Morgan Evans Celebrates Chart-Topping Success Of “Kiss Somebody”

Pictured (L-R): Warner Music Nashville’s John Esposito, SMACKSongs’ Shane McAnally, Warner/Chappell’s Travis Carter, Songwriter/Producer Chris DeStefano, ASCAP’s Beth Brinker, APRA’s Mark Moffatt, Morgan Evans, Warner Music Nashville’s Scott Hendricks, Songwriter Josh Osborne, Sony ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg, BMI’s Maryann Keen  Photo: Steve Lowry

Morgan Evans experienced quite a journey from his early years as an aspiring artist in Australia all the way to the stage at Soundcheck in Nashville last Thursday night (Jan. 17), where he was rehearsing for his upcoming tour with Old Dominion and took time out to celebrate his first No. 1 “Kiss Somebody,” with fellow co-writers and veteran hitmakers Josh Osborne and Chris DeStefano. 

Dozens of industry friends were on hand for the special occasion at the rehearsal hall, which was decked out for a Piñata Party complete with plenty of margaritas and Mexican food. ASCAP and BMI hosted the event to honor Evans for his first trip to the top of the charts, a place Osborne and DeStefano travel to frequently, with 17 and 18 No. 1 hits between them, respectively.

ASCAP’s Beth Brinker welcomed the crowd and offered up introductions on the three writers being celebrated before BMI’s Mary Ann Keen congratulated Evans on his first chart-topper, reminding the crowd impressively that not only did Evans and Chris DeStefano co-write every song on Evan’s debut project, they also both played on every single track as well. Keen presented Evans with a Taylor guitar to commemorate the special occasion. David Smith from Pinnacle also congratulated Evans on his success with a contribution to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on behalf of the song, as they do with every chart-topping hit.

Evans’ Australian PRO APRA was also on hand for the celebration, and APRA’s Mark Moffatt recalled how amazing Evans’ journey truly has been, from making the leap of faith to move to Nashville after honing his craft for years, to meeting the love of his life, Kelsea Ballerini (who was in the audience) and reaching the top of the charts with his debut single. He also acknowledged the tireless efforts of Evan’s longtime manager Rob Potts, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in October 2017.

“While APRA was involved in getting Morgan here and introducing him, it’s teams here that really kicked it to the goal…Warner/Chappell, BMI, and having said that none of this would have happened without the late great Rob Potts,” said Moffatt. “I’d also like to say moving countries is an awesome thing to do it’s kind of an achievement. Moving countries and having a number one is unbelievable. Moving countries, having a number one, and finding the love of your life…there’s no words for that. How bout it? It’s been a pleasure and an honor to be part of your journey Morgan.”

Travis Carter from Warner/Chappell acknowledged what an honor it is to be Morgan’s publisher, thanking Chris for introducing Morgan to him, acknowledging Osborne’s unprecedented run, and praising Warner’s staff for their dedication to excellence.

Sony/ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg noted that while No. 1 parties are always special, this one was extra special because it was the first time he was representing Josh Osborne at one. “We’ve admired you from afar, your talents, what a great guy you are, so it’s very fun to be on your team so I want to say thank you. We’ve been kissing your butt for the last year, our lips are chapped, that’s one way to Kiss Somebody, but I want to say thank you so much for trusting us, and believing that we could be a place for your songs, so congrats. For Chris, we’ve gotten to know you and work with you over the years and I so admire your talent as songwriter, as a singer, as a producer…you’re like a rifleist, a sniper. So thank you for working so hard for us always. Morgan, we’re so impressed by your talents, by your artistry, you’re such a good dude, but I’ll never drink tequila with you again, but I love you very much and we’re so thankful to get to work with you.”

SMACK’s Shane McAnally praised all three writers for their prowess but noted he was especially happy to be celebrating business partner and longtime friend Osborne. “I am excited to talk about Josh, who is an incredible partner in the writing room and the last couple of years in SMACK as well, and honestly, let’s face it, if Josh were gay, we would be the Kelsea and Morgan of this party! But he’s not, so I get to enjoy his success in another house,” he adds, laughing. “But for real, I just happen to be lucky enough to be working with and to be best friends with the best writer across the board. He is the best there is, and he can do anything in any room, and he brings the heart, and be brings the fun, and every day with him is better and anybody who writes with him would say that and I just wanted to get up here and tell you how much we love Josh Osborne and are proud to work with him.”

Highlighting the monumental success of “Kiss Somebody,” CRB’s RJ Curtis noted the song has already accumulated 150,000 spins reaching 912 million people at radio, and Country Aircheck‘s Chuck Aly also honored Evans’ achievement from the stage as well. CMA head Sarah Trahern presented all three writers with medals, placing Evans’ around his neck as Osborne joked, “And now, the playing of the Australian National Anthem!”

Warner Music Nashville Chairman and CEO John Esposito began his remarks by thanking everyone at his label, especially the radio team, noting “they handle rejection on a daily basis better than I ever could.”  He noted Evans’ current single, “Day Drunk,” is getting traction in the UK and other international territories already, and that he would soon be introduced as “worldwide star.”

“Before I give you some stats I’d particularly like to acknowledge Morgan’s touring band, they are kicking ass,” Espo joked, riffing on Evans’ loop pedal performances sans backing band. The label head went on to list some pretty impressive stats, including Evans’ 620,000 sales in the U.S., 75 million on-demand streams, and landing on Spotify’s Global Top 50.

He admitted that moving this song up the charts became more than just a typical goal after the loss of Potts in 2017 — it became a mission for the whole team. “I’ve been on the CMA Board the whole nine years I’ve been down here, and one of the characters on that Board was Rob Potts,” recalled Esposito. “He started pitching me on Morgan about six years ago, and every Board meeting, it was ‘you’ve gotta listen to this, I’m telling ya the kid’s a star!’ And I’ve been looking at the links and seeing what he was doing in Australia and I was very impressed. But I kept saying you know, first of all he’s got to move to Nashville and make a commitment and let’s get him in the room with writers in Nashville. And by god one day he walked in with the stuff that Morgan had written with these guys that Chris produced, and I said it’s about time. And I know Rob Potts said it’s about time.

“We signed Morgan a month later, and were blessed that he came to us,” Esposito continued. “And I think it was a month later after the celebration of his signing that Rob had his motorcycle accident and went up there. So this became very personal for everybody at our label. I know it became personal for a lot of people in this town. But I said there is no way we’re not gonna deliver Rob Potts a number one record for him to look down on us. So thank you everybody who helped make this happen.”

Esposito also announced the CMA will be announcing an internship program created in Potts’ honor as well, then presented Evans with his first RIAA Gold plaque for the single.

Finally it was time for the men of the hour to speak, with DeStefano thanking everyone in the crowd for celebrating with them on the special day. “It’s always a very humbling thing when you see the amount of people who support this and how many people who are involved really in the miracle that is a number one song — how many things need to go right and how many people are involved. My publisher Sony/ATV thanks for all you do, you work tirelessly for my songs. Josh Van Valkenburg, for believing in me since Day One — literally me stepping off the plane here in Nashville back in June 2010 and I feel like my life began in June 2010, like everything up ’til then was life experience but the best all happened after that moment, so thank you brother. Huge thanks to ASCAP for always supporting songwriters and fighting for our rights. The NSAI are absolutely at the forefront of that as well.

“Thank you Millie for inviting me down to the Song Hub 50 Songs in Five Days back in November 2016 and introducing me to this guy Mr. Morgan Evans. It was in incredible opportunity that was certainly life-changing for me, and I was humbled to be a part of Morgan’s career. I’m so grateful Morgan to be able to collaborate with you and work with you, I love your creativity, all your ideas, everything you bring makes the process so enjoyable, and also for your friendship as well. We’ve experienced a lot together it’s been a few years but we jumped out of a plane together in Australia, and I never thought I’d do that in my life! It was an amazing experience. I’m blessed to have you in my life – thank you buddy!”

Osborne recognized the work that goes into getting a song up the chart and how he never takes that for granted. “Honestly, these things are always amazing,” said Osborne. “When I first moved to Nashville I thought like a lot of people that if you wrote a song and it got on the radio, and the song became a number one hit it was basically magic, and the truth is, after being in the business I understand now it’s not magic, it’s people who work really hard to make that happen. So thank you to the Warner staff for taking this song with a new artist and working it up the chart, and for Morgan to go out and work as hard as he did to do everything he could to promote the song and give it a chance, if you’re a songwriter in this business that’s all you can ask for, is for people to have the same passion for your songs that you have. And this song was very fortunate to have that. So those are the kinds of things you learn not to take for granted.”

Evans capped off the festive evening by performing his current single and the chart-topper “Kiss Somebody” for the crowd, but not before saying a few words and reflecting back on the journey that brought him 10,000 miles from home to his place as one of country’s new rising stars. “Every time I see the city skyline I think about the first time I came to Nashville and imagined being a part of this community. Every time I have that thought I get this rush of memories. Especially on a day like today when we get to stop and look back and celebrate things,” said Evans. “This is the biggest occasion. This is it. More than anything, it means I get to keep doing this for a long time, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Pictured (L-R): Songwriter/Producer Chris DeStefano, Songwriter Josh Osborne, Morgan Evans, Warner Music Nashville’s John Esposito



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About the Author

Hollabaugh, a staff writer at MusicRow magazine, has written for publications including American Profile, CMA Close Up, Nashville Arts And Entertainment, The Boot and Country Weekly. She has a Broadcast Journalism and Speech Communication degree from Texas Christian University, (go Horned Frogs), and welcomes your feedback or story ideas at [email protected]

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