While Ben Hayslip is a seemingly elusive "star," of the songwriting "show," he's front and center when it comes to the man behind the words of countless top country music hits.
Last week Ben and his 'second family' celebrated his 20th No. 1 song with Thomas Rhett's "Star of the Show."
This chart topper was written with best friend and longtime co-writer Rhett Akins and sung by Rhett's son, Thomas Rhett, who's skyrocketed to the elite in country music. Ben said he's watched Thomas grow up and is honored he had a hand in his recent hot hit.
It's about a girl with the "prettiest smile in the world," whom, unbeknownst to herself, draws a crowd and is the "star of the show."
It seems Ben draws a crowd with his lyrics. "Star of the Show" just happens to be his third No. 1 song in the past nine months. The other two are Luke Bryan's "Huntin', Fishin' and Lovin'" and Dustin Lynch's "Mind Reader."
"Rhett Akins has been my best friend for 33 years," Ben said. "We grew up together in Georgia, I've know Thomas Rhett his entire life and we have been a big part of each others lives. It was very special for us three to share a No. 1 song with all our history."
Ben sort of takes it in stride when people say he's part of one of the most successful writing trios in the history of country music. He's with the Peach Pickers, which is comprised of himself, Dallas Davidson and Akins. They've been writing and singing for years and have penned countless country music hits.
Growing up, Ben dreamed of a time when a song he wrote would play on the radio. It's an understatement to say that dream became reality, a million times over - literally.
"It is more than I ever dreamed of," Ben said. "My dream when I moved to Nashville was to somehow make a living writing songs and hopefully someday hear one of my songs on the radio.
Husband to Melissa and father of three boys who all go to Friendship Christian now, Ben a few years ago moved from Mt. Juliet and built a home in Lebanon. He is one of Nashville's most awarded and prolific country music songwriters. He has a penchant for his hometown in Georgia. Davidson and Akins are native Georgians as well. Between the three they have over 60 No. 1 songs and have sold over 230 million units.
If you are a county music lover and never heard "Honey Bee" by Blake Shelton, "When She Says Baby" by Jason Aldean, "I Don't Want this Night to End" by Luke Bryan, "It Goes Like This" by Thomas Rhett and Reba's (she doesn't need a last name) last big single "Going' Out Like That," then you've been living under a rock. Yes, they've written all these songs and dozen more top charters.
Ben, Thomas and Rhett wrote this latest, "Star of the Show," about four years ago.
"It was a title that I'd had for a while," Ben explained. "Thomas had just gotten married shortly before we wrote it and I'm sure he was thinking of his wife Lauren when were writing it. The song didn't go on his first record. It sat around for a few years until he pulled it out one day. Once he'd recorded it, he played it for Scott Brochette who is his label at Big Machine records. Scott loved it enough to make it his (Thomas') next single and the rest is history."
This song is Thomas' fastest rising song to date.
Secret to songwriting
"When I write a song, or do anything for that matter, my goal is to do it the best that I can," Ben said quietly. "I believe in showing up to the writing room everyday with huge expectations. My sports background and where I come from instilled competitiveness in me. That's the part of me that has helped me to get where I am today. As far as the actual writing process goes, I'm the son and grandson of great story tellers."
He said while he was growing up he'd sit around and listen to the "life stories" that his dad and papa told.
He takes that love for words and story telling into the writing room.
"I try to write real life stuff that makes people feel good when they hear it," he said. "I try to paint pictures in the listener's mind, I think all great songwriters have the ability to take the listener somewhere in their minds."
He said what keeps him motivated song after song is his competitive nature.
"I want my wife and kids to have some of the things that I never had," said Ben. "I want my kids to see that hard work pays off."
His strict writing routine goes off track only if his literally too sick to write or he has something going on with his kids he doesn't want to miss.
"I try to always put my family above my career," he said. "I'd rather quit writing songs than to have songwriting come before my family."
It doesn't look like Ben's going to quit writing any time soon. He has Dustin Lynch's new single called "Small Town Boy" and Morgan Wallen's new single, "The Way I Talk," each going vertical at a fast pace.
"I look forward to writing for whoever wants to record my songs," he said. "You never know who the next star is going to be. It wasn't that long ago that Thomas Rhett was the new kid on the block. Now he's had seven or eight number one songs in a row as an artist and headlining his own tour."
Rhett is his main cowriter in Nashville. They wrote their first song together when they were 14 years old.
"We speak the same language," he laughed. "How many best friends have grown up together, moved to Nashville together and gone on to have multiple No. 1 songs together. It's a pretty cool story for two country boys from Georgia.
Ben said he plans on writing songs until they run him off.
"My goal every day is to show up and write the best song that I can write that day," he said. "Luckily, people seem to like what I'm coming up with and that's a huge blessing!"