“Chasing After You” co-songwriter Brinley Addington had been chasing after a voice for he and Jerry Flowers’ song for years, long before it ever rose the charts in 2020 on its way to acclaim, including a nod at tonight’s CMT Awards.
While it’s easy to be cynical about the swath of acronym-ed country award shows, for every country event-of-the-year declaration, there are Nashvillians like Addington, who find long-awaited artistic validation under their spotlight.
His journey began way back in October 2014, when the Kingsport native scheduled his first-ever writing session with Flowers.
“I was coming up the stairs at Combustion Music that day and I heard that signature guitar lick through the door. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, that is so catchy, whatever that is,’” Addington said. “I kind of burst through the door. I had never met Jerry before. I was like ‘Hey, I’m Brinley. Whatever that is, we have to write that.’”
Addington had come to Nashville in 2008 to attend school. By 2011, he’d immersed himself in the lifestyle of an artist who played the Nashville game for five full years.
“I was on the road every weekend playing some college bar, fraternity, sorority party, fair or festival, weddings,” said Addington. “Anything I could get my hooks in I was going and doing and I was a little tired. I think I just wore myself out.”
It was a big development for a budding artist with several albums under their belt who had first fallen in love with country music on a trip to Nashville at the age of three.
“That was where it started for me,” Addington said. “I came home from that and I was pretending I was singing on the Grand Ole Opry in the living room. On top of the coffee table actually, was my stage.”
In reality, the living room dreams had proved a little more daunting than he’d hoped. His original idea of a six month break turned into a year, then two years.
“During that time, I realized how much I loved being a story teller and that creative process of making songs come to life, trying to tell a story that people across the board could relate to and feel,” Addington said. “Something about that got to be very comfortable and very welcoming.”
The shift in focus made him more prolific.
“Somebody gave me some really good advice once, you have to live to have stuff to write about. Nobody wants to hear songs about writing songs,” Addington said. “Because I was gone on the road all the time my stuff was getting to be about all one thing, traveling and drinking in bars because that’s all we were doing.”
“I was able to go do things with my friends, see the world more than just in and out for a show, spend time places, meet people and hear their stories,” he said. “The time it afforded me raised the level of inspiration.”
That led him to sessions with people like Flowers.
“I’m a lyricist, for me always it’s been the lyrics, the stories, the way they connect, the honesty, the pictures they paint. It’s always been about that bit of storytelling for me,” Addington said. “I think country music does that better than most other genres. There’s a level of honesty and relatability.”
But on that particular night, the words weren’t coming so easily, until the pair got to a topic they were familiar with and could relate with one another about.
“I said we can agree this is a late-night booty call love song right?” said Addington. “He said ‘Yeah, I think it is. It’s something kind of sexy’ … I said ‘Yeah, it’s like a you come over when your wine’s all gone kind of thing.’”
“Jerry just sang that over top of that lick and it worked,” he said. “It fell out of the sky once we got on it.”
After 45 minutes of inspired writing, the song was finished.
“There are some people you just can’t get away from, that you’re just magnetized to,” Addington said. “Maybe it’s off and on, or maybe you kind of know you’re not good for each other, but there’s just some people you can’t help chasing, you can’t help pursuing. I think people can relate to that. I sure can.”
Shortly after the song’s completion country artist Ryan Hurd, then in the fledgling stages of career, and a long-time friend and encourager of Addington’s, invited him to play at a writer’s round at Belcourt Taps.
“After I got done, he came over to me and was like ‘Man, what is that song? If I ever make a record I want to record that song,’” Addington said.
With the song then on hold in the hands of an artist, it was not to find its home day, but the timing was serendipitous.
Hurd’s eventual duet partner, Maren Morris, then just a good friend who would one day become Hurd’s wife, stopped by to complement Addington after his performance.
Then began the waiting for all involved.
As the relationship between Morris and Hurd blossomed, Addington’s demo of “Chasing After You” played a central role in their music listening habits, the pair frequently listening to it while riding around town.
“Over the course of the next three or four years, every couple months, Ryan would text me or call me and ask me what was going on with that song?” Addington said. “The first artist that held it, held it for about a year. The next person held it for about six months. Several other people held (the song) that added up to being about a year.”
The first of those artists was Keith Urban, who opted not to record the song.
“By the time the last artist let it go, Ryan had just got a record deal. He called me one morning. I was really bummed out because I would have really loved for that artist to have sung it,” Addington said. “Ryan asked one more time about the song. He said it was the last time he was going to ask. It had just come off hold that morning.”
“I told him he was welcome to it and if he still loved it, there’s nobody I’d rather sing it.”
After years of badgering, Hurd finally had the song he’d been chasing, a tune that meant something special to he and the girl he’d been chasing after himself.
For Addington, the day meant another step in capturing a dream he’d been chasing for years.
“Ryan and Maren are such great songwriters. I’m such a fan of both of them as writers. They don’t need my help to write a song, so its such a vote of confidence in me that this song was special to them,” Addington said.
Still, Hurd had just wrapped up his debut album, and so it would be several more years before the song would see the light of day.
During Christmastime 2020, Addington received a text message from Hurd.
“I thought he had just sent me something he’d written that he thought I’d like,” Addington said. “I opened it and it was the song. It’s him and Maren singing it. I was like ‘Oh my gosh. It’s a duet.’ It’s been a duet this whole time and we didn’t ever think of that.”
Addington was elated.
“It was such a special full-circle moment because he had been such a believer in that song and Maren had always been a fan of the song too,” he said.
Addington and Flowers song would be released in 2020, six years after it was written.
“I’ve loved this song for a long time,” Addington said. “You don’t always get those old favorites recorded, let alone by your friends and people you respect as writers. I’m very lucky.”
Those are the kind of stories that these award shows are made to recognize and reward, all the blood, sweat, tears, hours, days, months and years of process.
And so tonight, starting at 7 p.m. CST, on the same stage three-year old Addington had once imagined his coffee table turning into, “Chasing After You” is nominated for the CMT Award for Collaborative Video of the Year and was given an initial nod for Video of the Year, on the same network his grandma used to call his babysitter.
Addington’s main advice to songwriters trying to break through?
“What this song has taught me is to be patient and don’t ever give up on a song if you really believe in it,” Addington said. “Because it will find the right artist. It might be Keith Urban, or a really good friend who is a good singer might turn it into a big hit. You just have to trust and believe in yourself. Take advice from people, but trust your gut.”