Breakout country star Bailey Zimmerman celebrated his first two chart-topping hits earlier this week with a double No. 1 party at Hi-Fi Clyde’s.
Industry members gathered to toast to Zimmerman’s debut chart-topper “Fall In Love” along with its follow-up, the multi-week No. 1 hit “Rock and a Hard Place.” The celebration brought together writers Zimmerman (BMI), Austin Shawn (BMI) and Gavin Lucas (ASCAP) for “Fall In Love,” along with Jacob Hackworth (BMI), Jet Harvey (BMI) and Heath Warren (BMI) for “Rock and a Hard Place.” Shawn is the producer on both hits.
All parties were celebrating their first ever No. 1 song. As part of BMI tradition, the BMI writers got their custom-made Taylor guitar to commemorate their first.
BMI’s Clay Bradley welcomed the crowd to the party. “What better way to kick off the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest than with these fresh and new faces, voices, energies and sounds for country music,” he said.
Zimmerman’s new sound has been incredibly well received by country music fans. Since breaking onto the scene in 2021, Zimmerman has amassed 2 billion streams to date. His debut album Religiously. The Album. arrived as not only the biggest all-genre streaming debut since 2021, but also the biggest streaming country debut of all time.
“I think it’s safe to say country music is in safe hands,” Bradley said.
ASCAP’s Duane Hobson was on hand to support affiliate songwriter Gavin Lucas. Studio Bank’s Ron Cox let the writers know that the bank had made a donation in their names to CreatiVets. Country Aircheck‘s Lon Helton presented Zimmerman with a plaque commemorating his success at country radio.
When Warner Chappell’s Ryan Beuschel got up to speak, he let the crowd know that the publishing giant represented everyone on stage, whether through direct publishing deals or administration partnerships.
“This crew has become like family to me,” Beuschel said, adding some backstory about his and Zimmerman’s first meeting. “You delivered song after song for this album. I’m so proud of you. What an amazing run that you’ve been on.”
Beuschel then went on to speak about each writer, complimenting them on what they bring to the songs.
Warner Music Nashville co-head Cris Lacy presented some stats on Zimmerman’s record-breaking run thus far. She let the crowd know that WMN originally asked for a re-write of “Fall In Love.” After Zimmerman, Shawn and Lucas humored them, they let the label executives know that they felt it was good as is.
“Sometimes the best thing for a record label to do is get the hell out of the way, so we did. This is the result,” Lacy said. “That gave us the fastest debut single to reach No. 1 since 2015, making this the quickest an artist has earned a chart-topping No. 1 on their first two singles in nearly 25 years.
“Then ‘Rock and a Hard Place’ hit No. 1 only 15 weeks after ‘Fall In Love,’ and held that top spot for six weeks,” Lacy said. “There are some people whose job isn’t to get the hell out of the way—that’s the radio people. It’s their job to push people out of the way.”
Lacy acknowledged WMN’s Kristen Williams and her radio warriors and streaming experts.
Gregg Nadel from Elektra, who partners with WMN on Zimmerman, visited Nashville to share some kind words about the star. He recalled a night on the road when the crowd wouldn’t settle down after Zimmerman finished his set with “Rock and a Hard Place.” After a moment backstage, the young performer went out and sang it again for them.
More publishers spoke about their writers, such as Goat Island Sound’s Sam Shelton, who was also celebrating his first No. 1. He and Boom Music Group’s Shaina Botwin were on hand to speak about Hackworth. Both made sure to thank everyone involved in the song, especially Zimmerman for cutting an outside song.
“Fall In Love” co-writer Lucas was the first songwriter to speak. “Meeting Bailey Zimmerman changed my entire life,” he said. “It’s hard to write a song and hear someone else sing it in the way you meant for it to be sang. This guy sings it 10 times better than I could have thought of.”
Co-writer and co-producer Shawn shared a bit about the beginning of his partnership with Zimmerman, highlighting how quickly the artist went from a “regular guy” to a superstar.
“I met Bailey three months after he started singing. He didn’t know how to play a chord on a guitar, he didn’t know how to sing a harmony, he didn’t know anything, but what he did have and what I saw was his heart… This is the power of having heart and having drive,” he said, “We had nothing at the same time and now we have everything we could have ever imagined.”
“Rock and a Hard Place” co-writer Warren was next up. “This has been an incredible journey. I have learned a lot of lessons along the way through this entire thing, but the thing I’ve really learned is to appreciate the people you’ve surrounded yourself with,” he said.
Harvey shared that “Rock and a Hard Place” was based on argument he and his wife Kristin had. “I never thought that an argument would turn into such a miracle,” he said. “Bailey says something every night after his shows—he talks about believing in yourself. I never had anyone believe in me until I met Kristin.”
Hackworth summed everything up by saying, “Everything you’ve heard is exactly the truth. Everyone in these seats are incredible people. We all work really hard at what we do and we’re really thankful that we’re here today.”
Zimmerman told the stories behind his connection to both songs. He thanked everyone on his impactful team.
“You hear it takes a village and it really does. If I wouldn’t have had everyone I have here, it would have been awful,” Zimmerman said. “Thank you for everything you guys do. I’m so grateful to be a part of this. I love y’all with my whole heart.”
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