Brad Paisley's hit "Anything Like Me" was written to celebrate a son whose arrival led a man to contemplate the progression of his life.
Paisley saw his own life's progression on display again Nov. 6 when he walked off with two of the top honors during the 49th annual ASCAP Country Music Awards at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort.
The former ASCAP intern was named the performing rights organization's songwriter/artist of the year, and his independent publishing company - Sea Gayle Music, co-founded with songwriter Chris DuBois and producer Frank Rogers - also repeated as the country publisher of the year.
"It's an amazing feeling standing here tonight with the circle of life that has sort of brought me here," Paisley told the artists, writers and music executives in the room. "As we tour and put up video screens and shoot lasers across the crowd and watch people get drunk and fall on their faces, it never escapes me that the whole reason we got to that point is songs."
Three of Paisley's songs - "Anything Like Me," "Water" and "This Is Country Music" - led to the songwriter/artist award, a trophy he also received in 2004. Sea Gayle was credited with those three titles, plus "This," "Come Back Song" and "This Ain't Nothing" in amassing six of ASCAP's most performed songs of the year, more than any other publisher.
"I'm still astounded by it," DuBois said of Sea Gayle's victory, "but we're not planning on letting go of it. We're gonna try to hang onto it as long as we can."
Ben Hayslip, who co-wrote five of ASCAP's most performed country songs, took songwriter of the year, while Allen Shamblin's "The House That Built Me" continued its awards-ceremony rein. "House" won ASCAP country song of the year, having previously received similar recognition from the Country Music Assn. and the Academy of Country Music.
"I'm blown away," Shamblin told his fellow songwriters. "I come into this room, I look around, I know what you've written, I know what it's cost you. I want to thank you for all the years of inspiration."
Hayslip's five honored titles included two Joe Nichols singles - "Gimmie That Girl" and "The Shape I'm In" - plus the Josh Turner-recorded "All Over Me," Blake Shelton's "All About Tonight" and Rodney Atkins' "Farmer's Daughter."
Hayslip co-wrote each of them with Dallas Davidson and/or Rhett Akins. The three have dubbed themselves "the peach pickers" in recognition of their Georgia roots and a dedicated work ethic. They have a regular writing appointment on Wednesdays, and Hayslip makes an effort to keep every one of those dates.
"Show up every day, even when you don't feel like it," he says, explaining his philosophy. "You never know what God's laid out for you that day. I believe if I got to call [in sick], I don't feel good, there might be a No. 1 song on that table that I didn't go get that day."
Americana act the Civil Wars earned the ASCAP Vanguard Award, while the ASCAP Global Impact Award - recognizing multi-format hits - went to Josh Kear for co-writing Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," which has amassed more than 5 million downloads. The ASCAP Golden Voice Award was also presented to Country Music Hall of Fame member Don Williams, recognized for his shrewdness as a songwriter and as a judge of others' material.
Williams sang "I Believe In You" and "Tulsa Time," a pair of classics he picked up from other writers, and he was saluted by several contemporary hitmakers. Lee Ann Womack turned in a sturdy version of "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good," while Keith Urban gave a sandy rendition of "We've Got A Good Fire Goin'," backed by Little Big Town's harmonies and a surprise appearance by Dave Loggins, who authored the song.
The biggest surprise of the night, however, was a simple mash-up. The peach pickers performed "Gimmie That Girl" with a New Orleans-inspired, three-piece horn section and ended up singing two of Don Williams' choruses - "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good" and "Tulsa Time" - on top of each other.
It is likely not the last surprise of the week. The two competing performing rights organizations, SESAC and BMI, offer their country awards Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. And the CMA televises its 45th annual awards on ABC on Nov. 9. That ceremony is co-hosted by Carrie Underwood and ASCAP's former intern, Brad Paisley.