Keith Urban celebrated his 24th No. 1 song “Coming Home” yesterday (Oct. 23) at Analog at the Hutton Hotel, along with co-writers Nicolle Galyon and co-writer and featured vocalist on the track, Julia Michaels. Co-writer and co-producer, J.R. Rotem was not able to be there. The tune also lists the late Merle Haggard as a writer, so his legacy was celebrated with the No. 1 song, as well.
“This song is inspired by a Merle Haggard song called ‘Mama Tried,’ and so Merle is also a writer on this song and I’m very grateful that he should rightly have another number one under his belt,” Urban said during his acoustic performance of the song.
James Burton, a revered guitar player that played the unforgettable Merle lick, was in attendance.
“When I heard that incredible lick, and that music from Merle Haggard’s song, I thought about growing up in Australia, traveling around with my mom and dad to all these country music festivals, and it was crazy how that music just brought me right back to my home where I was from, what it was like to move to Nashville, which to me was like a fish out of water in a big city. And I felt like a lot of people can experience that going to a new place and getting a bit lost along the way and knowing that they’ve got to recalibrate and get back to the place where people love them and know who they are,” Urban later said.
BMI’s Mason Hunter lead the celebration of the 100% BMI song. “Merle Haggard was, of course, a BMI icon and a continues to represent the BMI catalog and family through his works. Keith has been a BMI member for 22 years.
“J.R. Rotem could not be here and I hate that because he’s been a BMI member for 20 years. He was BMI Producer of the Year in 2009 and he was a BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year in 2011,” Hunter said. He also took the time to gush about another long-time BMI member, Nicolle Galyon.
Julia Michaels was in town to celebrate the song just before her show at Marathon Music Works. Because the track was Michaels’ first country No. 1, the pop singer-songwriter got a Taylor guitar, courtesy of BMI.
Sony/ATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg stepped up to the mic first to talk about Rotem and the late Haggard. Van Valkenburg recognized the Capitol Nashville label and radio promotion staff, before thanking the co-writers and Urban.
“I’ll just say if you would’ve told little kid Josh, that even if for the smallest of reasons that he could be up on stage to be able to honor Merle Haggard, that would be something I wouldn’t have believed. And I’m thankful that we get to represent him and his catalog. Amen to the country gods,” he said.
Pinnacle Bank’s David Duvall announced that they were making a donation to the W.O. Smith School of Music in honor of the song.
Next up, UMPG’s Troy Tomlinson made sure to thank everyone involved. UMPG also made a donation to MusiCares in honor of the song.
“I know he’s not here, but I want to say something anyway. I met J.R. about 20 years ago and he’s one of those guys you meet the first time and you realize he’s naturally gifted. Some of us we called gifted and we have to work really hard to appear gifted, but J.R. has that ability and had it from a very young age. So congratulations to J.R.,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson thanked the Capitol Nashville staff, as well as Urban’s management team members Gary Borman and Elisabeth Ashley.
“The first time that I heard anything about this song, he called because of that Merle lick. And this is all I want to say about that, the attitude that he had in that phone conversation with me about Merle and that lick, and how Merle should be presented and represented says everything you need to know about Keith Urban,” Tomlinson said.
“This is the best that that current country music has to offer combined with the best that old country has to offer, and the best that pop has to offer,” said Warner Chappell’s BJ Hill.
Hill was on hand to speak about Galyon, saying that she belonged on a list of influential Kansans. “With all the songs that you’ve written that have touched so many people and your effect on the artist around you, and the people that you’ve helped develop, your new record label and all the other things that you’re working on, I really think that you’ll be up there among the top of that list and many other lists. You have an extremely strong legacy,” Hill said.
Katie Wolaver from Warner Chappell’s LA office was in attendance to celebrate Michaels. “Julia Michaels is a prolific songwriter and artist whose words and melodies have crossed many genres and have topped the charts. She is an authentic collaborator who wears her heart on her sleeve, and I know from our Nashville office that every artist and writer that you work with here absolutely loves you and finds your talent and perspective truly inspiring,” she said.
Universal Nashville’s Chairman/CEO Mike Dungan spoke on Urban’s meticulous songwriting and recording process. “I’ve watched it for many years and the attention to detail, the insistence that everything be unique and in its own space is just mind boggling to me. And that’s what it takes to stay relevant, to stay current, to keep your fans engaged, to keep the world engaged. He does it every time he steps in to the batter’s box. I am completely in awe of Keith Urban and we are very, very honored to work with anyone who gives that much of his all to make it perfect.”
Dungan recognized his staff, and announced that it was Urban’s 24th No. 1 and his 40th top 10.
“In the history of the country chart, which goes back to January of 1990, Keith is the seventh artist to have 40 top tens. To make it even more unbelievable, this is his company in that elite category: George Strait, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith and Brooks & Dunn,” Dungan said.
Galyon was the first to speak when it came time for the creators to step up to the mic.
She first thanked her publisher, Warner Chappell, as well as BJ Hill and Ben Vaughn. She then thanked the radio promotion team.
“I want to thank these two amazing artists behind me. It’s a thrill to get to write a No. 1 song with anybody, but it is uniquely a thrill to get to collaborate with people that you are truly a fan of. I mean, not to embarrass Keith, but I have stood in an autograph line for Keith Urban at some point in my life. And I still wait up till midnight every time a Julia Michaels song comes out and I download it and buy it. So thank you for just being friends to me and thank you for being incredible artists and on this song, for making me look cooler than I really am to my kids and friends,” Galyon said.
“This is my first number one country situation, so that’s really cool,” Michaels said. “And I couldn’t have pictured doing this with anybody other than Mr. Keith Urban. I’ve known him now for almost three years and not only is he an amazing writer and performer, and just overall human being, he’s also an incredible friend and I’m really grateful to know him,” she said.
Urban recognized Dan McCarroll, his co-writers, management, label, publishers, BMI and his family. He also made sure to recognize Burton.
“I’m just a cog in the wheel, you know, I get to make something and then give it to an incredible team and then hope that they can take this ball and run with it,” he said.
“This song was unusual because it’s the first time that a sample has been used in a country song ever, so I love that,” Urban said. “I love seeing in the credits all these names and then Merle Haggard. I love seeing that in there.
“I wish Theresa and Ben could have been here today, but I loved it. They also gave their blessing for this song and that was very important to me. I also wanted to say that country radio was unbelievably supportive, going above and beyond to get this song to ring the bell. A lot of that was passion for obviously the song, but it’s also a lot of passion for Merle as well. It was an incredible show of love and support for him, and I thank country radio with all of my heart for letting us ring that bell,” Urban said.
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