“I believe songwriting is a gift from God,” George Strait said upon accepting the president’s keystone award at Tuesday’s 2019 Nashville Songwriter Awards. It was a sentiment that came to fruition during the two-and-a-half hour awards ceremony at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, as each songwriter honored discussed the process of penning his hits as well as performed the song he was being recognized for.

The songwriting community was honored by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) on Sept. 17. Throughout the evening, trophies were given out for the "10 Songs I Wish I’d Written" Awards. Performance highlights included Jason Aldean’s stripped down “Drowns the Whiskey,” Chris Janson’s powerful “Drunk Girl,” Dierks Bentley’s triumphant “Burning Man,” where he ran into the audience to invite songwriter Luke Dick to the stage, and Dan + Shay’s stirring harmonies and stand-out falsetto on “Tequila,” while joined by writers Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds on piano and guitar. Additionally, Strait, Loretta LynnLuke Combs, Josh Osborne and senator Lamar Alexander were recognized for their contributions to the genre.

“I think God has truly blessed all these songwriters in here,” Strait continued, following a performance by Dean Dillon on “Here For a Good Time” and “The Chair,” and Jeff Stevens and Steve Bogard’s “Carried Away” and “Carrying Your Love With Me.” “I want to thank you for sharing your talent with me over the years and I want to thank NSAI for giving me this great honor tonight.”

Lynn, escorted by Kid Rock to the podium to accept the Kris Kristofferson lifetime achievement award, praised Tayla Lynn, Kellie Pickler and Reba McEntire for their memorable covers of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” respectively.

“Hello everybody, I’m Loretta. I want y’all to know I love you. Thank y’all for coming out,” she told the room following a standing ovation. “Thank y’all. I love ya.”

While Combs wasn’t in attendance to accept his songwriter/artist of the year award, he provided a video message to thank NSAI for the honor.

“Songwriting has been a huge part of my life since I picked up guitar almost 10 years ago now, and to be recognized for that is a really awesome thing,” he said. “It’s been a really awesome experience and this is a pretty cool cherry on top of everything we’ve gotten to do over the past couple of years.”

Josh Osborne was recognized as songwriter of the year and following humorous video messages from frequent collaborator Shane McAnally and Old Dominion, the Ryman was treated to a performance by Michael Ray with “One That Got Away” and Sam Hunt for “Come Over,” both penned by Osborne. In the midst of Hunt singing the Kenny Chesney hit which he co-wrote with Osborne and McAnally, he discussed what it was like writing with Osborne. Describing Osborne as “next level” and “one of the best songwriters we have,” Hunt recounted one of his favorite lines from the song.

“When we wrote this song, this was our third time getting together. I knew from the previous two experiences that he was a really good writer, but I realized he was a really great writer on this day,” Hunt recalled. “Josh was gone for a few minutes and he came back in and he said, ‘What do y’all think of a John Mayer kind of line like, You can say we’re done the way you always do/ It’s easier to lie to me than to yourself?’ … To come up with a line that stout under those circumstances is next level and it wasn’t a fluke because I’ve watched him do it many times.”

One of the most emotional speeches of the evening, Osborne then took the podium to deliver several laughs and tears. After thanking his wife, family and team of publishers, he turned his gratitude over to his co-writers.

“I moved here 21 years ago. I’ve had a really fun eight years in this town,” he said to laughter. “All my co-writers, obviously no songwriter would even be up here without amazing co-writers. I still get up every day determined to prove to you that I belong in that room. I do not take your time or talent for granted. I’m very serious about what we’re doing, and I appreciate these opportunities with all of you.

“So many of my dreams have come true. The only one that’s left for me is I really, really want a George Strait cut so if anybody in this room happens to know exactly what George Strait is looking for,” he said while directing his attention to the front row where the country legend was seated, before taking on a more somber note. “The only person I think this would have meant more to than me is my dad…I lost him two years ago yesterday. I wish he was here to see this because he loved Loretta Lynn. If he was here, he would have two questions for me: No. 1 would be, ‘When is Sam [Hunt] going to put out some new music?’ No. 2 would be, ‘Are your seats better than Ashley Gorley’s?’ So dad, if you’re listening, the answers are soon and yes.”

Following their award for song of the year for “Break Up In the End,” Chase McGill, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jon Nite shared their appreciation for the honor and Cole Swindell for cutting it. It was Dillon, though, who closed the night with an encouraging message for the future generation of songwriters in attendance.

“If there’s any songwriters that are here tonight that feel discouraged or worn out, or your heart is beat down from being told ‘no,’ or feeling like you want to quit,” Dillon said, before turning hopeful, “I hope you don’t because this song is the perfect example, and, to quote the late great Tom Petty, ‘even the losers get lucky sometimes.’”

The Nashville Songwriter Awards are voted by members of NSAI. Complete winners from the 2019 Nashville Songwriter Awards are below.

Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award
Loretta Lynn

Songwriter/Artist of the Year
Luke Combs

Songwriter of the Year
Josh Osborne

The White Hat Award
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

President’s Keystone Award
George Strait

Song of the Year
“Break Up In the End” (Cole Swindell)
Writers: Chase McGill, Jessie Jo Dillon, Jon Nite

’10 Songs I Wish I’d Written’ Awards

“Meant to Be” (Florida Georgia Line)
Writers: Bebe Rexha, David Garcia, Josh Miller, Tyler Hubbard

“Whiskey Glasses” (Morgan Wallen)
Writers: Ben Burgess, Kevin Kadish​

“Drunk Girl” (Chris Janson)
Writers: Janson, Scooter Carusoe, Tom Douglas

“God’s Country” (Blake Shelton)
Writers: Devin Dawson, Jordan Schmidt, Michael Hardy

“Burning Man” (Dierks Bentley)
Writers: Bobby Pinson, Luke Dick

“Tequila” (Dan + Shay)
Writers: Dan Smyers, Jordan Reynolds, Nicolle Galyon​

“Some of It” (Eric Church)
Writers: Pinson, Clint Daniels, Church, Jeff Hyde

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (David Lee Murphy)
Writers: Chris Stevens, Murphy, Jimmy Yeary

“Up Down” (Morgan Wallen)
Writers: Brad Clawson, CJ Solar, Hardy

“Drowns the Whiskey” (Jason Aldean feat. Miranda Lambert)
Writers: Brandon Kinney, Jeff Middleton, Josh Thompson

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