Country music ‘royalty’ came to the Ryman Auditorium on 17 September, but the real stars were songwriters. The occasion was the 2019 Nashville Songwriter Awards presented by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and City National Bank.
The audience came to their feet to give a standing ovation to the real Coalminer’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn who was escorted by Kid Rock to the podium where she received the Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given in recognition to a songwriter whose works have made a significant contribution to the American songbook and who has inspired the careers of others.
“Hello everybody. I’m Loretta,” she said, as if she needed any introduction.
The presentation was preceded by a performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta’s granddaughter, Tayla Lynn. Also on hand to honor Loretta were Kellie Pickler who sang “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” and Reba McEntire who sang “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”
George Strait took the stage to accept the President’s Keystone Award. Acknowledging the debt he owes to the songwriters who wrote so many of his chart-topping hits, Strait said, “I want to thank you for sharing your talent with me over the years and I want to thank NSAI for giving me this great honor tonight.”
The Songwriter/Artist of the Year Award went to Luke Combs whose debut album still tops the Billboard Country Albums chart. Five singles have been released from the album and all have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Josh Osborne received the Songwriter of the Year Award. The occasion was highlighted by Sam Hunt who sang “Come Over” and Michael Ray singing “One That Got Away,” both songs co-written by Osborne. During his acceptance speech, Osborne said that he would really like to get one of his songs recorded by George Strait. “…So if anybody in this room happens to knowwhat George is looking for,” he said, looking at Strait who joined in with the audience’s laughter.
The White Hat Award went to Senator Lamar Alexander. A songwriter and pianist himself, Alexander is the former Governor of Tennessee and has been a strong supporter of Tennessee musicians and songwriters. He was a prime force in the adoption of the landmark Music Modernization Act.
“Break Up In The End” was recognized as Song of the Year, recorded by Cole Swindell. The award was presented to the writers of the song, Chase McGill, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jon Nite. Taking the opportunity to encourage other songwriters who might feel discouraged or worn out by being told ‘no,’ Dillon said that “Break Up In The End” was the perfect example for not giving up. The song had been pitched to several artists, including Luke Bryan and Dan + Shay, all of whom turned it down before Swindell recorded it.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the ‘Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written’ Awards. Each year, the highly-coveted awards are voted on by Professional Songwriter Members of NSAI honoring the work of their songwriter peers. Songs eligible for the award have at least one Nashville-based writer and charted in the Top 20 of Billboard Airplay chart in the Christian, Country, Mainstream Top 40, and/or Rock genres during the eligible period. The NSAI Song Of The Year is the highest vote-getter. (See below for the list of the ‘Ten Songs’ with recording artists’ names in parentheses.)
The writers were obviously having fun as they shared some thoughts and stories about the songs that made the “Ten Songs” list. Bobby Pinson – who had two songs on the list – had some humorous advice. “How do you become a songwriter?” he asked, then answered his own question. “You get a record deal, then piss off your label and poof! You’re a songwriter!” he said sarcastically. But in a more serious tone, he said, “At the end of the day, if you don’t have words, you don’t have a song.”
It was a pleasure to see so many of the songwriters that I have known over their years. I have watched their careers develop and blossom and I count many of them as personal friends, such as Clint Daniels (“Some Of It”) and CJ Solar (“Up Down”).
I had the opportunity on the red carpet before the show to talk to CJ Solar. I said, “It’s like ten years of hard work has paid off in the last nine months for you.”
“I moved to Nashville in 2010 and was trying to get into the whole songwriting thing the whole time,” said CJ. “I got really lucky and got hooked up with Sea Gayle Music. Cool stuff just keeps on happening. I can’t believe all these accolades are coming my way. I do this because I love it. If I didn’t actually enjoy writing music, I’d go be an accountant or something, and make a lot more money. But it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun.”
Then CJ had a confession to make. He said, “Actually, I did have a songwriting session at 9:30 this morning that I completely forgot about until my co-writer texted me. ‘Yo, dude, you gonna be there?’ And I was, like, ‘Errr, I guess!’”
The Nashville Songwriter Awards is produced each year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters trade organization dedicated to protecting the rights of and serving aspiring and professional songwriters in all genres of music. For more information, visithttp://www.nashvillesongwriters.com/
‘Ten Songs I Wish I’d Written:’ the full list.
“Burning Man” – Written by: Bobby Pinson, Luke Dick (Dierks Bentley)
“Drowns The Whiskey” – Written by: Brandon Kinney, Jeff Middleton, Josh Thompson (Jason Aldean feat Miranda Lambert)
“Drunk Girl” – Written by: Chris Janson, Scooter Carusoe, Tom Douglas (Chris Janson)
“God’s Country” – Written by: Devin Dawson, Jordan Schmidt, Michael Hardy (Blake Shelton)
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” – Written by: Chris Stevens, David Lee Murphy, Jimmy Yeary (David Lee Murphy)
“Meant To Be” – Written by: Bebe Rexha, David Garcia, Josh Miller, Tyler Hubbard (Florida Georgia Line)
“Some Of It” – Written by: Bobby Pinson, Clint Daniels, Eric Church, Jeff Hyde (Eric Church)
“Tequila” – Written by: Dan Smyers, Jordan Reynolds, Nicolle Galyon (Dan + Shay)
“Up Down” – Written by: Brad Clawson, CJ Solar, Michael Hardy (Morgan Wallen)
“Whiskey Glasses” – Written by: Ben Burgess, Kevin Kadish(Morgan Wallen)
Photo Credits: Catrina Engelby
Story By Preshias Harris
Preshias Harris is a music journalist and music career development consultant with the emphasis on new and aspiring artists and songwriters. Her book, ‘The College of Songology101: The Singer/Songwriter’s Need to Know Reference Handbook’ is available at www.collegeofsongology.com Follow her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com
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