My Name,” recorded by Parmalee

“Best Thing Since Backroads,” recorded by Jake Owen

“New Truck,” recorded by Dylan Scott

Tully Kennedy

“Blame It On You,” recorded by Jason Aldean

“If I Didn’t Love You,” recorded by Jason Aldean

“Trouble With A Heartbreak,” recorded by Jason Aldean

Shane McAnally

“half of my hometown,” recorded by Kelsea Ballerini

“23,” recorded by Sam Hunt

“Never Wanted To Be That Girl,” recorded by Ashley McBryde and Carly Pearce

Chase McGill

“Waves,” recorded by Luke Bryan

“Never Say Never,” recorded by Cole Swindell and Lainey Wilson

“Don’t Think Jesus,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

Thomas Rhett

“Country Again,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

“Slow Down Summer,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

“She Had Me At Heads Carolina,” recorded by Cole Swindell

Ernest Keith Smith

“Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90’s,” recorded by Sam Hunt

“One Mississippi,” recorded by Kane Brown

“Wasted On You,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

Josh Thompson

“Whiskey And Rain,” recorded by Michael Ray

“Wasted On You,” recorded by Morgan Wallen

“Half Of Me,” recorded by Thomas Rhett

Morgan Wallen

“Wasted On You,” recorded by Wallen

“Thought You Should Know,” recorded by Wallen

“You Proof,” recorded by Wallen

Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images

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