Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen and Brett Eldredge have all struck gold with songs by Ross Copperman. And the songwriter/producer proved his mettle by repeating as the songwriter of the year during the BMI Country Awards, held Nov. 7 at the performing rights organization’s Music Row office building.
Copperman landed six titles among BMI’s most-performed songs during the eligibility period with Chesney interpreting two of his compositions, “Noise” and “Setting the World On Fire.” Copperman co-wrote “Wanna be That Song” with Eldredge and placed “American Country Love Song” with Owen, He also penned LoCash’s “I Know Somebody” and Keith Urban’s “Break On Me.”
The honor continues a prolific streak. Copperman landed seven titles among BMI’s most-performed country songs in 2016.
“Songwriter of the year is one of those things you dream of when you first move to town, but you don’t think you’d ever be able to do it,” he said. “Now I’ve done it for the second time in a row — it’s a stunning award.”
“H.O.L.Y.,” a Florida Georgia Line single that spent 18 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs, brought the Frances W. Preston Award for most-performed country song to writers busbee and Nate Cyphert, who co-wrote it with ASCAP member William Wiik Larsen.
Sony/ATV claimed country publisher for a record-setting 16th year in a row, after having a share of ownership in 26 of the 50 awarded copyrights, including Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here,” Thomas Rhett’s “Star Of the Show” and Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ And Lovin’ Every Day.”
Veteran songwriter Bob DiPiero was formally recognized as a BMI Icon, putting him in league with such significant composers as Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
DiPiero developed his music itch in Youngstown, Ohio, where he played guitar in local rock clubs, and he brought that influence with him when he moved to Tennessee for economic reasons.
“I got to Nashville ’cause I knew my car wouldn’t make it to L.A.,” he quipped in his acceptance speech.
DiPiero first charted as the writer of Reba McEntire’s “I Can See Forever In Your Eyes” (No. 18, 1980), but he came to prominence by incorporating the uptempo rock mentality of his club-level education in such titles as Shenandoah’s “The Church On Cumberland Road,” The Oak Ridge Boys’ “American Made” and John Anderson’s “Money In the Bank.”
“It’s always been in my mind that if I can give somebody three minutes of a break from whatever’s going on in their lives that is not going the way they want, if I give ’em three minutes of fun in music, then I’m doing my job,” DiPiero said on the red carpet.
That attitude was emphasized in two performances that honored him. Jon Pardi turned in a rollicking version of “Daddy’s Money,” and Brooks & Dunn reprised the Rolling Stones-flavored “You Can’t Take The Honky Tonk Out Of The Girl.” McEntire made a surprise appearance with “Till You Love Me,” a dramatic, start-and-stop ballad DiPiero authored for her in the 1990s.
Urban was likewise hailed as BMI Champion for his philanthropy and his mentorship. He has notably raised nearly $6 million for the Country Music Hall of Fame with a series of multi-artist concerts, he’s been an avid supporter of music education, and he’s given a hand to younger talent.
“It’s not rocket science,” he said on the red carpet. “Pass it on.”
Maren Morris, who he tapped as an opening act before she had even signed her recording deal, is an example of his support of young musicians, and she delivered a skittering version of his first No. 1 song, “But For The Grace Of God.” She was backed appropriately by a band and vocal chorus from the Nashville School of the Arts, who used instruments that were donated to the school by Urban.
Fittingly, Copperman is also a beneficiary of Urban’s belief. Urban recorded his song “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” in 2015 and joined Copperman and Universal Music Group Nashville vp A&R Joe Fisher to start a publishing company, Boom.
“He’s the best human on the planet,” Copperman said of Urban. “The more chances I can get to be around him, the better. Working with him is awesome. We got to produce two songs together on [new artist] Brandon Ray. I think if Keith were just a producer, he’d be the best producer in Nashville.”
The 65th annual BMI Country Awards followed the SESAC Nashville Music Awards, presented Nov. 5, and the ASCAP Country Music Awards, held Nov. 6. Nashville’s streak of celebrations peaks Nov. 8 with the 51st annual Country Music Association Awards, telecast by ABC.