Kenny Chesney‘s “Happy Does,” released in 2020, is from his Here and Now album. The song was written by Greylan James, Brad Clawson, Brock Berryhill and Jamie Paulin, fulfilling a dream James held for a long time of having Chesney cut one of his songs. Still, he never imagined how much “Happy Does” would change the entire trajectory of his career.
“That song that changed my life,” James tells Everything Nash. “I grew up in Knoxville, in East Tennessee, and always looked up to Kenny Chesney, because he was from the area. Everybody always asked me, ‘Are you going to be the next Kenny Cheney?,’ as soon as I started wanting to do music. So he was always my goal, or at least somebody I looked up to for a long time.”
James moved to Nashville after high school to write songs, always hoping that his own musical idol would end up recording one of the songs he wrote.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, that would be crazy if he could record one of my songs,'” James recalls. “I saw a sign in Key West, when I was there for the Key West Songwriters Festival, at a bar that said this quote about being happy. Basically, just choose happiness, no matter your situation. I remember coming back and writing with my co-writers. We had heard that Kenny Cheney was recording the next week and we’re like, ‘Let’s just try it.’ And so we started writing the song about a gas station clerk that I had actually met, when I was back home in Knoxville. The guy was moving out to California, and he was gonna be an actor, and that was his last day working at that gas station. I was like, ‘Man, that’s choosing happiness right there. That guy is working at a weird gas station, a really country gas station in the middle of nowhere, and he’s choosing happiness.'”
James and his co-writers finished “Happy Does,” which found its way to Chesney, who reached out to James and the other writers personally to tell him he was going to record the song.
“He loved it, called us and said he was recording it,” James recalls. “It changed my life. I never talked with him before that. I finally got to talk with him, and ever since then he’s become a good friend and a good buddy, which is surreal to say.”
James is still penning songs for other artists, but he is also working on his own artist career as well. The rising star just released “Make the Best Memories,” and plans to release more music in the future, thanks to his friendship with Chesney.
“As soon as ‘Happy Does’ made it to the top and did its thing, people started saying, ‘Man, you should do your own thing. Now you should do your own thing,’” James explains. “I was like, ‘You know what? I should do my own thing.’ And Kenny was actually nice enough to set me up with his management; he hooked me up with Morris Higham [Management], who believed in my artist stuff from the get-go, as soon as they heard the first couple songs that I played them, ‘Make the Best Memories’ being one of them. They were in from the get-go. They were like, ‘We are bought in.’ It’s been incredible. It’s been super fun to do it. I’m excited.”