Bobby Karl Works The Inaugural AIMP Awards

Chapter 527

Pictured (L-R): Frank Liddell, Robin Palmer [winner], Lee Ann Womack, Jody Williams [winner]. Photo: Jason Davis, Getty Images

Pictured (L-R): Frank Liddell, Robin Palmer [winner], Lee Ann Womack, Jody Williams [winner]. Photo: Jason Davis, Getty Images

The newest event on Music Row’s social calendar was staged in its oldest concert venue, but that’s not what made it newsworthy.

The inaugural Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) Nashville awards show took place at the Ryman Auditorium on Monday night (April 18). The Nashville chapter of AIMP has been in existence for about five years. AIMP was already established in New York and L.A., which staged awards luncheons. Nashville, as usual, said, “Let’s put on a show!” But that’s not what made this event newsworthy, either.

The honorees were “Girl Crush” by Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna as AIMP Song of the Year, Lindsey as Independent Songwriter of the Year, Smack Songs as AIMP Publisher of the Year, Brad Tursi as Rising Independent Writer of the Year, Jody Williams and Robin Palmer as a tie for AIMP Song Champion of the Year, Old Dominion as indie Artist/Writer of the Year, and “Take Your Time” by Sam Hunt, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally as the Top Spot awardee (the most-streamed independent country song).

But winners are not what made the event newsworthy. At least not to me.

What struck me about the AIMP evening was the extraordinary warmth and camaraderie that suffused the thing. I described it as “old home week” because it gathered together so many old friends.

Kelsea Ballerini & Garth Brooks. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Kelsea Ballerini & Garth Brooks. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Craig Wiseman said it better. “The energy and the goodwill and the enthusiasm in this room tonight, THIS is Nashville,” he said. Rob Galbraith commented, “Never forget that what you do is the lifeblood of this town. You develop the young talent.” Garth Brooks added, “We honor everyone in this room tonight.”

The other really noteworthy thing about the evening was the music. The performances were all acoustic, with artists singing six nominated songs that are not in their usual repertoires. Several got (and deserved) standing ovations from the immensely appreciative industry attendees.

At the top of the performance list was a smoldering and soulful treatment of “Fire Away” by Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne. Sam Hunt was super sexy (if a little odd) doing “Girl Crush.” Kelsea Ballerini brought new life and verve to “Say You Do.” Old Dominion added harmonies and a laid-back groove to “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Brandy Clark did her own take on “Take Your Time.” Tyler Farr drawled “We Went.”

Galbraith, Brooks and Wiseman were presenters, as were Mike Reid, Lee Ann Womack and Frank Liddell, Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, Matraca Berg and Pat Higdon, Eric Paslay and presenting sponsor Spotify’s Copeland Isaacson and John Marks.

Sam Hunt performance of "Girl Crush." Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Sam Hunt performance of “Girl Crush.” Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

“This is crazy: When I moved to town, I knew nobody,” said rising-writer winner Tursi. “It’s been a crazy seven years.”

“I think this event is amazing,” said Palmer. “I want to thank the incredible songwriters I’ve been privileged to work with.” Said her fellow honoree Jody Williams, “I never thought I’d be on stage at the Ryman Auditorium accepting an award.”

Old Dominion’s Trevor Rosen said, “We have a great time being in this band, because it’s full of songwriters.” Added the group’s Matt Ramsey, “We’re just happy to be a part of this community.” Band members Tursi, Whit Sellers and Geoff Sprung joined them in celebrating.

Lindsey was clearly flustered by her big win. “I certainly didn’t think I was winning this tonight, so I’ve been drinking wine,” she blurted. “I had a really great year. I wrote ‘Girl Crush’ with Liz Rose and Lori McKenna, my friends. I made a baby….I am really so blessed and thankful to be on this stage.”

“I am an independent songwriter and an independent publisher, and I love it so much,” said Rose. “I feel like I’m in high school, and I finally got invited to the ‘cool’ party. This is the best ticket in town.”

Fellow “Girl Crush” winner McKenna appeared via smart phone, fresh from showering.

Song of the Year winner Liz Rose & Hillary Lindsey. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Song of the Year winner Liz Rose & Hillary Lindsey facetime with fellow winner Lori McKenna. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

“Thank you, everybody, for agreeing to sing each others’ songs,” said event organizer Ree Guyer Buchanan.

Smack’s Michael Baum added to the ‘community’ ambiance by saying, “When we work together and honor each other, we can navigate anything” in the shifting world of the music business.

The hail-fellow-well-met mood was set during a cocktail supper in the Ryman lobby that preceded the show. We schmoozed as we snacked on shrimp skewers, spicy deviled eggs, beef empanadas, tomato-and-mozzarella skewers, artichoke dip, chips and a variety of dessert morsels.

John Ozier, John Allen, Jeff Hanna, David Preston, Dave Pacula, David and Susana Ross, Mike Sistad, Mike Whelan, Michael Mason, Mark Brown, Marc Driskill, Luke and Beth Laird, Jewel Coburn and Jason Morris, Dale Bobo, Bob Doyle, Beth Hall, Becky Harris, Butch Baker and Arturo Buenahora all sent in their RSVPs to this inaugural Nashville AIMP gala.

Sharon Vaughn is back in town. She’s been collaborating with pop songwriters in Sweden in the past few years. Now, she is the co-writer of The Sweet Potato Queens musical with Rupert Holmes and Melissa Manchester. The show debuted in Houston this month.

Maren Morris & Brothers Osborne performance of "Fire Away." Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Maren Morris & Brothers Osborne performance of “Fire Away.” Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

United Artists 1980s Nashville pop diva Saundra Steele is returning to record making. Meanwhile, Liz Rose is co-producing protégé new discovery Alyssa Micaela.

Other fabulons working the room at this notably friendly soiree included Steve Buchanan, Steve Lowry, Shannon Hatch, Sally Williams, Whitney Daane, Clay Myers, Fletcher Foster, Barry Coburn, Leslie DiPiero, Walter Campbell, Tinti Moffatt, Gilles Godard, Pete Robinson, Ashley Gorley, Eric T. Parker, Nancy Peacock and Chris Farren.

Here’s one more thing that was newsworthy. The awards ceremony lasted just 90 minutes. And then they kept the lobby bar open afterward!

But the main thing about the AIMP award show was that it felt so dang good. Perhaps another factor in this event being so remarkably convivial is the fact that the crowd was relatively small. The AIMP guests filled just the floor of the Ryman, up to the balcony overhang.

We were together, and we loved on each other. Let’s do it again.

Artist-Writer winners Old Dominion. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Artist-Writer winners Old Dominion. Photo: Rick Diamond, Getty Images

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