Chesney, Wiseman and Rich Honored at ASCAP Awards

"Live Like You Were Dying" Named Organization's Song of the Year

Craig Wiseman and his song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” took top honors Monday night (Oct. 17) at ASCAP’s 43rd annual country awards. The performing rights organization also named John Rich its songwriter-artist of the year and presented Kenny Chesney with the ASCAP Voice of Music award during an awards show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.

The Voice of Music award is given to “songwriters whose music gives people’s lives a voice through song.” Only four others have received the honor — Garth Brooks, Amy Grant, Diane Warren and George Strait.

In accepting the award, Chesney stressed the power of the music created by Nashville songwriters.

“I have seen firsthand, by playing to a whole lot of people for 12 years, how music can change lives and touch lives,” he said. “Songs that a lot of you in this room have written have done that. I’ve been really lucky to have been the messenger for a lot of those songs.”

Recalling his early days in Nashville, Chesney said, “All the way back to 1992 when Troy Tomlinson and Jim Vienneau signed me at Acuff-Rose Music, I’ve been working toward getting better as a songwriter. And I do consider myself a songwriter first, even though, like the song says, I’ve been trying to be a hillbilly rock star for the past 12 years.”

Wiseman co-wrote “Live Like You Were Dying” with Tim Nichols, who is affiliated with BMI, a competing performing rights organization that will have its country awards banquet Tuesday night (Oct. 18) in Nashville. In addition to the Tim McGraw hit, Wiseman’s songwriting credits during the past year also include Phil Vassar’s “In a Real Love,” Trace Adkins’ “Rough & Ready,” Brooks & Dunn’s “That’s What It’s All About” and Chesney’s “The Woman With You.”

Wiseman, who has written or co-written 13 No. 1 hits and 90 charted singles, was ASCAP’s country songwriter of the year in 2003. The same year, he launched his own independent music publishing company, Big Loud Shirt Industries.

Urging his fellow songwriters and publishers to take some chances, he told the crowd, “This town was never better than one or two people standing around and believing in something and doing it. It doesn’t take a damn board meeting. It doesn’t take people flying in from all over the place. It takes a couple of people believing in something insane and something that’s genius. Right now on my desk, I’ve got a few things that are insane but a little genius. … I’m going to sign them next Monday. If everybody in this room would do that, we’ll have a hell of a party next year.

“And if anybody in this room is in a position to where they can’t do that — and they have to answer to too many people — well, I pray that God will be with you while you make your decisions about your life, buddy. I made some decisions about mine a few years ago, and it’s working out all right.”

With Big & Rich in California for a series of dates on Brooks & Dunn’s Deuces Wild tour, Rich sent his grandmother to accept his songwriter-artist of the year award. Rich also received individual awards for co-writing Big & Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy” and “Holy Water” and Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman,” “Here for the Party” and “When I Think About Cheatin’.”

Rich offered a pre-recorded acceptance speech videotaped on his tour bus, but it was his other video that caught the crowd’s attention. Wilson, originally scheduled to perform “Redneck Woman” at the awards show, was unable to sing because her doctor placed her on voice rest. In his video, Rich performed the song — while dressed in a long wig, makeup and a white T-shirt to resemble Wilson. Mimicking Wilson’s voice, the video closed with him saying, “John Rich, if it weren’t for you, by God, there wouldn’t be a Gretchen Wilson.”

Rascal Flatts opened the show on a gospel note with “Had It Not Been,” a song written by the late Rusty Goodman. In addition to Rich’s version of “Redneck Woman,” songwriters sang the organization’s remaining Top 5 most-performed songs of the year. Wiseman sang “Live Like You Were Dying,” Chesney delivered “I Go Back,” and other performers included Brett James (“When the Sun Goes Down”) and Monty Powell (“Days Go By”).

EMI Music Publishing won publisher of the year honors for the fifth consecutive year. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, the legendary bar across the alley from the Ryman, received ASCAP’s Partner in Music Award for “exceptional dedication to promoting and expanding the reach of country music.”

ASCAP Country Awards 2005

Songwriter of the Year: Craig Wiseman

Songwriter/Artist of the Year: John Rich

Song of the Year: “Live Like You Were Dying”
Written by: Craig Wiseman

Publisher of the Year: EMI Music Publishing

ASCAP’s Most Performed Country Songs of 2005

“Awful, Beautiful Life”
Writer: Darryl Worley

“Baby Girl”
Writers: Troy Bieser, Kristen Hall, Bret Hartley, Jennifer Nettles, Lisa Simonton

“Back When”
Writer: Stanley Lynch

“Break Down Here”
Writers: Jess Brown, Patrick Jason Matthews

“Come Home Soon”
Writers: Kristyn Osborn, John Shanks

“Days Go By”
Writer: Monty Powell

“Feels Like Today”
Writers: Wayne Hector (PRS), Steve Robson

“Girls Lie Too”
Writers: Connie Harrington, Kelley Lovelace

“God’s Will”
Writer: Barry Dean

“He Gets That From Me”
Writer: Steven Dale Jones

“Here for the Party”
Writers: John Rich, Gretchen Wilson

“Holy Water”
Writer: John Rich

“How Am I Doin’”
Writer: Dierks Bentley

“How Do You Get That Lonely”
Writer: Rory Lee Feek

“How Far”
Writer: Jamie O’Neal

“I Go Back”
Writer: Kenny Chesney

“I Got a Feelin’”
Writer: Billy Currington

“I May Hate Myself in the Morning”
Writer: Odie Blackmon

“I Want to Live”
Writers: Brett James, Rivers Rutherford

“If You Ever Stop Loving Me”
Writer: Rivers Rutherford

“In a Real Love”
Writers: Phil Vassar, Craig Wiseman

“It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”
Writers: Robert John “Mutt” Lange

“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
Writer: Jim “Moose” Brown

“Let’s Be Us Again”
Writer: Maribeth Derry

“Letters From Home”
Writer: Tony Lane

“Little Moments”
Writers: Chris DuBois, Brad Paisley

“Live Like You Were Dying”
Writer: Craig Wiseman

“Loco”
Writers: David Lee Murphy, Kim Tribble

“Me and Emily”
Writers: Rachel Proctor, Chris Tompkins

“Monday Morning Church”
Writers: Brent Baxter, Erin Enderlin

“Mr. Mom”
Writer: Don Pfrimmer

“Mud on the Tires”
Writers: Chris DuBois, Brad Paisley

“Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense”
Writers: Gary Burr, Joel Feeney (SOCAN)

“Nothin’ to Lose”
Writers: Marcel, Kevin Savigar

“Nothing On but the Radio”
Writers: Odie Blackmon, Byron Hill, Brice Long

“Party for Two”
Writer: Robert John “Mutt” Lange

“Passenger Seat”
Writers: Connie Harrington, Kristyn Osborn

“Redneck Woman”
Writers: John Rich, Gretchen Wilson

“Remember When”
Writer: Alan Jackson

“Rough & Ready”
Writer: Craig Wiseman

“Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
Writer: John Rich

“She Thinks She Needs Me”
Writer: Clay Mills

“Some Beach”
Writer: Rory Lee Feek

“Somebody”
Writer: Dave Berg

“Suds in the Bucket”
Writer: Jenai

“Sweet Southern Comfort”
Writer: Brad Crisler

“That’s What I Love About Sunday”
Writer: Adam Dorsey

“That’s What It’s All About”
Writer: Craig Wiseman

“There Goes My Life”
Writer: Neil Thrasher

“Too Much of a Good Thing”
Writer: Alan Jackson

“What Was I Thinkin’”
Writers: Dierks Bentley, Deric Ruttan

“When I Think About Cheatin’”
Writers: John Rich, Gretchen Wilson

“When the Sun Goes Down”
Writer: Brett James

“Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”
Writers: Monty Powell

“The Woman With You”
Writer: Craig Wiseman

“You Are”
Writers: Chris Lindsey, Jimmy Wayne

“You’ll Think of Me”
Writers: Darrell Brown, Ty Lacy, Dennis Matkosky

“You’re My Better Half”
Writer: John Shanks

Calvin Gilbert has served as CMT.com’s managing editor since 2002. His background includes stints at the Nashville Banner, Radio & Records and Westwood One.