ASCAP and BMI, the performance rights organizations, joined forces Wednesday (March 23) to salute Shane McAnally and JT Harding, co-writers of Kenny Chesney‘s recent hit, “Somewhere With You.”
Chesney was on hand for the celebration at the chic Cabana restaurant in Nashville.
ASCAP senior creative director LeAnn Phelan told McAnally, who’s affiliated with that organization, “You’re a publisher’s dream. You can go into the room with any [co-writer] of any genre and you come through.”
In recognition of his latest triumph — which topped the Billboard charts for three weeks earlier this year — ASCAP presented McAnally a plaque and a new acoustic guitar.
BMI’s Jody Williams led the toast to Harding and began by citing some of his musical milestones. Among these, said Williams, was a prize-winning appearance on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, work with Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park and placing four songs on Uncle Kracker‘s current album.
Williams praised Chesney, too, who stood unobtrusively beside the writers, publishers and other music dignitaries being praised. Williams quoted from a newspaper review of Chesney’s March 17 show in West Palm Beach that described the singer’s performance as “flawless” and noted that he “somehow makes you feel like you’re at a big party in his backyard.”
Buddy Cannon, Chesney’s longtime producer, was also presented an award.
“As an artist, as a songwriter,” Chesney told the wall-to-wall crowd, “I think the challenge [in picking songs to record and perform] is to find a certain commonality with the people out there.”
When a song can create a “groundswell” among 50,000 people, Chesney said he knows he’s made the right choice.
“I’m awfully glad I’m the person who gets to sing this song,” he concluded.
The songwriters were in or near tears as they expressed their joy and amazement at having reached this stage of success.
Harding recalled sneaking into this very restaurant several years ago to attend a Jason Aldean celebration. He said he stood in the back of the room and “tried to imagine what it feels like standing up here.”
He said neither he nor McAnally had songwriting contracts when they wrote “Somewhere With You” and that McAnally, at the time, was “packaging up sandwiches and selling them as health food.”
McAnally spoke of his earlier days of living in Los Angeles — and in despair because he had just lost his house.
“I was at a stop light in Los Angeles and trying to decide if I should move back to Nashville,” he said, “and I was thinking that if I could just get a song to Kenny Chesney, everything would work out. I swear, it’s true.”
Then, his voice choking with emotion, he added, “I swear it.”