Country music’s songwriters were celebrated during the ACM Stories, Songs & Stars event in Las Vegas on Friday evening (April 5). For nearly two hours, some of the genre’s biggest stars and songwriters performed at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino’s Marquee Ballroom ahead of the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
Thomas Rhett, Brantley Gilbert, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Midland, Jake Owen, Chase Rice and King Calaway made appearances as they shared the stage with the songwriters who helped pen their hits. The two writer rounds included performances by hit songwriters Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Chase McGill and Josh Osborne.
Little Big Town surprised the audience with performances of previous singles “Girl Crush” and “When Someone Stops Loving You” while songwriters McKenna and McGill, who both co-wrote the latter with Hillary Lindsey, assisted on harmonies and guitar. Additional highlights included Rhett and his father, Akins, performing his latest single “Look What God Gave Her,” which they co-wrote together, as well as Gilbert and Akins’ collaboration “What Happens In a Small Town” where Akins warned: “I’m going to attempt to do Lindsay [Ell]’s part which is going to be more like Lindsay Yell or Lindsay What the Hell. It ain’t gonna be good.”
McAnally later performed Kacey Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy,” which he co-wrote with Musgraves and Laird and is nominated for ACM song of the year at Sunday’s ceremony. “This is a song that scares the hell out of me to try to sing because just about my favorite voice in the world sings it normally,” McAnally confessed. “I wrote this song with Luke Laird and the great Kacey Musgraves. It wasn’t a radio hit, but it has been a really creatively rewarding song. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been a part of.”
While country fans will have to wait until April 7 to learn if the song wins a trophy, McAnally is already walking away a winner as he was announced the ACM songwriter of the year Friday evening following the concert.
“Honestly, these guys that are nominated and the ones who played tonight, we have the absolute greatest job in the world,” McAnally said while accepting his trophy from previous ACM songwriter of the year Akins. “I’m so honored to be a part of this Nashville community. I’m so glad the ACMs honor songwriters and songs. We appreciate that so much because we definitely don’t write these songs for awards but it’s so nice to be acknowledged. This is such a dream. I’m so proud. Thank y’all so much!”
Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and SiriusXM’s Storme Warren hosted the event on Friday evening that officially kicked off the 7th annual ACM Party for a Cause. Portions of proceeds made from the event will benefit ACM Lifting Lives, the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to improving lives through the power of music.
The 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards will air Sunday, April 7 on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/delayed PT.