“Home to You,” Arlos Smith are SESAC’s Top Winners

In the final big event of Country Music Week, SESAC proclaimed “Home to You” its Country Song of the Year and its co-writer, Arlos Smith, Country Songwriter of the Year. Good Ole Delta Boys Music took country publisher of the year honors. SESAC, the second oldest of America’s three performing rights organizations, presented the awards Thursday night (Oct. 5) in ceremonies held at its Nashville headquarters. “Home to You” was a 1999 hit for John Michael Montgomery.

“It’s been a magical song,” Smith told the crowd, “and this is such an appropriate end for it.” He said he and his co-writer, Sara Light, composed the ballad with their spouses in mind. They then took it to Al Cooley, who screens songs for Atlantic Records, to pitch to Montgomery. The singer quickly put it on hold.

“I met him at the Longhorn Steak House on my birthday,” Smith said following the awards ceremonies. “He came over and told me that the song was going to be the title cut of his new album and a single.” Still emotional from his win, Smith performed “Home to You” for the SESAC celebrants and broke into tears as he concluded it.

Smith also netted a performance activity award for “Home to You,” which racked up nearly two million airplays in the past year. A native of Parkersburg, W.Va., Smith has been in Nashville for six years. He is currently pursuing a record deal as half the duo A.K.A Smith & Rose.

SESAC president William Velez read a letter from Montgomery, who is now on tour, congratulating Smith for his achievement.

Bobbie Cryner opened the evening’s entertainment with a subdued and soulful rendering of her “Real Live Woman,” a recent hit for Trisha Yearwood. She said some people had cautioned her that the song was “a little bit strong for women.” “Nothing is too strong for us,” she told the cheering crowd.

Steve Mandile, who co-wrote SESAC’s 1999 song of the year, “For a Little While,” won performance activity awards both for that song and for “Are Your Eyes Still Blue.” Each song registered more than 250,000 airplays over the past year.

Winning performance activity awards for songs with more than 500,000 airplays were Stan Webb (for “I’m From the Country”) and Bobbie Cryner (for “Real Live Woman”). Houston Robert reaped honors for his “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” which rolled up nearly 900,000 airplays.

For the third year, SESAC gave awards to songwriters, artists and albums in the Americana radio format. Praising its openness to music with “integrity and real passion,” Dennis Lord, SESAC’s senior vice president of business affairs, declared, “Americana is more than a format — it’s a movement.”

The award-winning Americana albums were Fire, Honey & Angels, by the Walt Wilkins Band, and Dancin’ With Them That Brung Me, by Stacey Earle. Wilkins and co-writer, Nick Pellegrino, performed “Our Lady of the Avenue,” a selection from Fire, Honey & Angels. Earle was not on hand to accept her award.

Artists attending the festivities included Jim Lauderdale, Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane and Bob Delevante.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.