Shane McAnally, Brandy Clark and Josh Osborne performed together during Nashville's annual Tin Pan South festival in late March, in a songwriters' round that McAnally jokingly dubbed "Two Gays and a Guy." But while the three writers threw playful jabs at each other throughout most of the evening, they also made it clear that their friendship is certainly no laughing matter.

"I was talking about "Biscuits" today," McAnally said during the event, referring to Kacey Musgraves' new single, which was written by Musgraves, McAnally and Clark. "I was talking about Josh and talking about Luke [Laird] and talking about Brandy and Kacey and so many people we get to work with. We're blessed that we get to sit up here and that we have hits and all of that, of course. But the fact that these are people that I would want in my family, and that this is what we get to do every day, we're very lucky."

As Clark explained, the feeling is mutual.

"Josh and I were at the same publishing company. And at that point, there wasn't anything going on for any of us. But getting to know this group of people really, really was the turning point for me," she recalled. "I admire all of their talent so much that I thought, 'If they think I'm good, then I'm going to keep doing this.'

"I think we all feel that way all the time. It's not a put-on up here. Everybody up here really is friends," she added. "I would tell all [songwriters] to find your group of misfit toys. That's sort of what we all were when we met each other."

McAnally, who is responsible for many of the biggest hits of the last few years, including Sam Hunt's "Leave the Night On," Kenny Chesney's "American Kids" and Lady Antebellum's "Freestyle," among others, said that he remains in awe of the talent he gets to collaborate with every day.

"I cannot believe we get to do this," he acknowledged. "I can't believe this is my job, and I know they feel the same. The truth is, I take a lot of credit, but these are the best. These are the best.

"This is the 'thing' that, years from now, when they talk about songwriters the way they talk about the great songwriters -- Bill Anderson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard -- that is who I get to work with," McAnally said.