Catt Gravitt Is SESAC’s Top Songwriter, Jon Stone’s “A Woman Like You” Best Song

Black-Tie Event Pays Tribute to Bluebird Café, the Avett Brothers

The SESAC performance rights organization declared Catt Gravitt its songwriter of the year Sunday evening (Oct. 28) during a gala black-tie celebration at the Pinnacle Symphony Place in downtown Nashville.

“If you had told me that in full-blown menopause I’d be accepting an award like this, I would have been shocked,” said the demonstrably shocked Gravitt as she held the award she’d won on the strength of such recently recorded compositions as “Alone With You,” “Why Ya Wanna” and “Amen.”

Jon Stone copped song of the year honors for “A Woman Like You,” a hit for Lee Brice. Brice performed the song to voluminous applause shortly before the award was announced.

The publisher of the year trophy went to Sony ATV/EMI Foray for having published the hits “Let’s Don’t Call It a Night,” “Dancin’ Away With My Heart,” “Wanted You More,” “Just a Kiss” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”

In addition to Brice, the evening’s performers included Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers, Jerrod Niemann, Thompson Square, Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Don Henry, Kim Williams and Monty Powell.

SESAC’s president and chief operating officer Pat Collins welcomed the audience of approximately 400 songwriters, publishers and associated music industry figures with the news that SESAC will henceforth pay royalties to its writers and publisher on a monthly rather than the standard quarterly basis.

The first performances paid tribute to Nashville’s endlessly influential Bluebird Café with a songwriter-in-the-round segment during which Burr, Shaw, Williams and Henry took turns performing samples of their hits.

Burr did “I Try to Think About Elvis” (Patty Loveless) and “That’s My Job” (Conway Twitty). Shaw followed with “The River” (Garth Brooks) and “I Love the Way You Love Me” (John Michael Montgomery).

Williams offered “Three Wooden Crosses” (Randy Travis) and “Papa Loved Mama” (Garth Brooks). Henry contributed “Where’ve You Been” (Kathy Mattea) and “All Kinds of Kinds” (Miranda Lambert).

Already the focal point of the 1993 movie The Thing Called Love, the Bluebird Café is heightening its fame as an incubator of songwriting talent via its prominence in the new ABC-TV prime-time series Nashville.

Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson and Sam Palladio, actors in the series, came to the stage to talk about the Bluebird’s importance and to tip their hats to the club’s founder Amy Kurland and its current general manager Erika Wollam Nichols, both of whom were in the crowd.

The duo Thompson Square then took the stage to sing their newest single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” which, Keifer Thompson noted, is going for radio adds on Monday (Oct. 29).

Prior to handing out its country awards, SESAC disclosed its Americana music winners. SESAC’s Dennis Lord, a pioneer in the movement, told the crowd that the recent Americana awards show had been broadcast on the AXS TV popular culture cable network, Nashville radio station WSM-AM, NPR.org, Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country and is being packaged to air on Austin City Limits.

Following the announcement of these awards, Avett, lead singer of the Avett Brothers, came on to sing “Ballad of Love and Hate” from their album Emotionalism. He then accepted the SESAC Summit Award for the Avetts’ musical achievements.

Tim Fink, SESAC’s vice president of writer-publisher relations and the event’s primary host, praised songwriter and SESAC affiliate Tim Johnson, who died recently after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Powell, who co-wrote with Keith Urban the song “For You” for the military-themed movie Act of Valor, sang it, accompanied by Anna Wilson. Fink announced that in honor of America’s Special Operations Forces, spotlighted in the movie, SESAC will donate to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Niemann and Brice wrapped up the musical part of the ceremonies by performing “Shinin’ on Me” and “A Woman like You,” respectively.

The evening closed out at 10:25 with a few attendees lingering for drinks and the rest scurrying for the elevators.

View photos from the event.

Here is the complete list of the recipients at the 2012 SESAC Nashville Music Awards:

Songwriter of the Year: Catt Gravitt
Song of the Year: “A Woman Like You,” Jon Stone (songwriter)
Publisher of the Year: Sony ATV/EMI Foray Music

Country Performance Activity Awards

“Alone With You”
Catt Gravitt

“Why Ya Wanna”
Catt Gravitt

“Amen”
Catt Gravitt

“A Woman Like You”
Jon Stone

“Let’s Don’t Call It a Night”
Brice Long

“Shinin’ on Me”
Rob Hatch, Lance Miller

“For You”
Monty Powell

“Dancin’ Away With My Heart”
Hillary Scott

“Wanted You More”
Hillary Scott

“Just a Kiss”
Hillary Scott

“A Little Big Stronger”
Hillary Scott

“Cost of Livin’”
Phillip Coleman

“Fish”
Craig Campbell, Arlos Smith, Ashe Underwood

“Tomorrow”
Anthony Smith

Americana Performance Activity Awards

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
Recorded by various artists

Bob Dylan
For contributions to the album Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan
Recorded by various artists

Bob Dylan
For contribution to the album Slipstream
Recorded by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Bramlett
For contribution to the album Slipstream
Recorded by Bonnie Raitt

Robert Johnson
For contribution to the album Light in the Sky
Recorded by Red Molly

Jonathan Byrd
For contribution to the album Light in the Sky
Recorded by Red Molly

Dustin Welch
For contribution to the album Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
Recorded by Justin Townes Earle

Ray Wylie Hubbard
For contribution to the album Grifter’s Hymnal
Recorded by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Ray Wylie Hubbard
For contribution to the album What the Hell Is Going On?
Recorded by Paul Thorn

Liz Foster
For contribution to the album Grifter’s Hymnal
Recorded by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Charlie Shafter
For contribution to the album Grifter’s Hymnal
Recorded by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Jim Lauderdale
For contribution to the album Carry Me Back
Recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show

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