2017 MusicRow Awards: Breakthrough Songwriter Nominees


Following the announcement of this year’s nominees for the 29th annual MusicRow Awards, we take a closer look at the Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year nominees.


Voted by MusicRow’s subscribed members to honor a Nashville songwriter who wrote or co-wrote a Top 10 song for the first time. In addition, the qualifying song was not recorded by the nominated songwriter.

Andy Albert, Downtown (ASCAP)

Andy Albert turned love into a four-letter word with his hit song “She’s Got A Way With Words,” recorded by Blake Shelton. The Georgia native tallied a second hit with Granger Smith’s “If The Boot Fits,” co-written with fellow nominee Jordan Schmidt.

Kurt Allison, Magic Mustang Music, Makena Cove Music (ASCAP)

Kurt Allison notched his first No. 1 with Dustin Lynch’s sexy outing, “Seein’ Red.” Allison broke through in the music business as Jason Aldean’s guitar player and a member of the New Voice Entertainment production team.

Kelly Archer, Stars And Stripes, Maple Leaf Music, Downtown (BMI)

Kelly Archer has had a lot of activity since moving to Nashville in 2001, but scored her first No. 1 in 2017 with “Sleep Without You.” The song was co-written with fellow nominees Justin Ebach, and Brett Young, who took it to the top of the charts. Archer is originally from Vancouver, Canada.

Thomas Archer, MV2 Entertainment (BMI)

Thomas Archer’s first hit went all the way to No. 1. He co-wrote the song “Hurricane” with fellow nominees Taylor Phillips and recording artist Luke Combs. Archer is a Georgia native who moved to Nashville in 2012.

Justin Ebach, Wordcountry, Warner/Chappell (SESAC)

Justin Ebach teamed with fellow nominees Kelly Archer and artist Brett Young to pen the upbeat single “Sleep Without You,” which became his first No. 1. The Florida native is also a Dove Award-nominated producer.

Jesse Lee, Parallel (SESAC)

Jesse Lee brought her idea for a song called “Peter Pan” to co-writers Kelsea Ballerini and Forest Glen Whitehead. The song about a boy who won’t grow up was released as a single and flew up the charts, earning Lee’s first No. 1.

Josh Mirenda, Cornman Music, Warner/Chappell (ASCAP)

Josh Mirenda and fellow nominee Michael Tyler are two of the writers of Dierks Bentley’s hit “Somewhere On A Beach.” It was the first No. 1 for both, and they likely celebrated by “sippin’ something strong.” Mirenda is a Music City native.

Jamie Moore, Big Loud (ASCAP)

Jamie Moore earned his first country No. 1 as co-writer of “May We All,” recorded by Florida Georgia Line featuring Tim McGraw. Moore is a four-time Grammy nominee thanks to work with CCM artists including TobyMac. He is originally from Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Steven Lee Olsen, Cornman Music, Warner/Chappell (ASCAP)

Steven Lee Olsen celebrated his first No. 1 as a co-writer of “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” recorded by Keith Urban. The single spent multiple weeks at the top of the charts and earned two Grammy nominations. Olsen is a native of Canada.

Taylor Phillips, InTune Entertainment (BMI)

Taylor Phillips brewed up his first No. 1 in 2017, with the hit single “Hurricane.” The North Carolina native co-wrote the song with fellow nominees Thomas Archer and Luke Combs, who recorded the track. The song first charted in July 2015 when Combs was an independent artist.

Jordan Schmidt, Tree Vibez, Warner/Chappell (ASCAP)

Jordan Schmidt notched his first two hits as a songwriter during the last year. His co-write “Lights Come On,” recorded by Jason Aldean, lit up the No. 1 spot. Additionally, Schmidt kicked up dust on the airwaves with “If The Boot Fits,” recorded by Granger Smith and co-written with fellow nominee Andy Albert.

Jason Sever, Little Champion Music, Warner/Chappell (ASCAP)

Jason Sever has had numerous cuts by top artists, but his first hit came as co-writer of Dustin Lynch’s “Seein’ Red.” Sever penned the No. 1 song with Kurt Allison, who is also nominated in this category.

Abe Stoklasa, Big Yellow Dog (ASCAP)

Abe Stoklasa notched his first two radio hits, getting listeners hooked on his No. 1 “Fix,” recorded by Chris Lane. He also co-wrote Ben Rector’s “Brand New” which went top-10 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart. Stoklasa scored on collaborations with Charles Kelley, as co-writer of the Grammy-nominated song “The Driver,” and “Leaving Nashville” which is vying for MusicRow Song of the Year.

Daniel Tashian, Big Yellow Dog (BMI)

Daniel Tashian, a longtime artist and songwriter, broke through on the country charts as co-writer of Josh Turner’s No. 1 “Hometown Girl.” Tashian is lead singer of The Silver Seas, and has had sync placements in hit television shows including Nashville and Pretty Little Liars.

Josh Thompson, Big Music Machine, Two Lane Collections (BMI)

Josh Thompson, an established songwriter and artist, scored his first No. 1 hit in 2017, as a co-writer of “Any Ol’ Barstool,” recorded by Jason Aldean. The Wisconsin native turned Nashville mainstay previously charted six other singles, the highest reaching No. 15.

Michael Tyler, peermusic (SESAC)

Michael Tyler earned his first No. 1 with “Somewhere On A Beach,” co-written with fellow nominee Josh Mirenda and driven to the top of the charts by Dierks Bentley. Tyler is a Missouri native who signed a recording contract with Reviver Records in 2016.

Emily Weisband, THiS Music, Warner/Chappell (ASCAP)

Emily Weisband’s first writing appointment with Hillary Scott resulted in the Grammy-winning song “Thy Will.” Recorded by Hillary Scott and The Scott Family, it was a major CCM hit and marked Weisband’s first No. 1.

The MusicRow Awards will be presented at a private ceremony. 

See the full list of nominees. 

Winners are determined solely by MusicRow subscribers. Voting closes on Tuesday, May 30 at 5 p.m. If you do not have a subscription, you may subscribe to receive a ballot.


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About the Author

Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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