This year’s MusicRow Awards party had exceptional hospitality, a happy vibe and, most of all, a pervasive feeling of conviviality and comrade-ship.
“Thank you, Nashville,” said Sam Hunt’s grateful manager Brad Belanger. “This is our community.”
“There is nothing like doing what we do, and doing it with our friends,” said songwriter Liz Rose.
“This is my family, basically,” said songwriter Michael Carter.
Hunt won Breakthrough Artist. Carter won Breakthrough Songwriter. Rose won Song of the Year for “Girl Crush,” with her cowriters Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna, collectively known as “The Love Junkies.”
This year’s event was staged at ASCAP on Tuesday evening (6/23). ASCAP’s Mike Sistad greeted the crowd and brought MR’s Sherod Robertson to the stage.
“Welcome to the 27th annual MusicRow Awards,” said Robertson. “Our awards started in 1989, the year that Taylor [Swift] was born. We all love to be early adopters [of talent], and these awards allow us to do that.”
Among the stars who won their early industry awards from MusicRow are Blake Shelton, Kacey Musgraves, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Chris Young, Joe Nichols, Phil Vassar, Luke Bryan and the Zac Brown Band, as well as Swift.
Here’s hoping this year’s honorees follow in their footsteps. Thanks to his work with Eric Church, Little Big Town, Brothers Osborne and Cage the Elephant, Jay Joyce won his first Producer of the Year award.
“He promises he will continue to push the envelope for our town,” said Melissa Spillman, accapting on Joyce’s behalf.
When Michael Carter won the Breakthrough Songwriter award, he was almost overcome. “What the hell!?” he exclaimed. “I don’t even know where to begin. It’s just so cool to get to do this for a living. Wow, this is nuts. Thank you to everybody who’s been a part of it. Thank you for supporting songwriters and letting somebody new come into the fold.”
Carter is Luke Bryan’s bandleader and Cole Swindell’s producer. He co-wrote three No. 1 songs as his first hits: Swindell’s “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight,” Bryan’s “Roller Coaster” and Thomas Rhett’s “Get Me Some of That.”
Sam Hunt’s win as Breakthrough Artist was something of a surprise, since Swindell has been cleaning up in this area lately. “This guy has that IT factor,” explained Robertson. “He’s the happiest artist I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Belanger. “We’ve got some cool stuff on the road ahead.” Hunt had just one day off this week to move into his new house, and this conflicted with the ceremony.
Song of the Year co-writer McKenna lives near Boston and was also a no-show, but her “Girl Crush” collaborators were delightful at the mic. “This is so fun,” said Liz Rose. “Everybody’s been so awesome to embrace this song.” Added co-writer Hillary Lindsey, “It’s a pretty cool thing in this town and with this song.” Rose and Lindsey took the stage to powerfully perform “Girl Crush” as the event’s finale.
The MusicRow Awards is the only industry event that honors Music City’s session professionals. This year, everyone who won last year was a repeat winner, with the exception of first-time honoree Steve Marcantonio, who tied as Engineer of the Year with 11-time prior winner Justin Niebank.
Background vocalist Wes Hightower won his category for the thirteenth time. “I’m thankful for every single one of them,” he said.
Aubrey Haynie won his eighth fiddler award. Ilya Toshinsky won his sixth guitar honor. Keyboard player Charles Judge earned his fifth award. “Thank you, MusicRow, for doing this,” he said in appreciation of the magazine’s musician recognitions.
Jimmie Lee Sloas won his fifth bass player award. Drummer Greg Morrow won his fourth. Steel player Russ Pahl earned his second.
Dave Pomeroy of the Musicians Union was proudly snapping photos.
Also working the room were Randi Perkins, Randall Himes, Bobby Rymer, Bob Doerschuk, Dale Bobo, Eric Paslay, Eric T. Parker, Erika Wollam Nichols, Susan Collier, Suzanne Lee, Charlie Monk, Chuck Thompson and Alison Toczylowski (who has recently married and plans to adopt a shorter last name, Webber).
ASCAP’s hospitality could not have been lovelier. Chef Michael Mirriam whipped up barbecue sandwiches, chicken satay bites, hummus & pita chips, Italian sausage slices, veggie plates, ham sandwiches, cheese & cracker samplers, blueberry & watermelon medley, salsa & chips, spiced meatballs and cucumber sandwiches, not to mention desserts.
Byron Gallimore, Barry Coburn, Ben Vaughn, Bev Moser, Beth Gwinn, Bill Wence, Becky Harris, Brett James, Carey Barlowe, Celia Froehlig, Cyndi Forman, Doug Johnson, honored guest U.S. copyright registrar Maria Pallante (I told her we threw the party just for her), James Elliott, Jessica Nicholson, Kos Weaver, Kent Earls, Kelsey Grady, Pat Higdon, Ryan Hurd, Rusty Martin, Rich Fagan, Sarah Skates (with her adorable family), Sherrill Blackman, Tracy Gershon, Troy Stephenson and Woody Bomar enjoyed themselves and the event.