At this time last year Cleve Wilson was thinking about finals like other students, but this year he’s got his mind on a CMA Award.
“It’s my first nomination and it just makes me want to work that much harder to get another one. Not necessarily another nomination, but it makes me want to work even harder to really solidify my place in the industry,” said Wilson, a former Belmont student.
Wilson contributed as a co-writer for “Center Point Road,” the title track of Thomas Rhett’s latest album.
Rhett’s album is up against other big names for the award of the Album of the Year, including Carrie Underwood’s “Cry Pretty” and Dan + Shay’s self-titled album, “Dan + Shay.”
Wilson wrote the instrumental for the song alongside a crew of producers including Dann Huff, Jesse Frasure, Julian Bunetta and acclaimed production team The Stereotypes.
Writing most of the instrumental in his dorm room during his freshman year at Belmont, Wilson credits the song’s success to the right person hearing his song through a wall.
“Dan Wiseman was playing my song for some meeting which was what would become ‘Center Point Road’ and Thomas Rhett’s producer heard through a wall,” said Wilson. “He’s like, ‘Yo, can you turn it down? By the way, though, what was that? It sounded like an NBA Finals theme song.’”
After receiving an email from Rhett’s producer, Wilson thought nothing would come of it. Months went by and he heard that Kelsea Ballerini was going to be on the track and it came together from there, he said.
And in true overcommitted-college-student fashion, Wilson once worked with Rhett and Ballerini in the middle of a shift at Martin’s Bar-B-Que.
“They were cutting the record. And I was like, ‘I can’t, I’m working at Martin’s Bar-B-Que,’” Wilson said. “And so I paid someone $50 to take my shift and showed up to the studio in my work outfit with sauce all over my shirt.”
During the summer of 2020, Wilson will head on tour with Sam Hunt. Currently, Wilson regularly writes five days a week and is heading to Toronto in February 2020 to write more.
The CMA Awards will air on ABC on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
This article written by Lauren Busch. Photo courtesy of Cleve Wilson.