Songwriter Luke Laird (Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Miranda Lambert) is relying on his own voice for songs from his new Music Row album. Tracks like "Good Friends" — available first during this Taste of Country premiere — find an easy groove between pop and traditional country.

That's not to say the song shoots straight down the middle, though. Steel guitar cries across the intro and chorus, but Laird's more contemporary influences color the song with a unique and personal set of tones. Jack Johnson is probably the best apples-to-apples comparison, if the acoustic charmer leaned into Nashville's twang more than the languorous shores of Hawaii.

"When you got good, good friends / What else do you need / Ones from the past to the ones down the street / Yeah, they're making you laugh, always got your back through the crazy we're living in / It's good, to have good friends," Laird sings at the chorus.

Laird has two dozen No. 1 hits as a songwriter for country music's biggest artists. "Pontoon" by Little Big Town, Hunt's "Hard to Forget" and Kenny Chesney's "American Kids" are three of his more well-known songs, but he's been all over albums by Thomas Rhett, Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris across the last decade. For the first time, he's introducing himself as an artist. The 10-song Music Row album drops Sept. 18 and includes nine more songs that marry tradition with progressive whims in original ways.

"I had a blast writing this one," Laird says of "Good Friends," a song that tips a hat to several important people in his life. "I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really good friends throughout many different phases of my life. This is my anthem for them."

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