Exclusive: ACM Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley Calls Music a “Magical Thing”

There was a specific moment when Ashley Gorley knew he had arrived as a songwriter. It wasn’t when he scored his first No. 1 hit or heard one of his songs on the radio–it was when he got to claim “songwriter” as his profession on his tax forms.

Videos by American Songwriter

“I was like, ‘I am this, this is amazing,’” Gorley recalls in an interview with American Songwriter while driving in the car on his way to a writing session with Lee Brice. “I’ve still never had anything that felt better than that moment.”

Gorley was “messing around” with lyrics and tracks during childhood and wrote his first song, a rap, in high school. But it wasn’t until he moved to Nashville and attended Belmont University that he realized that songwriting was a profession. He’s now one of the most sought-after writers in town, having amassed a staggering 67 No. 1 hits as a songwriter. Among the most prominent cuts in his discography are “House Party” and “Break Up in a Small Town” by Sam Hunt, “Cop Car” by Keith Urban and “Dirt on My Boots’ by Jon Pardi. He’s penned several hits for Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett, including Bryan’s “Crash My Party,” “That’s My Kinda Night” and “Play it Again,” and Rhett’s “Marry Me,” “Life Changes” and “What’s Your Country Song.”

[RELATED: HARDY, Ashley Gorley Celebrated with Songwriter Awards at ACM Honors]

It’s no surprise why Gorley is being honored as the Songwriter of the Year at the 2023 ACM Honors. In the past year alone, he’s penned back-to-back hits by Cole Swindell with “She Had Me at Heads Carolina” and “Single Saturday Night,” and had smash hits with Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” and “You Proof.” Though he’d been nominated eight times in the past for Songwriter of the Year at the ACM Awards, 2023 marked the first year he won. He was announced as the winner at the ACM Awards in May 2023 but officially received the award at the ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in August. 

He was presented with the award by his frequent collaborator and fellow hit songwriter Emily Shackelton. ACM Honors host Carly Pearce and Shackelton also celebrated Gorley with a performance of the hit the three wrote together, “What He Didn’t Do.” The No. 1 song served as the final single that closes the chapter of Pearce’s 29: Written in Stone album. 

“There’s a lot of big songs that I got to be part of in the last year or two, it was a really fun variety. It is cool to look back on that year and that people appreciate whatever I had to contribute,” Gorley said of the “special” honor of being named Songwriter of the Year, in addition to winning Song of the Year and Single of the Year at the ACMs for co-writing “She Had Me at Heads Carolina.” “It was just a really good year. It was a really fun year last year. I’ve had several of those, but it just felt like it was a good moment.”

During his acceptance speech at the ACM Honors, the Kentucky native stated, “I believe writing songs is a privilege and music is a gift from God.” Elaborating on that point further, Gorley said he feels a sense of humility getting to write songs for a living, knowing there are many people who long to be in his position. This humble spirit is part of the driving force behind his passion for songwriting.

“Music is a magical thing,” he professed, calling songwriting a “strange skill set.” “I think the respect for the craft and the process and knowing how tough it is, that hasn’t gone away at all. That’s what I mean by that being a gift and a privilege. I think that helps me to really try to get the best song every day because I know how many other people are trying to get the best song every day, so I don’t take it lightly.” 

ACM Honors airs on Monday (September 18) from 8-10 p.m. ET on FOX.

Photo Credit: Michael Buckner/Courtesy of OH Creative

Leave a Reply

Dillon Carmichael Kicks off Cold Can Holdin’ Tour