Casey Beathard, Taylor Swift, Hank Williams, Jr., and publisher Sony/ATV were the big winners at the 56th Annual BMI Country Awards, which were held Tuesday night (Nov. 11) at the performing rights organization's Music Row offices in Nashville.

"It's the Superbowl for songwriters. It's our night," singer-songwriter Jeffrey Steele told Billboard on the red carpet at the event.

Hosted by BMI president and CEO Del Bryant and BMI VP of writer/publisher relations for Nashville Jody Williams, the black-tie ceremony toasted the writers and publishers of the past year's 50 most-performed country songs in the BMI repertoire.

Beathard earned his second BMI Country songwriter of the year crown, while Swift's smash "Teardrops on My Guitar" garnered Robert J. Burton song of the year honors. Publishing powerhouse Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville claimed its seventh consecutive country publisher of the year title, and an all-star tribute recognized Williams as a BMI Icon.

First named BMI Country songwriter of the year in 2004, Beathard co-wrote five of the songs in the most-performed list to claim his 2008 songwriter of the year title: Rodney Atkins' "Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)," Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink," George Strait's "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls," Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus's "Ready, Set, Don't Go" and Tracy Lawrence's "Find Out Who Your Friends Are," featuring Chesney and Tim McGraw. In October, Beathard also earned the Nashville Songwriters Association International 2008 songwriter of the year title.

"The life I've been able to live is so inspiring to me and that's where it all comes from," Beathard told Billboard.

Song of the year "Teardrops on My Guitar" was co-written and recorded by Swift and published by Sony/ATV Tree. The song earned iTunes' No. 1 country song of 2007 bragging rights as it achieved RIAA digital platinum certification in early 2008. The only female artist in Billboard country chart history to release five consecutive top ten singles from a debut album, Swift's hit "Our Song" also landed in BMI's most-performed list.

"Being here at BMI means so much because this is about the songwriters tonight," Swift said to Billboard. "Songwriting is my favorite thing I get to do and I've been lucky enough to be on a record label that lets me write my own songs. It's just wonderful to have that and be recognized for the writing. When I wrote 'Teardrops on my Guitar,' I was just writing a song about a boy in my class. I had no idea what would happen."

With 15 songs among this year's top 50, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville (through its companies Sony/ATV Acuff Rose, Sony/ATV Melody and Sony/ATV Tree) picked up its seventh consecutive BMI Country publisher of the year win. The publishing giant accumulated the highest percentage of copyright ownership thanks to award songs including "Never Wanted Nothing More," "Famous In a Small Town," "Watching Airplanes," "Long Trip Alone" and "Love You."

Meanwhile, a tribute to Williams included performances by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gregg Allman, Robert Randolph and Kenny Chesney. In addition to 10 No. 1 singles, Williams found mainstream success on the pop charts and through penning and performing the multiple Emmy award-winning theme to "Monday Night Football;" six of Williams' albums reached platinum status, while 20 were certified gold and 13 reached the No. 1 spot on the charts.

"The ride has been real good and it's still real sweet," Williams said accepting the honor. "I've probably written more songs in the last six months than I've written in the last six years."

The BMI Country Awards also honored hit songwriters Brett Beavers, Shane Minor, Rodney Clawson, Marv Green, Ed Hill and David Lee, along with recording artists/songwriters Luke Bryan, Sugarland's Kristian Bush, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, who each contributed two songs to the top 50 list.

Publishers Universal Music Publishing Group, EMI-Blackwood Music, Inc., Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Songs of Windswept Pacific and State One Music America each took home three or more awards.

Kid Rock, Tennessee Titans quarterback Kerry Collins and Titans kicker Rob Bironas, Nicole Kidman, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Billy ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean were among those attending the event.

For a complete list of winners, go to