Photos by GETTY Images
Monday night’s (May 7) AIMP Nashville Awards was a celebration of songs, songwriters and publishers, with SMACKSongs and/or its writers taking home five trophies. The Association of Independent Music Publishers’ Nashville Chapter presented the 3rd annual event at the Ryman Auditorium, welcoming guests with a laid-back, we’re-all-friends-here, vibe.
Highlights included performances by rising artists Luke Combs, Devin Dawson and Ashley McBryde. Each of the nominees for Song of the Year was delivered by songwriters nominated in other categories. Combs and McBryde gave cool countrified versions of pop-influenced hits “All On Me” and “I Could Use A Love Song,” respectively, while Dawson gave a soul-filled take of the more traditional song “Marry Me.” Jordan Davis grooved during “Heartache On The Dance Floor,” Jameson Rodgers and Hannah Ellis made a darling pair for “I’ll Name the Dogs,” Jillian Jacqueline and Steve Moakler offered a smooth shot of “Drinking Problem,” and Kassi Ashton shook the rafters on “Yours.”
Maren Morris was on hand to present McBryde with the trophy for Rising Artist-Writer of the Year.
Morris then received the Publisher’s Pick award for co-writing “Dear Hate” with Tom Douglas and David Hodges, calling them “amazing poets,” in their absence. “I’m so honored,” she said. “This song means the world to me and I hope it has helped heal.”
The evening was a wonderful way to celebrate years of hard work coming to fruition for songwriters like McBryde and Josh Thompson, who received Rising Songwriter of the Year.
Numerous standing ovations throughout the night began with Janine Appleton Ebach who earned Song Champion of the Year. It was a big day for Ebach, whose promotion to Vice President of Curb | Word Music Publishing was also announced. “We do a job that affects generations and I’m grateful to be a part of that,” she said. “I’m grateful to be part of the Nashville music community. We do business like no one else. To quote Jim Ed Norman, ‘There’s people out there with real problems, and we don’t have them.’”
The Independent Spirit Award went to veteran publisher Jeff Carlton, whose career was highlighted in a video reel. He was in the hospital, so his son accepted on his behalf.
SMACKSongs took home trophies for Publisher of the Year, Artist-Writer of the Year (Old Dominion), Song of the Year (“Drinkin’ Problem”), Songwriter of the Year (Shane McAnally) and Spotify Country Top Spot (“Body Like A Back Road”).
The ACM’s Pete Fisher and Rhett Akins presented the Songwriter award to McAnally. “I really am surprised and honored,” he said. “I can’t believe I get to write with so many of my heroes. I am proud to be an independent publisher, and hat’s off to everybody who knows this way is not an easy road, but we are living for the song and living for the dream.”
Beth Laird and Natalie Hemby (aka The Scrunchies) were the highlight among awards presenters, donning 1980s dresses and attitudes to present Artist-Writer of the Year to Old Dominion, which McAnally accepted on the band’s behalf.
SMACK Pres./co-owner Michael Baum accepted the trophy for Publisher of the Year. “I’m the seen-but-not-heard-force behind SMACKSongs,” he said. “It has been a pleasure getting to know everybody in the Nashville community. We might compete, but we also collaborate, and that’s the magic of Nashville.”
As far as funny presenters, Liz Rose and Jody Williams were a close second to The Scrunchies with their “It all begins with a bong” bit. Song of the Year “Drinkin’ Problem” was written by McAnally and Josh Osborne with Midland, who were on the road.
“I would absolutely not be standing here without Josh Osborne,” said McAnally. “Because of all the creativity and support he has shown me since we met, he has made me such a better writer. And I’m honored I get to do this with him.”
“I feel very lucky to get to be in the rooms that I get to be in and to write these songs,” added Osborne. “It’s my favorite thing to do every day. It’s like a puzzle and trying to figure out how the pieces go together. When they go together just right, you are really fortunate to have a song that somebody wants to record….Song ideas are everywhere. I got this idea from an old episode of MASH, so don’t let anybody tell you you can’t make money by sitting on the couch.”
In closing, AIMP Nashville executive director John Ozier thanked the many people who helped make last night possible, including event co-chairs Baum and Ree Guyer. Award winners were voted on by members of the organization.
AIMP Nashville 3rd Annual Nominees And Winners
Rising Songwriter Of The Year
Rising Artist-Writer Of The Year
Artist-Writer Of The Year
Song Champion Of The Year
Janine Appleton Ebach
“Craig” Written Walker Hayes
SMACKsongs, Rarespark Media Group
“Dear Hate” Written By Maren Morris, Tom Douglas, David Hodges
Big Yellow Dog Music, Kobalt Music
“Good Company” Written By Matt Alderman, Tommy Cecil, Jared Mullins
Curb/Word Music Publishing, Horipro Entertainment Group, Big Deal Music
“Happy People” Written By Lori McKenna, Hailey Whitters
Creative Nation Music, Carnival Music, Pulse Music
“I Should Go To Church Sometime” Written By Brinley Addington, Michael Hardy, Sarah Turner
Horipro Entertainment Group, Watsky Music
“Space Cowboy” Written By Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally
Creative Nation Music, SMACKsongs
Song Of The Year
“All On Me” Written By Devin Dawson, Jacob Durrett, Austin Smith
Neon Cross Music
“Drinkin’ Problem” Written By Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne
Black River Publishing, Spirit Music Group, SMACKSongs
“Heartache On The Dance Floor” Written By Jon Pardi, Bart Butler, Brice Long
Song Factory, Curb/Word Music Publishing
“I Could Use A Love Song” Written By Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins, Laura Veltz
Big Yellow Dog Music, Round Hill Music, Big Machine Music
“I’ll Name The Dogs” Written By Matt Dragstrem, Ben Hayslip, Josh Thompson
Big Loud Publishing, Round Hill Music, This Music, Big Machine Music
“Marry Me” Written By Thomas Rhett, Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley, Shane McAnally
Major Bob Music, Combustion Music, Round Hill Music, SMACKSongs
“Yours” Written By Russell Dickerson, Casey Brown, Parker Welling
3 Ring Circus Music
Songwriter Of The Year
Publisher Of The Year
Big Loud Publishing
Big Machine Music
Round Hill Music
Independent Spirit—Jeff Carlton
Spotify Country Top Spot—“Body Like A Back Road” Written By Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne; Independently Published By Combustion Music, Tape Room Music, SMACKSongs