Matt McGinn Named SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year

Kane Brown's “Heaven” and Smackworks Music are Top Song and Publisher

Bowing to Music Row’s mania for mingling, SESAC abandoned its traditional sit-down dinner format for its Nashville Music Awards Sunday night (Nov. 11) and opted instead for a club setting that encouraged the more than 500 guests to move about freely. The event was held at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Matt McGinn

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

The evening’s big winners were Matt McGinn, who was declared songwriter of the year for having co-written Kane Brown’s chart-topping single “Heaven”; the multi-platinum selling “Heaven” itself, which was cited as song of the year; and Smackworks Music, lauded as publisher of the year.

Shane McAnally and Ben Vaughn

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for SESAC

Lee Brice and Sara Reeveley

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

Hillary Scott

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

SESAC’s celebration kicked off three consecutive nights of awards shows by the three major performance rights organizations that collect and pay royalties to songwriters and music publishers. ASCAP recognizes its writers and publishers Monday night (Nov. 12), while BMI toasts its members on Tuesday night (Nov. 13).

Guests arriving at the SESAC party on the sixth floor of the Hall of Fame, overlooking downtown Nashville, walked past the red carpet reception and into the main ballroom, where two large circular bars and six food tables awaited them. Waiters circulated through the crowd with tempting trays of hors d’oeuvres as a DJ kept the background music pumping. The partygoers seated themselves or stood at the tiered rows of tables facing the stage.

Jamey Johnson and John Carter Cash opened the awards segment with a performance of “Spirit Rider” from the album Johnny Cash: Forever Words. Johnson dedicated the song to the late Randy Scruggs who played lead guitar on the recording of “Spirit Rider.”

Jamey Johnson

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

Shannan Hatch, SESAC’s vice president of creative services, deftly hosted the awards presentations. SESAC CEO John Josephson also came to the stage to honor Veterans Day and the veterans and active duty soldiers who were invited as guests.

Lee Brice, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, followed with a moving performance of his 2013 hit, “I Drive Your Truck,” a brother’s tribute to a soldier died in battle. The crowd gave Brice a standing ovation.

Jason Davis/Getty Images for SESAC

SESAC presented Brice an award for his work in establishing a Nashville chapter of the Folds of Honor Foundation that gives scholarships to the families of fallen and disabled military members.

At the end of the awards presentations, Lindsay Rimes, Aaron Eshuis and Joey Hyde sang “Heaven” in McGinn’s honor. Once all the awards were handed out, the partygoers were invited to serve themselves at the buffet tables from a menu that included baby greens salad, Tennessee country ham, smoked beef brisket, pasta and Mediterranean grilled vegetables.

While they ate, they were entertained by brief performances by Michael Tyler, Seaforth, Tyler Rich and Runaway June.

Runaway June

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for SESAC

Each departing guest was given a goody bag that contained, among other treats, chocolates, macaroons, flip-flops, sunglasses, a wine opener, liquor flask, Fireball whiskey sampler, earplugs and a gift card to a local restaurant.

Here is a complete list of the evening’s winners.

Country Awards:
“Yours”
written by: Casey Brown
published by: Not Just Another Song Publishing, So Essential Tunes
recorded by: Russell Dickerson

“Heart Break”
written by: Hillary Scott
published by W.B.M. Music Corp, EKT Publishing
recorded by: Lady Antebellum

“Heaven”
written by: Matt McGinn
published by Smackworks Music Kobalt Group Publishing
recorded by: Kane Brown

“Singles You Up”
written by: Justin Ebach
published by: Wordspring Music, WBM Music, Memory Days
recorded by: Jordan Davis

“Losing Sleep”
written by: Josh Hoge
published by: EMI Foray Music, Write to Be Free
recorded by: Chris Young

“She’s With Me”
written by: Seth Mosley
published by: CentricSongs, Capitol CMG Amplifier
recorded by: High Valley

“One Number Away”
written by: Sammy Mitchell
published by Concord Music, Self Shrevident Music
recorded by: Luke Combs

Americana Awards:
All American Made
contributions by: Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey
published by: BMG, Peach Pit, Fisheye
recorded by: Margo Price

From a Room: Volume 2
contributions by: Kevin Welch, Brice Long, Jaron Boyer
published by: Send Me the Checks Music, Spur 66 Music, Universal Tunes, EMI Foray Music, BMG
recorded by: Chris Stapleton

Johnny Cash: Forever Words
contributions by: Jamey Johnson, Rosanne Cash, Robert Glasper
published by: Polishit, Chelcait Music, Notable Music, Words of Cash Music, BMG, Big Deal Music
recorded by: Various Artists

Accomplice One
contributions by: Anthony Snape
published by: Anthony Snape Music Publishing
recorded by: Tommy Emmanuel

The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone
contributions by: Andrew Combs
published by: Concord Music, Chunk of Coal Publishing
recorded by: Lee Ann Womack

Time Flies
contributions by: Jim Lauderdale
published by: BMG Cicada, Jim Lauderdale Music
Performed by: Jim Lauderdale

Free Yourself Up
contributions by: Rachael Price, Michael Olson
published by: W.B.M. Music, 17 Lake Street Music
recorded by: Lake Street Music

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