Matthew West Leads 36th Annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards

Pictured (L-R): ASCAP's Michael Martin, Capitol CMG Publishing's Eddie DeGarmo, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Matthew West, ASCAP's Paul Williams and LeAnn Phelan. Photo by Ed Rode.

Pictured (L-R): ASCAP’s Michael Martin, Capitol CMG Publishing’s Eddie DeGarmo, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Matthew West, ASCAP’s Paul Williams and LeAnn Phelan. Photo by Ed Rode.

Nashville’s Christian music industry had a night to shine at the elegant Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tenn., for the 36th Annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards. Rising group PawnShop Kings opened the evening with their bluesy rock vibe of “Love Like Jesus.”

ASCAP president Paul Williams was on hand to welcome the industry-only crowd.

“This is the second time I’ve been here for the awards,” said Williams. “There is such a vibe here in Nashville. Every day I say, ‘Surprise me God, and lead me where you need me. Your work is holy work and I love being here.'” ASCAP’s Michael Martin, LeAnn Phelan, Kele Currier and Ryan Beuschel were on hand to honor the artists, publishers and songwriters behind the past year’s most performed songs.

Pawnshop Kings perform "Love Like Jesus."

PawnShop Kings perform “Love Like Jesus.” Photo: Ed Rode.

Matthew West was the evening’s big winner, taking home the Songwriter of the Year honor as well as the Song of the Year honor for “Hello, My Name Is,” a song that spent 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart. In 2013, West took home ASCAP’s Christian Music Songwriter/Artist of the Year honor.

Before West stepped onstage to perform an acoustic version of the song, a video told the story behind “Hello, My Name Is,” the second single from West’s Into The Light project. West crafted the songs on the album as a way to share fans’ stories of hardship and victory, culled from thousands of letters and emails he has received.

“Hello, My Name Is” was inspired by the story of Jordan Jeffers, a one-time “all-American athlete,” who became addicted to prescription pain medication following a sports injury. His college let him go, and his parents took him to addiction center Teen Challenge. After going through the addiction program, Jeffers completed his degree and began working as a coach for the same college that had let him go a few years earlier.

“I’ve been coming here and never once felt like I belong with such amazing talent. I hope I always feel that way,” West said upon accepting the Songwriter of the Year honor. “For Paul [Williams] to be here two years in a row I think shows how much they believe in this music we are doing.”

The Publisher of the Year award went to Capitol CMG Publishing. This marks the publishing company’s 11th consecutive year as the recipient .

Michael W. Smith and Bart Millard. Photo: Ed Rode

Michael W. Smith and MercyMe’s Bart Millard. Photo: Ed Rode

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were both honored with ASCAP’s Century award, in honor of ASCAP’s 100th birthday, which recognizes the enduring influence of their careers on the Contemporary Christian Music industry.

In tribute to some of the musical genre’s most beloved compositions, Smith performed “Awesome God,” from the late Rich Mullins, and brought MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard to the stage for what Smith noted was their first collaboration. Smith backed Millard on MercyMe’s signature hit, “I Can Only Imagine.” Later in the program, Ashley Cleveland accompanied herself on acoustic guitar, performing “Thy Word,” from Grant’s 1984 album Straight Ahead.

Producer Brown Bannister and Nashville pastor Don Finto were on hand to pay tribute to Grant and Smith. “When you were starting out, there were practically no charts to top. It’s not about the hit and the success. It is about the long obedience, and you embody everything that is great about CCM. You just had a desire to share your hearts, and you’ve done it for three decades. That is long obedience in the same direction.”

“I heard Tom Petty say there are enough great songs in the world, but we keep writing because that’s what we do,” Grant said. “I will sing until the day I die because I love it. I love seeing the new music that has come up behind us.” Speaking to the artists and industry members, she said, “The great thing about knowing Jesus is that we don’t have to change anyone, manipulate anyone. We are free to love everyone because that’s who He died for.”

Songs Honored During the 2014 ASCAP Christian Music Awards

“Strangely Dim,” Francesca Battistelli
“Words,” Hawk Nelson feat. Bart Millard
“Build Your Kingdom Here,” Rend Collective
“We Won’t Be Shaken,” Building 429
“You Are I Am,” MercyMe
“Lord I Need You,” Matt Maher
“Your Love Never Fails,” Newsboys
“God’s Great Dance Floor,” Chris Tomlin
“Live With Abandon,” Newsboys
“My God,” Jeremy Camp
“Already There,” Casting Crowns
“Hurricane,” Natalie Grant
“Great I Am,” Phillips Craig & Dean
“Should’ve Been Me,” Citizen Way
“Lift My Life Up,” Unspoken
“Who You Are,” Unspoken
“He Is With Us,” Love and the Outcome
“You Are,” Colton Dixon
“Carry Me,” Josh Wilson
“Overcomer,” Mandisa
“Every Good Thing,” The Afters
“Yours Will Be (The Only Name),” Big Daddy Weave
“Gold,” Britt Nicole

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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