2019 MusicRow Awards Category Profile: Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year

Following Monday’s (May 13) announcement of this year’s nominees for the 31st annual MusicRow Awards, we take a look at the Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year category. The MusicRow Awards will be presented at a private ceremony on June 26.

The Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year is 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.

See the full list of MusicRow Awards nominees.

Winners are determined solely by MusicRow Magazine Subscribed Members. Voting closes on May 21 at 5 p.m. If you do not have a subscription, you may subscribe to receive a ballot and balcony invite.

2019 MusicRow Awards Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year nominees:

Tofer Brown scored his first Top 10 hit with “Night Shift,” recorded by Jon Pardi, and co-written with Phillip LaRue and Billy Montana. Additionally, Brown has cuts by Jason Mraz, Greg Holden, Tyminski, and Jillian Jacqueline (who he also produces).

Ben Caver earned his first No. 1 with “Here Tonight,” co-written with Justin Ebach, Charles Kelley, and artist Brett Young who recorded the smooth song. Add this to Caver’s list of cuts by Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Brad Clawson is nominated for his first No. 1, “Up Down,” which was co-written with Michael Hardy and CJ Solar, and recorded by Morgan Wallen, who are all 2019 MusicRow Awards nominees. Clawson also has cuts by Randy Rogers Band and Chris Janson.

Jacob Davis and fellow Breakthrough Songwriter nominee Jason Gantt scored their first No. 1 with “Take It From Me.” They co-wrote the song with Breakthrough Artist nominee Jordan Davis, whose upbeat recording took the song to the top of the charts. Hailing from Shreveport, Louisiana, Jacob and Jordan are brothers and solo recording artists.

Erik Dylan scored his first Top 5 hit with “There Was This Girl,” written with and recorded by Riley Green, who is in the running for Breakthrough Artist-Writer for the same song. Dylan’s other current songs include Green’s “Bettin’ Man” and Josh Phillips’ “In A Bar Somewhere.” Dylan also released his own album, Baseball On The Moon, in 2018.

Ross Ellis and fellow nominee Ben Goldsmith earned their first Top 10 hits as co-writers of “Neon Church” along with Ben Stennis. Tim McGraw’s recording of the song was his first new solo music since 2015. Ellis has had cuts by Tyler Farr and Jordan Rager, and released his own single “Barefoot Dancer” in 2018.

Aaron Eshuis celebrated his first No. 1 with “This Is It,” recorded by Scotty McCreery. Eshuis penned the song with Frank Rogers and McCreery, and co-produced it with Rogers and Derek Wells. Eshuis’ growing catalog also includes cuts by Cole Swindell, Rascal Flatts, Kid Rock, Lauren Jenkins, and Ryan Hurd (who he also produces).

Jason Gantt secured his first No. 1 as co-writer of “Take It From Me,” written alongside fellow MusicRow Awards nominees Jacob Davis and Jordan Davis, who recorded the song. Gantt has previous cuts by Kenny Chesney, Scotty McCreery, Blake Shelton and more.

Ben Goldsmith earned his first Top 10 as a co-writer of Tim McGraw’s recent single “Neon Church,” marking the artist’s first new solo music since 2015. The song was co-written with fellow nominee Ross Ellis, and Ben Stennis. Goldsmith also has cuts by Jake Owen and Jerrod Niemann.

Mark Holman celebrated his first No. 1 with “Simple,” cowritten with fellow nominee Michael Hardy, and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. It’s one of three credits Holman has on FGL’s current album, adding to his tally of CCM and rock cuts.

Josh London co-wrote “Best Shot” with JP Williams and Jimmie Allen. Allen’s recording of the song spent three weeks at No. 1, marking the first chart-topper for all three and earning them nominations for the 2019 MusicRow Awards.

Chase McGill is the only Breakthrough Songwriter nominee with three qualifying hits. His slew of album cuts in recent years all lead up to a trio of No. 1s: “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset,” recorded by Luke Bryan; “Break Up In The End,” recorded by Cole Swindell; and “Lose It” recorded by Kane Brown. McGill’s previous cuts include “When Someone Stops Loving You,” recorded by Little Big Town. He is also nominated for Male Songwriter of the Year.

Jeff Middleton earned his first No. 1 as co-writer of “Drowns The Whiskey,” recorded by Jason Aldean ft. Miranda Lambert. The song was written with Brandon Kinney and Josh Thompson. Middleton also has cuts by Breakthrough Artist nominee Jordan Davis, Lee Brice and Trace Adkins.

David Ray secured both his first cut and first No. 1 with Jake Owen’s “I Was Jack (You Were Diane).” Ray is self-published and recently released his own single as an artist, “Here for the Weekend.” Co-writing credits on “I Was Jack (You Were Diane)” include Tommy Cecil, Jody Stevens, Craig Wiseman and John Mellencamp.

Jordan Reynolds had a breakout year thanks to Dan + Shay, who had No. 1 hits with his co-writes “Tequila” and “Speechless.” Reynolds has a total of six songs on the duo’s current album, including new single “All To Myself.” Reynolds also has cuts by Lauren Alaina, Thomas Rhett, Lady Antebellum, Russell Dickerson, Keith Urban and Brett Eldredge.

Rob Snyder scored his first No. 1 with “She Got The Best Of Me,” written with fellow Breakthrough Songwriter nominee Channing Wilson and Artist of the Year nominee Luke Combs. The song spent four weeks at No. 1.

Will Weatherly secured his first No. 1 with “Lose It,” written with fellow 2019 MusicRow Awards nominees Kane Brown and Chase McGill. Weatherly has cuts by Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood, and production credits including Dustin Lynch.

JP Williams, Josh London and Jimmie Allen co-wrote “Best Shot,” which went on to become the first No. 1 for all three writers and secure their 2019 MusicRow Awards nominations. Allen’s debut single spent three weeks at No. 1.

Channing Wilson celebrated his first No. 1 as co-writer of “She Got The Best Of Me,” penned alongside pals and fellow 2019 MusicRow Awards nominees Rob Snyder and Luke Combs. Wilson adds Combs’ four-week No. 1 to his growing catalog, which also includes cuts by Riley Green.


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

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