November 8, 2017
The country music community is in full force in Nashville this week in anticipation of the 51st CMA Awards. The week began with performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC honoring their top songwriters and publishers. Each of these individual awards programs highlight a wide array of songwriting talent as well as songwriting legends.
The awards ceremony kicked off with Old Crow Medicine Show performing a lively rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary album Blonde On Blonde. The evening also featured memorable ballad tributes to Kenny Rogers including “Twenty Years Ago,” performed by Lee Brice; “Lady,” performed by Craig Campbell; “The Gambler,” performed by Dustin Lynch; and “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer,” performed by Kim Carnes and Andy Childs. Lastly, recording artist Billy Currington performed the SESAC Song of the Year “It Don’t’ Hurt Like It Used To.” Guest presenters included Billy Currington, Linda Davis, Jim Lauderdale, Dustin Lynch, Jon Pardi, Luke Pell and Hillary Scott.
55th Annual ASCAP Country Music Awards in Nashville brought out a who’s who of country hitmakers and luminaries. Americana and country pioneer Rodney Crowell was honored with performances of three of his classic country songs before receiving the ASCAP Founders Award. Keith Urban performed “You Won,” followed by Vince Gill, who played "’Til I Gain Control Again" and "Oklahoma Borderline."
Rodney Crowell, a multiple Grammy Award-winning artist who has written or performed 15 #1 songs on the country music charts and is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, was honored in song before being presented with the esteemed ASCAP Founders Award. Chart-topping country stars rendered several of Crowell’s hits: Keith Urban performed “You Won” and Vince Gill did “’Til I Gain Control Again” and “Oklahoma Borderline.” Steuart Smith, producer and longtime Crowell collaborator, presented the award. The ASCAP Founders Award is given to songwriters and composers who have made pioneering contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators. Previous recipients include Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Tom Petty and Melissa Etheridge among others.
Ashley Gorley was crowned ASCAP Country Music Songwriter of the Year for an unprecedented fifth time for his nine award-winning songs. Kelsea Ballerini earned the ASCAP Vanguard Award and treated the crowd to "In Between" from her brand new album, Unapologetically. We gave Songwriter-Artist of the Year to Matthew Ramsey, for the two songs he recorded with his band Old Dominion (“Snapback” and “Song for Another Time”) and his hit for Sam Hunt, “Make You Miss Me.”
Dierks Bentley performed Song of the Year “Somewhere on a Beach,” along with its songwriters Dave Kuncio and Josh Mirenda. The star-studded audience also enjoyed performances of the rest of ASCAP’s top 5 country music songs of the year: “Lights Come On” by songwriters Jimmy Robbins and Jordan Schmidt; “May We All” by songwriter Jamie Moore; “Snapback” by Old Dominion; and “Wanna Be That Song” by songwriter Scooter Carusoe.
We honored Warner/Chappell Music Publishing with the ASCAP Publisher of the Year Award, for publishing a record-setting 24 of the most-performed ASCAP country songs of the year. ASCAP Board member Jimmy Webb performed "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" in tribute to his longtime collaborator and friend, Glen Campbell, and the members of the music community who passed in 2017. Rising country star Brett Young kicked off the evening with a performance of his first hit song, “Sleep Without You,” and concert promoter Varnell Enterprises was honored with the ASCAP Partners in Music Award.
The 65th annual event, which is the genre’s oldest awards ceremony, also celebrated the songwriters and publishers of the most-performed country songs of the past year. In addition, country superstar Keith Urban was presented with the BMI Champion award for his work supporting the next generation of songwriters and music makers. BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill hosted the ceremony at the Company’s office in Nashville, along with Jody Williams, BMI Vice President, Creative, Nashville.
Bob DiPiero, who was named this year’s BMI Icon Award winner, joins an elite list of songwriters including Mac Davis, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Hank Williams, Jr., Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Kris Kristofferson, and more. He was honored with a tribute concert from country heavy hitters Brooks & Dunn and Reba, as well as country newcomer, Jon Pardi. The BMI ICON Award is presented to songwriters who have distinctly and profoundly influenced the music industry. Brooks & Dunn gave a rocking performance of “You Can’t Take The Honky Tonk Out of The Girl,” and Reba serenaded the room of industry tastemakers with a heartfelt performance of the 1994 chart topper, “Till You Love Me.” Newcomer Jon Pardi brought the house down with “Daddy’s Money.”
Earlier in the evening, Keith Urban was presented with the BMI Champion award for his tireless commitment to numerous music education programs such as the CMA Foundation, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the GRAMMY Foundation, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Fund, MusiCares, and others. Urban’s “All For The Hall” benefit concerts have raised more than $2.6 million for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and since 2013, the proceeds from his new URBAN™ Guitar Collection have benefited both the GRAMMY Foundation and Mr. Holland’s Opus Fund. Maren Morris performed “But For The Grace of God” with help from the Nashville School of the Arts choir, who performed with URBAN™ Guitars donated to the school. The song was his first number one single.
Ross Copperman was named Songwriter of the Year for the second year in a row. His writing credits include six of the most-performed songs of the past year, including LOCASH’s “I Know Somebody,” Kenny Chesney’s “Noise” and “Setting The World On Fire,” Brett Eldredge’s “Wanna Be That Song,” Keith Urban’s “Break On Me,” A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke” and Luke Bryan’s “Strip It Down.”
The coveted Song of the Year award was given to “H.O.L.Y.,” written by busbee and Nate Cyphert. Published by BMG Platinum Songs US, BRRCOFFEE, and Pulse Ventures, the Florida Georgia Line track was the most-performed country song of the year.