On Monday night (11/7), the word of the day was glamour.
In recent years, the annual SESAC Nashville awards gala has been steadily gaining on its larger PRO competitors in terms of elegance and sophistication. That evening, the organization took flight from its previous Music Row headquarters tent, soaring upward to the 21st floor of The Pinnacle office tower downtown. Every sense was stimulated as a result – the look, the sound, the taste and the feel were all first class.
To no one’s surprise, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott was named SESAC’s country Songwriter of the Year. She not only co-wrote her million-selling group’s “Just a Kiss,” “Our Kind of Love” and “Need You Now,” but also the Sara Evans smash “A Little Bit Stronger.”
“This award goes to someone near and dear to my heart,” said SESAC’s Tim Fink. “She’s not only a great artist, a superb vocalist and a consummate entertainer; she’s also a superb human being. She’s one of the sweetest and most genuine individuals you could ever hope to know.”
Hillary works for the charity MyLife Speaks, which aids the devastated children of Haiti. Tim announced that SESAC is donating to it in her name.
“I’m so honored to be here and honored to be a part of this organization,” Hillary responded. “It means the world to feel so loved. I’m speechless.”
Hillary attended with her handsome fiancée Chris Tyrrell, proud parents Lang Scott & Linda Davis, her little sister Rylee Jean Davis and folks from her publishing family, EMI Foray / Hillary Dawn Songs, which was named Publisher of the Year.
Newly minted country star Chris Young introduced the Song of the Year winner, “Tomorrow,” co-written with Anthony Smith.
“This is pretty cool, because I don’t have to talk about myself,” said Chris. “I get to talk about one of my truly best friends, Mr. Anthony Smith. I really do thank God that he put me in the room that day with Anthony and Frank Myers. That song set the tone for my whole album. Every song had to measure up to it. It’s one of the songs I’m most proud of.”
The awards ceremony began with greetings from SESAC’s Pat Collins. Then Craig Campbell sang his amusing, award-winning “Fish.”
Trevor Gale pointed out the rising number of stars who are cutting SESAC songs. Tim Fink added that SESAC is the only PRO that gives recognition to the Americana genre. This year’s AMA show will be nationally televised for the first time. It airs on Nov. 19 on PBS as a special edition of Austin City Limits. The word “Americana” as a musical description is now in Webster’s Dictionary. Amy Beth Hale is SESAC’s Americana and bluegrass point person, by the way.
SESAC 2011 Americana awards will be sent to Jonathan Byrd, Hayes Carll, Seth Avett, Bob Dylan and Colin Brooks. Jim Lauderdale was there to receive his in person. He sang “I Lost You,” which was recorded and co-written by Elvis Costello.
“I feel like I’m at the Pinnacle of my career,” Jim quipped about the lofty party space. “Thank you to SESAC for putting the CAN back in AmeriCANa.”
MusicRow received a shout-out for celebrating its 30th anniversary. SESAC was the magazine’s very first advertiser when the publication began.
Shannan Hatch and John Mullins joined Tim in presenting the country awards. Superstar Ronnie Dunn sang the soulful workingman’s lament “Cost of Living,” co-written by SESAC’s Phillip Coleman.
“That’s a perfect song finding a perfect singer,” observed Tim.
Other winning SESAC country songs included “Amen,” “Til Summer Comes Around,” “Family Man,” “Beautiful Every Time” and “Gotta Get to You.”
But let’s get back to the sheer stylishness of the event. The Pinnacle’s 21st floor’s greatest feature is, of course, the views of the glittering lights of the city beneath on all sides. It is an open, industrial space that was draped with yards of white drapery, up-lit in tones of blue and green. Silver square cocktail tables were lit from within in varying hues. Upholstered white benches were placed at window views. Glowing light from votive candles and pillar candles in vases filled with white orchids infused the space.
Palm fronds backed the bar stations. Against one wall was a row of art-glass “chandeliers” dangling over large, white-on-white floral arrangements. During cocktails, the wait staff circulated with bacon-wrapped quail, mozzarella-and-pesto stuffed grape tomatoes and mini shrimp cakes.
The dining room held tables covered in silver cloths with satin spiral ribbon appliqués. Silver chargers were round on the rectangle tables and square on the round ones. The chairs were silver, too.
The centerpieces were glass cubes holding white hydrangea blossoms, white anthurium (a.k.a. “flamingo flower”), white orchids and white cabbage heads, surrounded by votives in vases filled with clear glass chips. Very classy. They didn’t have to go far for those floral embellishments – They came from Oshi, located in The Pinnacle’s lobby.
Anna Wilson, as always, was at the forefront of the fashion statements. She wore a faux fur white stole over a tiered satin short-length sheath, accented by black horizontal darts, black gloves, a black clutch and her spiffy escort, Monty Powell. Jayne Rogovin was right up there, too, wearing a vintage, taupe, Oscar de la Renta pants suit with a lace motif and an Alberta Ferretti velvet coat of many colors. Kristi Rose wore a black, cut-velvet tunic and ‘60s stiletto boots, while hubby Fats Kaplan was in a vintage russet tux jacket with a black satin shawl collar.
Caroline Davis was a dish in her one-shoulder patterned satin cocktail dress with a floral pattern. Its trim cut reminded her of Mad Men, she said. Joey Martin looked smashing in her floor-length black jersey gown with a wide, low-slung leather belt, white fringed mini shawl and overall-wearing escort, Rory Lee Feek. John Briggs was stylish in pin stripes. Debbie Carroll chose a sleek, black, lace cocktail dress. Pat Finch was in a vintage white tux jacket.
Linda Davis was radiant in an electric blue draped-silk top with cutaway sleeves. Iodine’s Susanne Mumpower was in a black vinyl mini dress, which contrasted with her ice-blonde hair and ruby lips. She was accompanied by husband Jamie Johnson of The Grascals. Her album, by the way, is essential listening, a riveting experience.
Mingling fabulons included Charlie Stefl, Charlie Monk, Jason Morris, Ed Morris, Tom Baldrica, Tom Luteran and Thomm Jutz. The latter is the co-producer of the multi-artist Civil War CD 1861. German born, he recently, proudly gained his American citizenship.
Gilles Godard, Gil Grand, Billy Block, Rocky Block (his son, growing up fast), Benita Hill, Jed Hilly, Al Moss, Arlos Smith, Ashe Underwood, Arthur Buenahora, Tinti Moffatt, Tim McFadden, Troy Tomlinson (losing weight stylishly, via a nutritionist), Blaine Larsen, Ben Vaughn and Bernie Nelson worked the room. Bernie introduced me to his latest collaborator, 14-year-old Easton Hamlin, who has moved here from western Kansas to improve his songwriting. That’s what I said, 14, and he’s already been writing for three years.
Also schmoozing: David Macias, Donna Duarte, Susan Stewart, Ron Cox, Kari Estrin, Woody Bomar, Peter Cronin, Noah Gordon, Victoria Shaw, Garth Fundis and Steve Williams, who has the new Oak Ridge Boys single, “Whatcha Gonna Do,” plus Mike Dungan, Karen Oertley, Nancy Shapiro, Jerry Salley, Lance Miller, Catt Gravitt and Hank Adam Locklin.
The City National Bank team was out in full force – Holly Bell, Diane Pearson and Lori Badgett were introducing their boss Martha Henderson to her first Country Music Week. “It’s not how much music you like, it’s how much can you stand?” I advised her.
I love it when they provide menu cards. It makes me sound so cultured. We dined on a first course of seasoned greens with feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, wild mushroom and roasted pear turnover with fig vinaigrette. The main course was red wine braised beef short rib, mahi mahi with lemon beurre blanc, aged cheddar grits and haricot verts (that’s green beans to you, Bub) with caramelized onions and toasted walnuts. The dessert was a yummy lemon mousse pot de crème with blueberry pudding cake.