Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, Hunter Hayes, Emmylou Harris, B.J. Thomas and Ronnie Dunn were among those honoring the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame’s four newest members during an induction gala last night (Oct. 11) at Nashville’s Music City Center. Rosanne Cash, Mark James, Even Stevens and Craig Wiseman were celebrated in words and songs as they became members of Nashville’s most revered club.
Hall of Fame songwriter Hugh Prestwood inducted Stevens, who has written songs for Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes and many others. Loving Mary performed “Drivin’ My Life Away,” which Stevens penned for Eddie Rabbitt, and American Idol alumnus Paul McDonald celebrated the honorree with a performance of the Stevens’ “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” that became an international hit for Dr. Hook.
Taking the stage, Stevens quipped that this was the biggest honor he’d received since they used him as a model for the naked statue in the center of the Music Row roundabout. He then gave a heartfelt speech acknowledging family and his mentors, including Jim Malloy and the late Shel Silverstein.
BMI VP of writer publisher relations Jody Williams inducted Mark James, with Hunter Hayes saluting the honoree performaning Elvis Presley‘s “Suspicious Minds” and B.J. Thomas drawing a standing ovation with a performance of the 1968 pop hit “Hooked on a Feeling.”
“I’ve got a lot of awards through the years. Last year I was inducted into the Pop/Rock Hall of Fame,” James told Billboard before the event. “But I live in Nashville and Nashville has a lot of great songs and music out of here.”
Rosanne Cash was inducted by Hall of Fame member and ex husband Rodney Crowell, for which Emmylou Harris performed a beautiful version of “Watching You” and Vince Gill delivered a stunning performance of Cash’s iconic hit “Seven Year Ache.”
“This is the award that I’ve always wanted,” Cash told Billboard. “It means so much to me. All my life I just wanted to be a songwriter. [The] most compelling force in my life is to be a songwriter and a good songwriter so to get this award, it’s so meaningful to me.”
During her acceptance speech she smiled and noted that she had won Grammys with songs she’d written with both her ex husband Crowell and current husband John Leventhal. She also spoke of how meaningful it was to her that both she and her father, Johnny Cash, were both members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame making them the only father and daughter to be inducted.
Craig Wiseman was inducted by Hall of Fame songwriter Bob DiPiero, who took the mic and immediately told the audience that Gill had just pinched his butt. DiPiero’s heartfelt but humorous induction speech referenced The Hit Men of Music Row, a TV show he and Wiseman both starred in with Jeffrey Steele and Tony Mullins, while lauding Wiseman’s many hits. Steele took the stage to deliver an impressive medley that included a dozen Wiseman hits, among them “The Cowboy in Me,” “Summertime,” “Hell Yeah,” “Young” and “The Good Stuff.” Next up Ronnie Dunn earned a standing ovation with “Believe” and McGraw served up “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Wiseman then took the stage for his acceptance speech, which included a moving moment when he called his wife K.K. to the stage and she said the Lord’s Prayer. Wiseman thanked his mentors, co-workers and collaborators, speaking to why he loves his craft. “I want to be around songwriters,” he told the crowd. “I want to be there when those angels fly low, when that thing happens and our whole lives change, when those dreams they have happen right there. I want to be around that. It’s the coolest, most amazing thing. And it still is every time. There are so many things you get used to in this business, but I never, ever get used to that. I love that! It’s life. It’s God. It’s love. It’s miracles. It’s angel work. It’s something to behold every time.”
Earlier in the evening before the inductions began, the Nashville Songwriters Assn. International (NSAI) executive director Bart Herbison and NSAI president Lee Thomas Miller presented the organization’s annual Songwriter Achievement Awards. The Songwriter of the Year honor went to Rodney Clawson, who has co-written such hits as Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids,” Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” and Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ it Down.” Little Big Town’s hit “Girl Crush” was named Song of the Year and songwriters Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna performed the song, receiving a standing ovation.
Taylor Swift was named Songwriter/Artist of the Year and accepted the honor in a video taped speech with Herbison. This is the seventh time Swift has earned this award in the past seven years.
In addition to saluting the Song, Songwriter and Songwriter/Artist, NSAI also presented awards to the writers of “The Songs I Wish I’d Written,” for which 11 songs were recognized because of a tie. They were: “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” (Melissa Peirce, Jonathan Singleton, Brad Tursi / recorded by Tyler Farr), “All About That Bass” (Kevin Kadish, Meghan Trainor / recorded by Meghan Trainor), American Kids” (Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally / recorded by Kenny Chesney), “Diamond Rings And Old Bar Stools” (Barry Dean, Luke Laird, Jonathan Singleton / recorded by Tim McGraw w/ Catherine Dunn), “Dirt” (Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins / recorded by Florida Georgia Line), “Girl In A Country Song” (Taylor Dye, Maddie Marlow, Aaron Scherz / recorded by Maddie & Tae), “I Don’t Dance” (Lee Brice, Dallas Davidson, Rob Hatch / recorded by Lee Brice), “Neon Light” (Andrew Dorff, Mark Irwin, Josh Kear / recorded by Blake Shelton), “Raise ‘Em Up” (Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, Jeffrey Steele / recorded by Keith Urban w/ Eric Church), “Shake It Off ” (Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift / recorded by Taylor Swift) and “She Don’t Love You” (Eric Paslay, Jennifer Wayne / recorded by Eric Paslay).