From left; ASCAP's Randy Grimmett, Cal IV's Daniel Hill, songwriter Terry Sawchuk, songwriter Eric Paslay, Cal IV's Natalie Harker and Billy Lynn, ASCAP's Michael Martin.
Songwriter/artist of the year Brad Paisley and songwriter of the year Ben Hayslip were repeat winners Oct. 29 as ASCAP recognized masters of the three-minute script at its 50th annual Country Music Awards at Nashville's Opryland Hotel.
Paisley was a co-writer of three songs - "Old Alabama," "Remind Me" and "Camouflage" - that were among 36 titles recognized by the performing-rights organization among the most-performed songs of the year.
Hayslip landed four songs on the list. Two of his compositions were among the five most-performed copyrights: the Luke Bryan hit "I Don't Want This Night To End" and the Blake Shelton-recorded "Honey Bee," which tied for ASCAP's country song of the year. Hayslip also received awards for "This Ole Boy," recorded by Craig Morgan; and "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," made famous by Martina McBride.
From left: ASCAPs Michael Martin, Songwriter of the Year Ben Hayslip, ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams
Hayslip, hailed for his diligence, attributed some of his success to sheer dogged persistence.
"It just goes to show that hard work and surrounding yourself with talented people really pays off," he said in his acceptance speech. "If I can breathe, if I'm not throwing up or there's not a death in the family, I'm going to be at the [studio] every day to write songs."
Paisley, who has developed an iconic presence as a singer and guitar player, collected the third songwriter/artist trophy of his career from ASCAP, citing his compositional skills as the basis for his success.
"In my heart, that's what I am more than anything is a songwriter," he said.
Co-writer Chris DuBois, who co-owns Sea Gayle Music with Paisley and producer Frank Rogers, agreed.
"He's the most talented writer I've ver sat down with," DuBois observed on the red carpet. "He could write songs for other artists in the blink of an eye if he ever decided to do that. But that's never been his focus. He's always been writing for himself, what he needs to say as an artist."
ASCAP's songwriter/artist of the year Brad Paisley
Sony/ATV/EMI won music publisher of the year, and the Jake Owen hit "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" tied "Honey Bee" for ASCAP's song of the year honor.
"Barefoot" succeeded in part because of its status as a three-minute anthem to summer nights and youthful party spirit. Songwriters Eric Paslay and Terry Sawchuk built its trademark sound around a John Mellencamp title, demonstrating the way new music invariably owes a debt to the past.
"The original song was just a guitar and vocal, but we couldn't really pitch it like that," Sawchuk said. "So I went back to the drawing board and decided to try and find a really infectious beat to kind of carry the song, something that would not just be a drum beat but be an actual hook in the way 'Jack & Diane''s drum beat is a part of the song."
With ASCAP president Paul Williams emceeing, the event paid homage to a couple of the genre's three-minute innovators. Lyle Lovett was presented the Creative Voice Award after several of his comrades - Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Jon Randall and Sam Bush - performed a trio of his songs. Producer Tony Brown complimented Lovett's distinctive songs and quirky presentation, though Lovett was in turn cognizant that his uniqueness would not have been recognized publicly if he had not been supported.
"The thing that I am so grateful for is that the people that I met when I came to town - creative people like Guy Clark, business people like Tony Brown - let me record my own songs the way I wanted to record them," Lovett noted. "They were willing to take a chance on letting me be myself. I tell you, if you get to do something you love to do the way you want to do it and get to go around acting like yourself all the time, it's a pretty good deal."
Bob McDill was also saluted with the Golden Note Award. A mini-tribute by Chris and Morton Stapleton, Josh Kelley, Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander and Ronnie Dunn highlighted some of McDill's most literate work, including "Amanda," "Don't Close Your Eyes," "Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)" and "Good Ole Boys Like Me."
McDill's catalog includes more than two dozen No. 1 songs, many of which set standards for songwriting in country music.
McDill, said songwriter/producer Allen Reynolds, "expanded the boundaries of what is possible in a three-minute song."