SESAC Crowns Rob Hatch, “Drink to That All Night” Top Songwriter, Song

Jerrod Niemann, Randy Houser, Lee Brice Perform Their Hits for Gala Crowd

In a ceremony punctuated by three powerful vocal performances, SESAC, the performance rights organization, crowned Rob Hatch its songwriter of the year and “Drink to That All Night” the year’s top country song.

Sunday night’s (Nov. 2) glittering event at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum kicked off a week of awards presentations leading up to Wednesday’s CMA Awards .

Magic Mustang Music copped the publisher of the year laurels.

Tim Fink, SESAC’s genial vice president of writer and publisher relations, was the primary host for the organization’s annual event.

Having had the hit recording of “Drink to That All Night,” Jerrod Niemann opened the evening’s entertainment with a rousing rendition of the party anthem that thoroughly captivated the crowd.

Later, Tim McGraw made a brief appearance to confer an honor as one of the song’s publishers.

Singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, a frequent SESAC award winner, assisted in presenting the Americana trophies.

Following dinner, Randy Houser and Lee Brice stood side by side onstage and — each accompanying himself on acoustic guitar — took turns singing stripped-down versions of their hit recordings of two of Hatch’s prize-winning songs.

Houser virtually blistered the paint on the walls with his intense, operatic rendering of “Goodnight Kiss.” The crowd applauded throughout his performance and rewarded him with a sustained standing ovation.

Although expressing doubts about it, Brice quickly demonstrated he was quite up to the task of following Houser, which he did with great flair, squeezing every emotional nuance out of the romantic ballad, “I Don’t Dance.”

He, too, brought the crowd to its feet when he finished.

Pat Collins, SESAC’s president and chief operating officer, welcomed guests with a summary of the organization’s accomplishments over the past year.

Among these were signing Mariah Carey and the Zac Brown Band, re-signing the Robert Johnson catalog, scoring 30 No. 1 songs and having 99 songs in the Top 10 on various charts.

Collins noted that SESAC is building its 100,000-square-feet world headquarters on Music Row. It is scheduled to open in January 2016.

He added that the company is also expanding its operations in Miami and Atlanta.

View photos from the SESAC Awards.

Here is a complete list of SESAC’s country and Americana music winners.

Songwriter of the Year: Rob Hatch
Song of the Year: “Drink to That All Night,” Lance Miller (writer)
Publisher of the Year: Magic Mustang Music

Country Performance Activity Awards
“All Alright”
Zac Brown, Wyatt Durrette

“Bartender” Hillary Scott

“Beer With Jesus” Lance Miller

“Cruise” Jesse Rice

“Done” Jacob Bryant, John Davidson

“Drink to That All Night”
Lance Miller

“Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About” Keifer Thompson

“Goodnight Kiss”
Rob Hatch

“I Don’t Dance”
Rob Hatch

“Wagon Wheel” Bob Dylan

“Where It’s At (Yep, Yep)” Cary Barlowe

Americana Honorees
Bad Self Portraits
Contributions by Rachael Price
Recorded by Lake Street Dive

Contributions by Pete Sallis, Victoria Shaw
Recorded by Keb’ Mo’

Build Me Up From Bones
Contributions by Bob Dylan
Recorded by Sarah Jarosz

Daylight & Dark
Contributions by Hayes Carll, Jason Eady, Jim Lauderdale, Kelley Mickwee
Recorded by Jason Eady

Hard Working Americans
Contributions by Hayes Carll, Kieran Kane
Recorded by Hard Working Americans

High Life
Contributions by Bob Dylan
Recorded by Charlie Robison

Let It Go
Contributions by Adam Chaffins
Recorded by the Infamous Stringdusters

Magpie and the Dandelion
Contributions by Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford
Recorded by the Avett Brothers

Out Among the Stars
Contributions by Rick Scott
Recorded by Johnny Cash

Put Your Needle Down
Contributions by Bob Dylan
Recorded by the Secret Sisters

Contributions by Bob Dylan
Recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show

Sunday Morning Record
Contributions by Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist
Recorded by the Band of Heathens

Tell the Ones I Love
Contributions by Jonathan Byrd
Recorded by Steep Canyon Rangers

The Red Album
Contributions by Jonathan Byrd
Recorded by Red Molly

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