Michael Ray, Songwriters Celebrate Power of Friendship, Resilience With No. 1 “Think A Little Less”

Pictured: (L-R): BMI songwriter Thomas Rhett, BMI artist Michael Ray, ASCAP writer Jimmy Robbins, BMI writer Barry Dean. (Not pictured: ASCAP writer Jon Nite.) Photo: Steve Lowry

“A man is only as good as the team he creates and he surrounds himself with and looking around this stage and around this room, I’m one hell of a lucky man,” said Warner Music Nashville artist Michael Ray, celebrating his second No. 1 single, “Think A Little Less.” The track follows Michael Ray’s first No. 1 hit, 2015’s “Kiss You In The Morning.”

Songwriters and friends Thomas Rhett, Jimmy Robbins, Barry Dean and Jon Nite penned the song almost exactly four years ago to the week that the song topped the country charts.

“I know how hard you fight and how hard it is going to these program directors day after day and fighting and fighting so thank you from the songwriters,” Thomas Rhett said, thanking WEA’s promotions team.

Industry members gathered at Nashville venue The Sutler, trading the sweltering Music City heat for a cool afternoon inside for music and celebration. As is becoming more of the norm at these No. 1 gatherings, Michael Ray joined the song’s writers, including Thomas Rhett, Barry Dean and Jimmy Robbins to perform an acoustic rendition of the track.

“There is no other genre that makes a night strictly for the songwriters,” Michael Ray said. “For me I got fortunate enough to sing this song. These men are the genius behind this and their publishers were the genius behind putting these guys together. I get to see what this song does nightly and it’s changed my life and my band’s life.”

Michael Ray recalled that when the time came for he and his label to decide what song would be his next radio single, they noticed that fans were gravitating toward a song that Michael Ray had never even played live in concerts.

“We called this song ‘The Sleeper,’ and I thank Jordan Pettit, Rebekah Gordon, Cris Lacy and Travis Gordon for believing in this song.”

“You can tell these guys really had fun writing this song,” said Creative Nation’s Beth Laird, in celebrating Creative Nation/Pulse writer Barry Dean. “There is something about having the right combo of people in the room and hearing that come through on a song.”

The song marks Dean’s third No. 1 song. He earned his first pop award earlier this year, for penning Ingrid Michaelson’s “Girls Chase Boys.” In keeping with the Creative Nation tradition of having perhaps the coolest gifts at these No. 1 parties, they offered each songwriter and the artist personalized bar signs.

ASCAP’s Beth Brinker honored Jimmy Robbins and fellow “Think A Little Less” creator Jon Nite, who celebrated with the crowd via FaceTime, as he was on the road celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary. Brinker also thanked First Tennessee Bank for taking part in the event.

BMI’s David Preston presented silver No. 1 cups, honoring writers Thomas Rhett and Barry Dean and BMI artist Michael Ray. This marks Jimmy Robbins’ 7th No. 1 song, in addition to his production work for several artists, including recent work for RaeLynn and Trent Harmon.

Sony/ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg honored Thomas Rhett for his part in co-writing the track. “This guy is a songwriter at heart. With everything else he’s got going on, he’s still writing hits for other artists.”

Pictured (L-R): Back row: Creative Pulse Music’s Scott Cutler, ASCAP’s Beth Brinker, BMI’s David Preston, Sony ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg, Round Hill’s Josh Saxe, producer Scott Hendricks. Front row: BMI songwriter Thomas Rhett, BMI artist Michael Ray, ASCAP writer Jimmy Robbins, BMI writer Barry Dean and Creative Nation’s Beth Laird. (Not pictured: ASCAP writer Jon Nite.) Photo: Steve Lowry

Round Hill Music offered donations in the name of the artist and writers to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. Pinnacle Bank made donations in the name of the artist and writers to 147 Million Orphans, a charity Thomas Rhett started with his wife Lauren.

Also among those feting the writers and artist were “Think A Little Less” producer Scott Hendricks, Country Radio Broadcasters’ Ashley Silver and the Country Music Association’s Brandi Simms.

“Jon Nite changed my life,” Robbins said. “He’s one of the first people to write with me. I checked today, and we’ve written 180 songs, which is like all the songs. Barry Dean, I started writing with Barry early when I got to Nashville. I’ve never met a more talented guy and a more special guy. Thomas, you were one of the first people to hear what I was doing and actually think it was any good.”

“I’m not good at this,” Dean said humbly. “I’m better in little rooms with a rhyming dictionary. I’m grateful to everyone at Warner and the promo side and to Michael. Scott, this record really sounds incredible.”

“Michael, thank you for just opening up to the song,” Thomas Rhett said. “I sing it in my shows every night and it sounds miserable next to yours. I also play it a bunch of keys lower than you do,” he quipped. “Jimmy, you’ve been part of my career since the first song and I appreciate how hard you work and how sweet of a guy you are. Barry, you really are a genius. When I’m in the room with you, the rhymes you come up with…we will go take lunch and we will come back and Barry has written the most beautiful poem you’ve ever heard. Then somehow turns it into a song.”

For his part, Michael Ray noted he was grateful to Thomas Rhett, who sang the song’s demo, for not including the song on his own album.

“Thank you Thomas Rhett for finishing your record before Travis Gordon played this song for me,” said Michael Ray. “I was sitting in Cris Lacy’s office and we were listening to songs and ‘Think A Little Less’ popped up and TR has the most incredible unique voice in the business so I said, ‘Well, this is a hit. Thomas is singing it so it’s out for me. Travis said, ‘No Thomas’ album is done,’ so I said, ‘Well, I want it.’ We got into the studio as fast as we could.”

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Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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