Hillary Scott Claims SESAC Songwriter of Year Prize for Second Consecutive Year

"Tomorrow" Named Top Song at Awards Show Featuring Ronnie Dunn, Jim Lauderdale, Craig Campbell

Lady Antebellum‘s Hillary Scott dominated SESAC’s annual Nashville Music Awards presentations, held Monday evening (Nov. 7) at the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, a posh downtown high-rise.

In addition to winning the songwriter of the year trophy for the second year in a row, Scott was also honored for co-writing four of the year’s most performed songs. Her publishing company, Hillary Dawn Songs, shared publisher of the year distinction with EMI Foray Music.

SESAC is one of the three major performance rights organizations that collect public performance royalties for songwriters and publishers.

“Tomorrow,” co-written by SESAC member Anthony Smith and recorded by Chris Young, was cited as song of the year.

Held on the 21st floor of the building, the celebration afforded guests a towering panoramic view of Music City. In recent years, SESAC has handed out its awards inside an elegantly-outfitted tent beside its Music Row headquarters.

“I feel like I’m at the Pinnacle of my career,” quipped Jim Lauderdale as he took to the stage to sing “I Lost You,” a song he co-wrote with Elvis Costello.

Craig Campbell opened the evening’s entertainment with his double-entendre hit, “Fish,” for which he would later receive a songwriting award.

Ronnie Dunn drew the greatest applause of the evening — and a standing ovation — when he sang “Cost of Livin’,” the lament of a man who is desperate to find a job.

Dunn, who co-wrote the song with SESAC’s Phillip Coleman and recorded it on his self-titled solo album, told the gathering it was the last song on a five-song demo sent to him and was then titled “The Application.”

He said he then asked Coleman and his publisher if he could work with them on changing the song’s title and hook. They agreed.

In 2008, when he was still a part of Brooks & Dunn, he took the song to his label, he said, and was discouraged from recording the song on the grounds that the then-dismal economic situation would soon turn around.

Chris Young came forward to give Anthony Smith his song of the year award for “Tomorrow.” Young, who is affiliated with ASCAP, a competing performance rights organization, co-wrote the song and had a No. 1 country hit with it in August.

“He not only is one of the coolest guys, he’s perpetually happy,” Young rhapsodized. “I never ever saw him pissed off.”

Tim Fink, SESAC’s affable vice president of writer-publisher relations, hosted the ceremonies and spoke of his organization’s support of the Americana music genre. He pointed out that the word “Americana,” in its musical sense, has now been included in Merriam-Webster dictionaries.

Fink also told the assembly about Scott’s charitable work with special-needs children in Haiti, noting she has made several visits to that earthquake-stricken country to help out personally via the group myLIFEspeaks. He added that SESAC has made a donation to the group on Scott’s behalf.

View photos of the event.

Here’s a complete list of this year’s recipients at the SESAC Nashville Music Awards:

Songwriter of the Year: Hillary Scott
Song of the Year: “Tomorrow,” Anthony Smith (songwriter)
Publisher of the Year: EMI Foray Music, Hillary Dawn Songs

Country Performance Activity Awards

“A Little Bit Stronger”
Hillary Scott

“Tomorrow”
Anthony Smith

“Just a Kiss”
Hillary Scott

“Family Man”
Craig Campbell

“Beautiful Every Time”
Lance Miller

“Cost of Livin’”
Phillip Coleman

“Fish”
Craig Campbell, Arlos Smith, Ashe Underwood

“Amen”
Catt Gravitt

“Our Kind of Love”
Hillary Scott

“Need You Now”
Hillary Scott

“I Gotta Get to You”
Blaine Larsen, Jim Lauderdale

“‘Til Summer Comes Around”
Monty Powell

Americana Performance Activity Awards

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album The Grand Theatre, Volume One
Recorded by Old 97′s

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album The Party Ain’t Over
Recorded by Wanda Jackson

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album Follow Me Down
Recorded by Sarah Jarosz

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album Keys to the Kingdom
Recorded by North Mississippi Allstars

Jonathan Byrd
For contribution to the album Chicken & Egg
Recorded by Tim O’Brien

Hayes Carll
For contribution to his album KMAG YOYO
Recorded by Hayes Carll

Colin Brooks
For contribution to the album Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son
Recorded by the Band Of Heathens

Seth Avett
For contribution to the album Fixin’ to Die
Recorded by G. Love

Jim Lauderdale
For contribution to the album National Ransom
Recorded by Elvis Costello

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