The 61st annual ASCAP Country Awards on Monday (Nov. 6) was a lavish cocktail supper that crowned Ashley Gorley and Jordan Davis as its 2023 champs.
Gorley won his 10th Songwriter of the Year honor from the performance rights society. This makes him the most honored country songwriter in the organization’s history.
“I want to first, as always, thank God,” he said. “Huge thanks to everybody at ASCAP for all they’ve done and continue to do for me. I’ve been with ASCAP since I was a student at Belmont….I’m blessed to be a part of this.”
The songwriter’s Morgan Wallen hit “You Proof” was named ASCAP’s Country Song of the Year. On video, Gorley was lauded by Wallen, as well as Ernest, Kelly Lovelace, Parmalee, Dierks Bentley, Chris DeStefano and Chris DuBois.
In contrast to the often awarded Gorley, the organization’s 2023 Songwriter/Artist of the Year was Jordan Davis, winning the honor for his first time.
“This is my favorite night of the year,” said Davis. “Everybody in this room came through ASCAP. I can’t thank you enough.” The MCA Records star recalled moving to Music City 12 years ago on a Sunday. The following day, he went to ASCAP and wrote his first Nashville song. “I love being a part of Nashville, Tennessee, and I love being part of country music. I love country music.”
Davis co-wrote last year’s CMA Song of the Year, “Buy Dirt.” This year, his “Next Thing You Know” is nominated as the CMA’s Single, Song and Video of the Year. ASCAP also awarded him for his co-written hit “What My World Spins Around.”He was saluted on video by Luke Combs, Josh Jenkins, Cindy Mabe, Dierks Bentley, Matt Jenkins and his singer-songwriter brother Jacob Davis.
ASCAP’s Publisher of the Year was Sony Music Publishing. Accepting was Sony’s Rusty Gaston. “Thank you to ASCAP — you fight for songwriters, and we’re so grateful for it,” he said. “This is a gift that we get to do every day. Songs have the power to change the world. It’s an honor to be doing this together.”
At the gala, ASCAP honored the writers and publishers of 50 country hits. They were saluted on silent video screens during the first hour of the soiree.
Presiding at the podium were ASCAP’s Elizabeth Matthews, Mike Sistad and Paul Williams. Matthews congratulated David Lee Murphy, and the late John Jarrard on their election to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Bob McDill on his elevation into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sistad gave a shout-out to attendee Lainey Wilson on her nine 2023 CMA Award nominations.
Williams said, “There is no place where I feel more safe than in a room full of songwriters, my tribe. You are my family. The city is changing, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the heart and soul of what you do. It is holy work. And it is needed now more than ever.”
Among the celebrity songwriters in attendance were Kelsea Ballerini, Brothers Osborne, Kip Moore, members of Old Dominion, Craig Wiseman, Dylan Scott, Hailey Whitters, Jaren Johnston of The Cadillac Three, Jessi Alexander, Jonathan Singleton, HunterGirl and Tony Lane. Eight of the assembled songwriters won their first ASCAP awards at the event, and they were invited to commemorate the occasion with a group portrait.
This year’s ASCAP event was a sharp break from the past. Rather than a formal banquet or a staged awards show, the gala was an elegant-yet-relaxed cocktail supper. The venue was the sophisticated Twelve Thirty Club on Broadway next to the National Museum of African American Music. The club is opulently appointed throughout its several spaces. Guests mingled in a rooftop lounge overlooking Lower Broadway, a gleaming pair of long bars, a sunken lounge featuring red-velvet cocktail seeing and leather booths and a mezzanine with white-and-black marble checkered floors. A sushi and shrimp-cocktail serving bar in one dining area curved beneath a glowing domed ceiling with an ultra-modern chandelier. A second dining area featured gleaming black-and-chrome furnishings for enjoying beef, chicken, potatoes and veggies.
The wait staff members, male and female, looked like stars-in-waiting — they looked so remarkably and uniformly attractive. They circulated with candied bacon cubes, cheeseburger sliders, truffled cheese-bread bites and other snacks.
Industry dignitaries in attendance included The Recording Academy’s Alicia Warwick, Belmont dean Brittany Schaffer, the NSAI’s Bart Herbison and Jennifer Turnbow, MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson and LB Cantrell, the Bluebird Cafe’s Erika Wollam Nichols, Billboard’s Tom Roland, the NMPA’s David Israelite, First Horizon Bank’s Andrew Kintz and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Mark Ford. Other Music Row executives at the ASCAP gala included Tom Luteran, Troy Tomlinson, Ben Vaughn, Ree Guyer, Josh Van Valkenburg, Gilles Godard, Regina Stuve, Brad Kennard, Cyndi Forman, Vincent Candilora, Bob Doyle, Jon Singer, Bj Hill, Leslie DiPiero, Mike Molinar, Kris Ahrend and Dale Bobo.
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