December 15, 2018 10:01:32 PM
When the 61st Grammy Award nominations were revealed with fanfare on the morning of Dec. 7, Chase McGill had other things on his mind, like scouring the tree line for a big buck.
"It wasn't even on my radar," the Columbus native, 31, told The Dispatch Wednesday from his home near Nashville, Tennessee. "I was actually in the deer stand and felt my phone keep on vibrating, and I try not to mess with my phone too much in the woods."
When McGill saw the persistent caller was one of his songwriting partners, Jessie Jo Dillon, he finally answered.
"I picked it up and whispered, 'Hello.'" When Dillon told McGill he had just garnered not one, but two of the year's six Grammy nominations for "Best Country Song," McGill forgot to whisper.
"After that, my hunting was pretty much over," he laughed.
McGill's nods for the songwriter award are for "When Someone Stops Loving You," recorded by Little Big Town and cowritten with Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna, and "Break Up in the End," recorded by Cole Swindell, cowritten with Dillon and Jon Nite.
The nominations are a career milestone in a year that's already been a standout. In October, the Heritage Academy and Mississippi State University alumnus received two No. 1 awards from the Nashville Songwriter's Association International. That same month, he earned his first week at No. 1 on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart with four active song titles: "Lose It" (Kane Brown); "Break Up in the End" (Swindell); "Short Skirt Weather (Brown); and "Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset" (Luke Bryan).
Since joining Universal Music Publishing Group as a songwriter in 2012, McGill's cowrites have been recorded by numerous other artists as well, including Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, Justin Moore and Brett Young. The journey has been informed by all the steps along the way -- the piano lessons his parents, Rick and Edna McGill, made him start taking at age 5, the first guitar at 12, the hard rock, blues and indie rock road he followed during high school and college in the Columbus-based band Enursha, which later evolved into Come On Go With Us. The group logged more than 300 shows in two years of touring and decided to settle in Los Angeles. There came a point, however, when McGill acknowledged country's pull on him. He relocated to Music City in 2010, where, eight years later, he and his wife and 1-year-old daughter make their home. A second daughter is due in the spring.
"I think it's all just God's timing," McGill said, with modesty, of his current success. "Obviously human nature is to want everything and want it now, but I was in no way ready for any of it back then. I had a lot of work to do."
Are you sitting down?
At least two other people receiving exciting phone calls early Dec. 7 were in Columbus.
"I got to the office about 10 to 8 (a.m.), and got a call; it was Chase on FaceTime," said Realtor Rick McGill, the songwriter's dad. "He had all his camo on, he's sitting up in a deer stand and I thought he must have gotten a big deer."
The nominee's mom was in for a shock, too.
"When he called and it was FaceTime, I thought, what in the world is he doing calling this early? I was still in PJs," said retired educator Edna McGill. Seeing the camo, she, too, assumed her son must have bagged a trophy. "He asked if I was sitting down. When he told me he'd been nominated for two Grammys I think I just screamed and cried."
Both parents point to their son's work ethic.
Rick McGill said, "I'm extremely proud that he's got all these awards, but I'm more proud of the fact that Chase realizes the hard work, and that that's where it comes from."
And maybe growing up where he did plays a part, too.
Edna McGill said, "I always think about so many people here who have supported him in the area of music for so many years. We're just so thankful for that."
Her husband added, "Chase being raised here, and all the people, his friends, his Sunday School teachers and coaches ... that's where Chase draws from for all that he does, his experiences in this small town."
As for the songwriter: "I'm just very thankful for the way God's blessed us," he said.
The 61st Grammy Awards will be broadcast on CBS Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, from Los Angeles.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.