SESAC Salutes “Beautiful Crazy,” Songwriter of the Year Justin Ebach

Eric Church, Dustin Lynch Make Presentations

“Beautiful Crazy” earned Song of the Year honors by the performing rights organization SESAC in a gala held Sunday night (Nov. 10) at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The song was co-written by SESAC-affiliated songwriter Wyatt Durrette III, published by Rosest Music, and recorded by Luke Combs. Durette shares writing credit with Combs and Robert Williford, who are both affiliated with BMI.

Pictured above: SESAC’s Shannan Hatch, Rosest Music’s Richard Blackstone, Wyatt Durrette III, SESAC’s Sam Kling.

Justin Ebach was named SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year for the second time, taking home his first award in 2017. Warner Chappell Music took home the Publisher of the Year accolade during the event, after previously winning the award in 2017.

Ed Rode/Getty Images for SESAC

Among the stars on hand for this event, which kicked off country music’s fall awards season, were Eric Church, Rosanne Cash, Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown, Lee Brice and Ray Wylie Hubbard. More than 500 music industry guests attended.

The other two major performance rights groups—whose function is to collect royalties for songwriters and publishers for public uses of their songs—are ASCAP, which will confer its awards Monday (Nov. 11), and BMI, which holds its ritual on Tuesday (Nov. 12). The season culminates Wednesday night (Nov. 13) with the CMA Awards.

Ed Rode/Getty Images for SESAC)

Ebach, who won this same award in 2017, was celebrated for co-writing the hits “Good Girl,” recorded by Dustin Lynch, and “Here Tonight,” by Brett Young. “Beautiful Crazy” was cited for having been the longest running song of 2019 on Billboard’s country airplay charts.

(See below for a complete list of the winning songs.)

Country fans stood just outside the security ropes as guests alighted from their cars to enter the side doors of the Hall of Fame. Once checked in, the guests took elevators to the event area on the Hall’s broad sixth floor overlooking downtown Nashville.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for SESAC

Instead of the sit-down dinner that has long been the centerpiece of these award celebrations, SESAC — as it did for the first time last year — arranged the area with food stations and bars around three sides of the perimeter with the stage on the fourth side.

Guests, who served themselves cafeteria style, could elect to stand at tall tables in the back, sit at regular tables in the middle or recline on rows of sofas closer to the stage.

A mac and cheese station offered cavatappi and cheese sauce, served with lobster and sweet peas, duck confit and truffle oil and smoked cheddar and tomato. The dim sum station held chicken and lemongrass dumplings. Berkshire pork pot stickers, vegetable soba noodles and shrimp salad with spring rolls. At the dessert station, guests were tempted with chocolate truffles, macaroons and seasonal cheesecake.

Waiters circulated through the crowd with trays of hors d’oeuvres and red and white wines, while the bars worked vigorously to leave no alcoholic fixation unsatisfied.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for SESAC

After an hour or more set aside for red carpeting and socializing, the formal ceremony got underway with Blanco Brown performing “The Git Up.”

SESAC’s beloved but departing vice president Shannan Hatch, who’s leaving to head a new publishing company, served as chief mistress of ceremonies, aided by ET Brown and Lydia Schultz. The stage backdrop was festooned with giant reproductions of the handwritten lyrics of the winning songs.

Following the first round of presentations, Jimmie Allen and his co-writer, Josh London, performed Allen’s debut hit, “Best Shot,” with Allen on piano and London on guitar. In a pronounced departure from his usual casual garb, Allen wore an astoundingly red and wide-brimmed hat that served as its own spotlight. The crowd gave the two — and, no doubt, the hat — a standing ovation.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for SESAC

After more awards were dispensed, renowned folksinger Ray Wylie Hubbard took to the stage to sing “Desperate Man,” which he co-wrote with Eric Church and which Church recorded and used as the title of his 2018 album. Church also released it as a single that went Top 10 last year.

To the surprise of the crowd, Church came on stage to present Hubbard his award. He declared that he was a long-time admirer of Hubbard’s songs. “He’s equal parts poet, blues man and troubadour,” Church said, “but he’ll always be my hero.”

Ed Rode, Getty Images for SESAC

As the ceremonies neared their end, Dustin Lynch came to the microphone to give Ebach his songwriter of the year trophy. Speaking of Ebach’s talent and his impact on fellow songwriters, Lynch said, “He makes everybody [he works with] better than they were the day before.”

Many of the guests lingered for more food, drink and conversation. As they filed out, they picked up gorgeous red and black book bags, emblazoned with the SESAC logo and containing a T shirt and branded SESAC chocolate bar. More goodies — coffee and cookies — awaited downstairs. Then it was a scramble to find one’s valet parking ticket and glide out into the night.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for SESAC

Country Awards:

Written by: Cary Barlowe, Niko Moon
Published by: Bennetts Dad Songs, Niko Moon Publishing, Roc Nation US Music, Song of Rhythm House Black, Warner Chappell Music
Recorded by: Rascal Flatts

Written by: Wyatt Durrette III
Published by: Rosest Music
Recorded by: Luke Combs

Written by: Jimmie Allen, Josh London
Published by: Castle Bound Music, Red Lining Music, Sony/ATV Lakeview, Songs of Downtown
Recorded by: Jimmie Allen

Written by: Casey Brown
Published by: Not Just Another Song Publishing, So Essential Tunes
Recorded by: Russell Dickerson

Written by: Jennifer Wayne, Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland
Published by: Hatchoooo Music Publishing, Legends Of Magic Mustang Music, Music Of Platinum Pen, Thunder Cookie, Wild Wild Wild West Songs, BMG Silver Songs US
Recorded by: Runaway June

Written by: Ray Wylie Hubbard
Published by: Snake Farm Publishing, BMG Silver Songs US
Recorded by: Eric Church

Written by: Justin Wilson
Published by: Legends Of Magic Mustang Music, Somebody Play It Again Music, BMG Silver Songs US
Recorded by: Mitchell Tenpenny

Written by: Michael Tyler, Jaron Boyer
Published by: peertunes LTD, MTNOIZE, Jaron Boyer Music
Recorded by: Jason Aldean

Written by: Justin Ebach
Published by: Curb Wordspring Music, Memory Days, Warner Chappell Music
Recorded by: Dustin Lynch

Written by: Josh Hoge
Published by: EMI Foray Music, Write 2 Be Free Music
Recorded by: Chris Young

Written by: Justin Ebach
Published by: Curb Wordspring Music, Memory Days, Warner Chappell Music
Recorded by: Brett Young

Written by: Kevin Welch
Published by: Spur 66 Music, Universal Tunes
Recorded by: Chris Stapleton

Written by: Cary Barlowe
Published by: Bennetts Dad Songs, Roc Nation US Music, Song of Rhythm House Black, Warner Chappell Music
Recorded by: Chris Young

Written and Recorded by: Lee Brice

Written by: Alysa Vanderheym
Published by: Castle Bound Music, Songs of Downtown
Recorded by: Florida Georgia Line

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for SESAC

Americana Awards:

Written by: Rosanne Cash
Published by: Chelcait Music, Words & Music Songs
Recorded by: Rosanne Cash

Written by: Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford
Published by: Ramseur Family Fold Music, NemoIVMusic, First Big Snow Publishing, Truth Comes True Publishing
Recorded by: The Avett Brothers

Written by: Hayes Carll, Allison Moorer
Published by: Highway 87 Publishing, Bernard House Music, BMG Silver Songs US, Songs of Downtown
Recorded by: Hayes Carll

Written by: Hayes Carll
Published by: Highway 87 Publishing, BMG Silver Songs US
Recorded by: Hayes Carll

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