Big winners: Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, Tom T. Hall and Luke Laird attend the 60th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on October 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/Getty Images for BMI)
"Take A Back Road" went center stage on Oct. 30 as the Rodney Atkins hit won the Frances W. Preston Award as BMI's country song of the year during the performing rights agency's 60th annual country awards.
Luke Laird, one of its co-writers, collected the organization's country songwriter of the year honor after landing five titles among the most-played country songs of the year. Laird shared the award with Dallas Davidson, who likewise won BMI's top country prize in 2011.
Laird's winning titles ran a gamut of sounds from the traditionally informed "Back Road" to the rowdy spirit of Eric Church's "Drink In My Hand" to the blue-eyed soul of Chris Young's "You." Laird was also awarded for writing the Sara Evans ballad "A Little Bit Stronger" and Miranda Lambert's gritty "Baggage Claim."
Luke Laird speaks at the 60th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on October 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/Getty Images for BMI)
"He's really a versatile songwriter, and it's one of the reasons people love writing with him," Young observed on the red carpet. "It's pretty rare for so many different artists to write with one guy and for him to have success across several different sonic areas. It's really a testament to him."
An emotional Laird halted his acceptance speech several times to regain his composure.
"I couldn't even dream of awards," he said before the event started. "The first time I went to the Bluebird Café and watched the writers in the round, I just was so blown away and just so inspired. I just thought it'd be cool to be in Nashville and just get to write songs. I never could have dreamed of this stuff. So I just try to take it in and not take it for granted."
Jody Williams, Tom Collins, Tom T. Hall, Del Bryant and Clay Bradley attend the 60th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on October 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/Getty Images for BMI)
Like Laird, Davidson covered a fair amount of aural turf with the five titles that earned him awards. He co-authored the pop-leaning Lady Antebellum hits "Just A Kiss" and "We Owned The Night," the stone-country Justin Moore ballad "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" and a pair of provocative Luke Bryan hits, "I Don't Want This Night To End" and "Country Girl (Shake It For Me)."
Laird and Davidson also contributed mightily to Sony/ATV, which won BMI's publisher of the year award for the 36th time. The firm had a stake in 24 of the 50 copyrights cited during the evening, including the Taylor Swift composition "Sparks Fly," the Band Perry single "You Lie" and the Eli Young Band's No. 1 song "Crazy Girl.
Tom T. Hall also became the 11th country-based songwriter recognized as a BMI Icon. A silver bucket hailed his "unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers" in the aftermath of a prolific career that earned him the nickname the Storyteller. Classics such as "(Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine," "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died" and the Jeannie C. Riley signature "Harper Valley P.T.A." benefited from Hall's crisp imagery and his ability to lay out a thick plot that provides the listener an enormous understanding of several characters in just a few minutes.
captionTom T. Hall accepts ICON Award during the 60th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on October 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/Getty Images for BMI)
"You go through the song and you can visualize the whole thing," observed Jamie Dailey, who performed in Hall's honor as one-half of the bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent. "It's like watching a TV show."
The tribute to Hall included performances by Toby Keith, the Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle and Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy.
Rhett Akins, who shared songwriter of the year honors with Davidson in 2011, came close to a repeat. He was recognized for writing four of the most-played songs, including "Take A Back Road." He also nabbed attention for "I Don't Want This Night To End," plus Justin Moore's "Bait A Hook" and Blake Shelton's "Honey Bee."
Big Machine Label Group's Scott Borchetta and Brantley Gilbert attend the 60th Annual BMI Country Awards at BMI on October 30, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BMI)
Akins was part of a remarkable run for one of Nashville's strongest co-writing partnerships. He schedules weekly writing appointments with Davidson and Ben Hayslip, who won ASCAP's country songwriter of the year honor the previous day.
Hosted by BMI president & CEO Del Bryant, BMI Nashville VP of writer/publisher relations Jody Williams and assistant VP of writer/publisher relations Clay Bradley, the event played to a significant crowd. Among those in attendance were George Strait, Jerrod Niemann, Alabama's Randy Owen, Lee Brice, BMI Icon Bobby Braddock, Hunter Hayes and Motown songwriting legend Lamont Dozier.