Nashville’s country music week festivities drew to a close Thursday night (Nov. 8) with Phillip Coleman, co-writer of Jo Dee Messina ’s “Downtime,” prevailing as SESAC’s top country songwriter. Rascal Flatts ’ hit, “This Everyday Love,” co-authored by SESAC’s Gene Nelson, took country song of the year honors.
One of America’s three performing rights organizations, SESAC presented the awards during a formal dinner at its headquarters on Music Row.
Coleman co-wrote “Downtime” with rising country star Carolyn Dawn Johnson , who is not a SESAC affiliated writer. During the gala event, Johnson sang the song backed by Coleman on acoustic guitar.
A native of northwest Tennessee, Coleman has lived in Nashville for six years. “This is the first big thing that’s happened to me since I’ve been here,” he said in an interview. “Hopefully, it’s going to open other doors for me to have other cuts down the road. The award means everything to me. There are songwriters here that I have been admiring for a long time – people I consider my heroes — it’s a big deal for me to be able step up in front of them and perform a song I wrote.”
Messina recently took “Downtime” to the Top 5 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. With lyrics about dealing with loss and taking a much-needed break in a relationship, “Downtime” is the first track on Messina’s latest album, Burn.
Messina arrived at SESAC near the end of the ceremony to present Coleman his award. Immediately after doing the honors, she boarded her tour bus headed for Birmingham, Ala., where she performs Friday (Nov. 9). “It meant so much for me to be here to do this,” Messina said, “because this song has touched a lot of people and I just want to thank Phillip for letting us have this song.
“The songwriters are the ones that create the sounds of radio,” Messina told the roomful of about 300 songwriters, publishers and other music business professionals. “I wish that you could all come out to the shows and see the people that hear the songs that you write. I wish you could hear the stories they tell and see how they relate to the music.”
Coleman’s publisher, Gravitron Music, was named SESAC’s country publisher of the year. Frank Liddell and Travis Hill accepted the honor. Lee Ann Womack , who is married to Liddell, was on hand to offer congratulations.
Named SESAC’s country song of the year, “This Everyday Love” reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for Rascal Flatts. The breezy, upbeat song also charted in the middle of The Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, which tracks all genres of music. Nelson wrote the song with Danny Wells.
Nelson is best known for penning Kathy Mattea ’s 1988 signature song, “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.” He also has written songs for George Jones , Trisha Yearwood , Keith Whitley , Reba McEntire , Doug Stone , Don Williams and Diamond Rio .
During the ceremony, Nelson performed “This Everyday Love” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
SESAC chief Bill Velez and senior vice president Pat Rogers hosted the awards presentation.
Acknowledging the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Velez and Rogers talked about the important role of music during our national crisis. “Who can doubt the power of music to help us through these times,” Rogers said from the stage. “It is essential to our souls. It unites us, it moves us, it helps us grieve, it helps us heal, it inspires us, it soothes us, it makes us smile. Music is a powerful gift to the world and the American songwriter and the American composer are vessels of that gift.”
SESAC is the only performing rights organization that gives awards in the fledging Americana radio format. Dennis Lord, a SESAC executive and the president of the Americana Music Association, honored singer-songwriters Kieran Kane (who was not present) and Sonny Landreth with performance activity citations.
Landreth performed “Love and Glory,” from his award-winning album, Levee Town, backed by accordion player Steve Conn.
Often more lauded for his slide guitar work than his songwriting, Landreth was grateful to be recognized for his song craftsmanship. “A lot of times the guitar playing does come up, and that’s great, I’m honored, but it’s nice to have this [songwriting] acknowledgement for a change,” Landreth said after the ceremony. “I’ve been working hard at this for a lot of years. I started writing when I was really young. So, it’s been really nice tonight. I’ve really had a great time.”
A special performance award was presented to SESAC-affiliated publisher Albert E. Brumley & Sons for the gospel classic “I’ll Fly Away.” Written in 1929 by late songwriter Brumly, “I’ll Fly Away” was revived this year by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? The soundtrack was named country album of the year at The 35th Annual CMA Awards Wednesday night (Nov. 7).
The SESAC awards closed a weeklong round of local industry ceremonies surrounding the prime time televised CMA program.
Founded in 1930, SESAC collects and distributes royalty payments for public performances of songs copyrighted by its members.
A complete list of the winners of the 2001 SESAC Country Awards follows:
Songwriter of the Year : Phillip Coleman
Song of the Year : “This Everyday Love”
Writer: Gene Nelson
Country Performance Activity Awards :
“I’m From the Country”
Writer: Stan Webb
“Home To You”
Writer: Arlos Smith
Writer: Chris Wallin
“A Little Gasoline”
Writer: Tammy Rogers
“This Everyday Love”
Writer: Gene Nelson
Americana Performance Activity Awards :
(Awarded to Albums)
Levee Town — Sonny Landreth
Blue Chair — Kieran Kane
Special Performance Award: :
“I’ll Fly Away,” performed by Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Award to publisher: Albert E. Brumley & Sons