BOBBY KARL WORKS THE ROOM
Songwriter Matt McGinn and his co-written Kane Brown hit “Heaven” were the big winners at this year’s SESAC Country Awards.
“I love songs,” McGinn told the event’s attendees. “It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had in my life—it’s the ONLY relationship I’ve ever had in my life. Thank you to my co-writers—we can’t do this without each other….Thank you, SESAC, for all that you do.”
Ryan Hurd presented the Songwriter of the Year award to him.
“Heaven” was named Song of the Year. McGinn’s co-writer Lindsay Rimes performed it with Aaron Eshuis and Joey Hyde at the event. The honors were staged Sunday evening (Nov. 11) at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The momentum of “Heaven” carried over to the publisher prize. Thus, the first-time winner of SESAC’s Country Publisher of the Year was Smackworks Music. Shane McAnally and Michael McAnally Baum led their team in accepting.
“I’m expecting many more awards from you guys,” commented SESAC host Shannan Hatch.
She and SESAC’s genial ET Brown began the evening by presenting the organization’s Americana honors. It is the only performing-arts group that recognizes this genre.
The Americana winners were Margo Price & Jeremy Ivey, plus Jaren Boyer, Brice Long and an absent Kevin Welch (for their contributions to Chris Stapleton’s CD) and Jamey Johnson, John Carter Cash and an absent Rosanne Cash (for the Johnny Cash homage Forever Words). Jamey and John Carter performed the ethereal “Spirit Rider” from the collection.
“We want to dedicate that to Randy Scruggs,” said Johnson, “because that’s the last time many of us got to work with him in the studio.”
Non-attending Americana winners included Jim Lauderdale, Andrew Combs, Rachael Price, Michael Olson and Anthony Snape.
Lydia Schultz assisted Hatch in presenting the country awards. In addition to McGinn, the winners were Casey Brown for “Yours,” Justin Ebach for “Singles You Up,” Josh Hoge for “Losing Sleep,” Seth Mosley for “She’s With Me,” Sammy Mitchell for “One Number Away” and Hillary Scott for “Heart Beat.”
Since the ceremony took place on Veteran’s Day, a number of service men and women were in the audience. SESAC’s John Josephson recognized them from the stage and introduced a video about the Folds of Honor Foundation. It assists the families of disabled or deceased vets.
Lee Brice performed an intense rendition of “I Drive Your Truck.” He helped to establish the Folds of Honor’s Nashville chapter. SESAC’s Kelli Turner recognized both him and the foundation.
The performers during the post-awards gala included Michael Tyler, Seaforth, Runaway June and Tyler Rich.
SESAC decided to think outside the box for its ceremonies this year. Instead of an awards banquet, the organization staged a deluxe cocktail party in The Country Music Hall of Fame’s event space.
“We’ve redesigned our awards as well as our awards show,” said Hatch. “We decided to have a party to kick off this week.”
The event space was lit with retro lighting. Vintage-reproduction bulbs glowed from strands while faux klieg fixtures decorated the stage. Its backdrop was a pitch-black drape embellished by starry mini lights. Glittering black tablecloths were centered with red tea roses in clear globes. Guests sat on lucite chairs or black leather couches.
The buffet dinner featured stations serving Asian fare, beef brisket, customized mac & cheese, veggies and salads. DJ KD spun sounds. More than 500 guests attended the festivities.
Ron Stuve, Ron Cox, Ron Samuels, Phyllis Williams, Phyllis Stark, Dave Brainard, Dave Pacula, David & Carolyn Corlew, Patrick Clifford, Pat Collins, Pat Higdon, John Beiter, John Ozier, John Allen, Jon Stone, Ed Morris, Jason Morris & Jewel Coburn, Jesse Lee, Jesse Willoughby, Becky Harris, Judy Harris, Jenny Tolman, Jennifer Fieidler, Shawna Thompson, Keifer Thompson, Kerry O’Neil, Keith Burns, Kos Weaver and Kristy Osmunson mingled merrily.
Also working the room were such fabulettes as Olivia Lane, Jamie Floyd, Victoria Shaw, Amy Smartt, Tinti Moffat, Ana Cristina Cash, Christy Walker Watkins, Beth Nielsen Chapman (who is performing at a You Have the Power benefit at Cabana on Thursday), Lisa Harless, Robin Palmer, Diane Pearson, Ree Guyer, Tracy Gershon, Susan Stewart and Lori Badgett.
Schmoozing mightily were Fletcher Foster, Craig Campbell, Troy Tomlinson, Ryan Kinder, Trey Smith, Cary Barlowe, Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman, Michael Knox, Russell Dickerson, Lance Miller, Jimmy Carter, Mark Ford, Bob Doyle, Gilles Godard, Earle Simmons, Charley Stefl, Tim Wipperman, Tom Roland, Clay Myers, Steve Bogard, Andrew Kintz, Garry Velletri, Sherod Robertson, Bart Herbison, Jedd Hughes, Larry McCormick and Fats Kaplan.
SESAC bills itself as “the most progressive PRO.” It pays monthly radio royalties and was the first PRO to pay royalties for live performances in venues of any size. SESAC Holdings Inc. also encompasses the Harry Fox Agency and its Rumblefish administrative division.