Co-written by Gilbert with Rhett Akins, Brock Berryhill and Josh Dunne and part of his Fire & Brimstone album, the tortured anthem captures that special brand of romantic misery that comes with not being able to avoid memories of a better time, and it sits atop both country radio charts this week.
View this post on Instagram
Y’all. This is a moment I have been waiting for since I was a little girl. So many nights I have gone to sleep praying to be able to celebrate a #1 song like this. To be a part of this record and to work with such an incredible team of hard working people…..I’m so grateful. @brantleygilbert, thank you for asking me to be a part of this song. Thank you @scott.borchetta and the whole Vallory team @bigmachinelabelgroup for welcoming me into your family and working so hard to get this. Thank you to @jon_loba and my Stoney Creek Records promo team and everyone at @bbrmusicgroup for all your hard work and belief in me every single day. And THANK YOU COUNTRY RADIO for making this possible. Y’all have believed in me from the moment I signed my first record deal 7 years ago, and I could not be more grateful to you all. 🙏🏼💙 Brantley, we did it!!!!
View this post on Instagram
Because of y’all #bgnation, #whathappensinasmalltown is the number one song at country radio…. Thanks to my co-writers @officialrhettakins @brockberrryhill and @joshdunnemusic for helping me write one hell of a song and thank you to @lindsayell for slayin hard on it…. Congrats on your very first number one my friend…. Preciate @bigmachinelabelgroup for pushin this one hard and all of our friends at COUNTRY RADIO for your support on this thing…. Time to celebrate y’all…. #fireandbrimstone
“I want to give the fans a lot of credit for the life of this song,” Gilbert says. “From the beginning, they shared it, streamed it and called up radio to hear it. I’ve been there — drivin’ around home seeing all the people and places that I used to avoid to keep from thinkin’ about the one that got away. I think we all have that person, those people, those places … and this song.”
Although it’s technically Gilbert’s song, the news may actually be a bigger deal for Ell, who picks up her first No.1 in the U.S. She provided both vocals and guitar to the track, after Gilbert specifically picked her as his duet partner.
“I have dreamed of having my first No. 1 since I was a little girl,” she says. “It honestly feels surreal, and to be able to celebrate it during CMA Awards week in Nashville makes it even more special. I’m honored Brantley, Scott Borchetta and Jon Loba asked me to be a part of this song. From the minute I heard ‘What Happens in a Small Town’ for the first time I knew it was a hit that would connect with people, and now it’s changing my life as an artist. I’m beyond grateful.”
“What Happens in a Small Town” is up for CMA’s Musical Event of the Year at Wednesday’s CMA Awards (airing at 8 p.m. ET on ABC), and Ell will perform as part of a special, all-female tribute to an iconic CMA Song and Single of the Year during the show.