Taylor Swift Is BMI’s Songwriter of the Year

"You Belong With Me" Honored as Top Song During Annual Banquet in Nashville

Taylor Swift, whose Speak Now album continues to be America’s best-selling package of music, racked up even more career points at the BMI Country Awards extravaganza in Nashville Tuesday night (Nov. 9). There she took both the songwriter and song of the year trophies, the latter for “You Belong With Me,” the hit she co-wrote with Liz Rose.

At 20, Swift is the youngest person ever to win BMI’s country songwriter of the year honor. However, this is her third consecutive year to claim the top song.

BMI, a major performance rights organization, staged the black-tie celebration in the capacious and lavishly decorated fourth-floor parking garage of its Music Row office building. The BMI Country Awards are a major event during CMA Awards week.

Among those attending were Swift, Keith Urban, George Strait, Carrie Underwood, Kix Brooks, Ronnie Dunn, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Clay Walker, Jason Aldean, Tanya Tucker, Craig Morgan, Randy Houser, Luke Bryan, Chris Young, Billy Currington, Justin Moore, Josh Turner, Kristian Bush of Sugarland, Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry and Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.

BMI CEO Del Bryant, vice president of writer-publisher relations Jody Williams and assistant vice president Clay Bradley shared hosting duties.

Bryant welcomed the guests, greeting some of them by name. He praised his predecessor at BMI, Frances Preston, who sat in the audience.

“She is a visionary,” he noted. “She is a pioneer. She is in the [Country Music] Hall of Fame.”

Bryant joked with Urban that he stood ready to sign his and his wife Nicole Kidman’s daughter, Sunday Rose, to a songwriter’s contract. And he alerted guests to the fact that they were drinking wine from Kix Brooks’ Arrington Vineyards.

The focal point of the evening was the presentation of BMI’s Icon Award to retired songwriter, producer, engineer and recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Billy Sherrill.

Dubbing the prodigiously-talented Sherrill “a true renaissance man,” Bryant, lauded the honoree for “taking traditional country songs and adding pop elements” to turn them into hits.

Artists who benefited from this production approach ranged from Tanya Tucker, David Houston, Johnny Paycheck and Barbara Mandrell to, most famously, Charlie Rich, George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

“If you love George Jones,” Bryant asserted, “you love Billy Sherrill.”

Bryant noted Sherrill has won more BMI songwriting awards than anyone else in history and has been named songwriter of the year eight times.

In a video commentary, Sherrill’s frequent co-writer and fellow producer, Norro Wilson, said Sherrill advised him to disregard musical conventions when he was making a record. “If the song needs it,” he recalled Sherrill saying, “put it on.”

Also by video, George Jones credited most of his success to Sherrill, and Bobby Braddock, who co-wrote Jones’ biggest hit, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and said he never regarded the song as anything special until Sherrill took hold of it.

To give the audience a sampling of Sherrill’s genius, Bryant summoned George Strait, Faith Hill, Ronnie Dunn and Martina McBride to the stage. Each then sang a complete song Sherrill had been instrumental in making into a classic.

Dunn began with an affecting cover of Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl.” McBride followed with a subdued and emotionally on-target reading of Tammy Wynette’s “‘Til I Can Make It on My Own.”

Strait, dressed in a suit with a loosened tie and sans his trademark cowboy hat, caught perfectly the wistfulness of “My Elusive Dream,” the David Houston/Tammy Wynette hit from 1967. Hill wrapped up the showcase with a faithful and solid rendering of Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.”

Sherrill not only produced the original hits on these songs, he also co-wrote all of them.

Notoriously camera shy, the ailing Sherrill sat impassively as the tribute played out. He was no more demonstrative when he was assisted to the stage to accept his award. (Tucker kissed him on the cheek as he rose to go up.)

“I’m not a good talker,” he said. “This is overwhelming to me. I thank all my co-writers — Norro Wilson, Steve Davis — all the people who’ve helped me.” Handing the microphone to Bryant, Sherrill added, Oh, hell … thank you.” With that, he left the stage.

Williams and Bradley then returned to the stage to hand out more awards. Bradley pointed out that 19 of the recipients were receiving an award for the first time. One of these was Bubba Strait, George’s son, who scored for co-writing “Living for the Night.”

Besides “You Belong With Me,” Swift had three other winning songs: “Best Days of Your Life,” “Fifteen” and “White Horse.”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville took the publisher of the year prize on the strength of having 16 winning songs in this year’s lineup.

View photos from the BMI Awards.

Here’s a list of winners at the 2010 BMI Country Awards:

Songwriter of the Year: Taylor Swift

Publisher of the Year: Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville

Song of the Year: “You Belong With Me”
Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift

BMI Icon: Billy Sherrill

“All I Ask for Anymore”
Writers: Casey Beathard, Tim James

“Always the Love Songs”
Writer: George Ducas

“American Ride”
Writers: Dave Pahanish, Joe West

“Barefoot and Crazy”
Writers: Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson

“Best Days of Your Life”
Writer: Taylor Swift

“Big Green Tractor”
Writer: Jim Collins

“Bonfire”
Writers: Tom Botkin, Kevin Denney, Craig Morgan

“Boots On”
Writers: Randy Houser, Brandon Kinney

“The Climb”
Writer: Jon Mabe

“Consider Me Gone”
Writer: Marv Green

“Cowboy Casanova”
Writer: Carrie Underwood

“Do I”
Writers: Luke Bryan, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley

“Fifteen”
Writer: Taylor Swift

“Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song)”
Writers: Cory Batten, Kent Blazy

“Here Comes Goodbye”
Writer: Chris Sligh

“Hillbilly Bone”
Writer: Luke Laird

“I Run to You”
Writers: Tom Douglas, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley

“I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes”
Writer: Brett Beavers

“I’ll Just Hold On”
Writers: Troy Olsen, Bryan Simpson

“I’m Alive”
Writer: Dean Dillon

“It Happens”
Writers: Kristian Bush, Bobby Pinson

“It’s America”
Writer: Angelo

“Kiss a Girl”
Writer: Keith Urban

“A Little More Country Than That”
Writer: Wynn Varble

“Living for the Night”
Writers: Dean Dillon, Bubba Strait

“Lost You Anyway”
Writers: Toby Keith, Bobby Pinson

“Love Your Love the Most”
Writers: Eric Church, Michael Heeney

“Need You Now”
Writers: Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley

“Nothin’ to Die For”
Writer: Lee Thomas Miller

“One in Every Crowd”
Writers: Ira Dean, Eddie Montgomery

“Only You Can Love Me This Way”
Writers: Steve Mcewan (PRS), John Reid

“People Are Crazy”
Writers: Bobby Braddock, Troy Jones

“Red Light”
Writer: Melissa Peirce

“Ride”
Writers: Michael Davey, Andrew Dorff, Chris Robbins

“She’s Country”
Writers: Danny Myrick, Bridgette Tatum

“Sideways”
Writer: Jim Beavers

“Small Town USA”
Writer: Justin Moore

“Sounds Like Life to Me”
Writers: Phil O’Donnell, Wynn Varble

“Southern Voice”
Writers: Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas

“Strange”
Writer: Wendell Mobley

“That’s How Country Boys Roll”
Writer: Dallas Davidson

“Toes”
Writers: Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette, John Hopkins, Shawn Mullins

“The Truth”
Writer: Ashley Monroe

“Whatever It Is”
Writers: Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette

“Where I’m From”
Writer: Patrick Davis

“White Horse”
Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift

“White Liar”
Writers: Natalie Hemby, Miranda Lambert

“Why Don’t We Just Dance”
Writer: Jim Beavers

“Wild at Heart”
Writer: Stephanie Bentley

“You Belong With Me”
Writers: Liz Rose, Taylor Swift