“Tim McGraw” Composer Liz Rose Is SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year

"Watching You" Honored as Top Song

Liz Rose, co-writer of the Taylor Swift hits “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar,” won SESAC’s songwriter of the year award Monday (Nov. 5) in ceremonies held at the publishing rights organization’s Nashville headquarters.

Brian White’s “Watching You,” a No. 1 for Rodney Atkins, was named song of the year. Rose’s publishing company, Hillsboro Valley Songs-Sony ATV Timber, took the publisher of the year trophy.

A violent thunderstorm moving through Nashville just before the festivities started menaced the event since both the reception and dining areas were housed in large tents attached to the SESAC building. Winds tore at the canvas, and torrents of water spewed across the reception area floor. However, by the time the ceremonies started, the storm had tapered to a drizzle.

Several artists who had recorded SESAC songs were in the audience, including Swift, Atkins, Trent Tomlinson, Carolina Rain and Lady Antebellum.

Pat Collins, SESAC’s president and chief operating officer, welcomed and recognized special guests, among them Nashville’s new mayor, Karl Dean. Collins awarded a trophy to Nancy Shapiro and Susan Stewart of the Recording Academy in honor of that organization’s 50th anniversary.

SESAC’s associate vice president of writer-publisher relations, Tim Fink, honored Bart Herbison and Steve Bogard of the Nashville Songwriters Association International for the organization’s 40 years of supporting songwriters.

The trio Lady Antebellum, which will release its first album on Capitol Records early next year, offered a musical interlude with its current single, “Love Don’t Live Here.”

Dennis Lord, SESAC’s executive vice president, announced the creation of a Wall of Fame to celebrate “those who have paved the way for all of us.” The first honoree is former SESAC vice president Dianne Petty, who was not in attendance.

Fink presented the Spirit of SESAC award to Amy Beth Jones, the widow of singer-songwriter Buck Jones, who died in an automobile accident in March. “Buck was my soulmate, and he will forever be right here,” Jones said. She noted that her husband had left behind many unfinished songs that their young son might one day complete. “His little boy is so Buck,” she added.

Following Fink’s announcement that “Watching You” had been named song of the year, Atkins, his band and co-writer White came forward to sing the song. Atkins, who is also a co-writer of the hit, explained that it was inspired by his going to pick up his son, Elijah, at his pre-kindergarten school. He said the boy’s teacher complained that he was causing disorder in the ranks by singing his daddy’s hit, “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows),” instead of standing in line and keeping quiet. That incident gave rise to “Watching You,” which focuses on children imitate their parents.

Fink then invited Swift to the stage to help him confer the songwriter of the year trophy on Rose. “She believed in me when I was a 14-year-old without a record deal,” Swift said. Working with Rose, she added, was “the most effortless” co-writing situation she had ever experienced. Her favorite thing about Rose, Swift continued, was that she was more interested in giving credit than taking it.

Rose struggled against tears during her brief remarks and praised Swift for the positive impact she had had on her and her family. Besides the award, Rose was also given a custom-made Gibson acoustic guitar.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Songwriter of the Year: Liz Rose

Song: “Watching You,” co-written by Brian White

Publisher: Hillsboro Valley Songs, Sony/ATV Timber

Country Performance Activity Awards

“A Good Man”
Writer: Victoria Shaw

Artist: Emerson Drive

“Teardrops on My Guitar”
Writer: Liz Rose
Artist: Taylor Swift

“Tim McGraw”
Writer: Liz Rose
Artist: Taylor Swift

“Watching You”
Writer: Brian White
Artist: Rodney Atkins

Writers: Sam Tate and Annie Tate
Artist: Emerson Drive

“Just Might Have Her Radio On”
Writer: Ashe Underwood
Artist: Trent Tomlinson

“Dixie Lullaby”
Writer: Justin Pollard
Artist: Pat Green

“Isn’t She”
Writer: Ron Harbin
Artist: Carolina Rain

“Two Pink Lines”
Writer: Victoria Shaw
Artist: Eric Church

“That Kind of Day”
Writer: Greg Barnhill
Artist: Sarah Buxton

Recurrent Country Performance Activity Award

“If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)”
Writers: Sam Tate, Annie Tate
Artist: Rodney Atkins

Americana Performance Activity Awards

Jim Lauderdale and Kevin Welch
For their contribution to the album Nashville
Recorded by Solomon Burke

Jim Lauderdale
For his contribution to the album Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame
Recorded by Sunny Sweeney

Bob Dylan
For his contribution to the album Endless Highway: The Music of The Band
Recorded by The Band

Carol Young and Jerry Salley
For their contribution to the album Viridian
Recorded by the Greencards

David Neuhauser, Monty Byrom and Scott Hutchinson
For their contribution to the album The Shoe Box
Recorded by Jay Boy Adams

Ilhan Ersahin
For his contribution to the album Not Too Late
Recorded by Norah Jones

Bob Dylan
For his contribution to the album Waterloo, Tennessee
Recorded by Uncle Earl

Julie Lee
For her contribution to the album A Hundred Miles or More: A Collection
Recorded by Alison Krauss

Gurf Morlix, Bob Dylan
For their contribution to the album Diamonds to Dust
Recorded by Gurf Morlix

Bob Dylan
For his contribution to the album Cimarron Manifesto
Recorded by Jimmy LaFave

Bob Dylan
For his contribution to the album Anchors & Anvils
Recorded by Amy LaVere

Bruce Burch and Bob Dylan
For their contribution to the album The One Who’s Leavin’
Recorded by Doug Spartz

Bob Dylan
For his contribution to the album Letters From Sinners & Strangers
Recorded by Eilen Jewell

Walt Wilkins, Liz Rose, Sam Baker and Nick Pellegrino
For his contribution to the album Diamonds in the Sun
Recorded by Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros

Liz Rose
For her contribution to the album Unglamorous
Recorded by Lori McKenna

Allison Moorer
For her contribution to the album Washington Square Serenade
Recorded by Steve Earle

Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane, Lucas Kane
For the album Kane Welch Kaplin
Recorded by Kane Welch Kaplin

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