BMI Country Awards Honor Icon Mac Davis, 'Monster Songwriter' Rodney Clawson

John Shearer/Getty Images for BMI
Singer-songwriters Ross Copperman, Brett Eldredge, BMI Icon Mac Davis, and Heather Morgan attend the BMI 2015 Country Awards at BMI on November 3, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Luke Bryan gave his best Elvis Presley imitation -- complete with frenetic legs and hydraulic shoulders -- on "A Little Less Conversation."

Rascal Flatts applied big three-part harmony and vintage electric keyboard on "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me."

And Little Big Town gave an artsy read of "In The Ghetto."

Mac Davis was celebrated Nov. 3 as a BMI Icon during the 63rd annual BMI Country Awards. A songwriter, artist, movie star and 1970s television host, Davis was hailed as a renaissance man, as he joined an Icon list that includes Merle Haggard, Chuck Berry, Al Green, Willie Nelson and Stevie Nicks.

"Definitely part of my bucket list," Davis quipped as he accepted the silver champagne bucket that accompanies the honor.

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It was a bucket-list night for several songwriters as BMI, a performing rights agency that represents songwriters in the public sphere, recognized the 50 most active titles in the last year. Gruver, Texas, native Rodney Clawson earned country songwriter of the year honors for the second time in his career after having a hand in seven of the night's award-winners, including Florida Georgia Line's "Dirt," Jason Aldean's "Burnin' It Down" and Lady Antebellum's "Bartender." 

"It's a good night for Texas," Clawson noted, accepting his trophy after the Lubbock-born Davis received his honor.

Increasing the Lone Start State's hold on the evening, former Texas Christian University student Heather Morgan joined Illinois native Brett Eldredge and Virginia-born Ross Copperman to claim the Frances W. Preston Award for the most-played country song of the year, Eldredge's single "Beat Of The Music."

The BMI event represented the third straight night of songwriter awards in Nashville as Music City prepares for the 49th annual Country Music Association Awards, scheduled to air Nov. 4 on ABC.

The artists will get most of the attention during the CMAs, hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, but many of the genre's singers fuel their careers with music created by songwriters who work in relative anonymity.

Clawson ranks among the elite. He has a designated parking space at his official place of employment, the Big Loud Shirt offices, which also house the recording studio where Florida Georgia Line recorded "Cruise." Fans may hum such Clawson-penned titles as Kenny Chesney's "American Kids," Justin Moore's "Lettin' The Night Roll" or Frankie Ballard's "Helluva Life," but Clawson is still able to visit malls or eat at a restaurant without causing a stir.

"Rodney's really laidback," says songwriter Dallas Davidson ("I Don't Dance," "Play It Again"). "He's a monster songwriter. He'll be over there mumbling, next thing you know he says a brilliant line."

"He's just a cool dude," agrees Cole Swindell. "He says things that stick with people."

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The winning BMI titles have the opportunity to stick with the general public for years to come. As the most-played songs of the year, those efforts -- including Miranda Lambert's "Automatic," Brantley Gilbert's "Bottoms Up" and Eric Church's "Talladega," to cite a few -- have already made a significant connection.

But the victories come with a bittersweet caveat. The advent of streaming has made American copyright laws antiquated, and Congress is currently mulling changes to the rules that govern compensation. In the meantime, the volume of full-time songwriters has declined significantly as it becomes increasingly difficult to make a living in the profession.

Songwriter Lee Thomas Miller ("Perfect Storm," "You're Gonna Miss This") was surprised with the first-ever BMI Champion Award for representing his fellow composers in Washington, D.C., as writers and publishers seek to strengthen the copyright codes.

Still, the downturn in fortunes hasn't stopped aspiring songwriters from moving to Music City, and it hasn't completely destroyed the appreciation writers have for their unusual line of work.

"I love what I do," Davis said. "I love that I get to do this for a living, and I can't understand why we get paid for what we do. Maybe we are counting pennies. But we're doing something that we love to do -- and something that we have to do."


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