Tequila was the drink of choice when Nashville’s music community toasted Nicolle Galyon and Ross Copperman as songwriters of the year during the 67th annual BMI Country Awards.
Galyon’s “Tequila,” co-written with ASCAP’s Dan Smyers and Jordan Reynolds for Dan + Shay, claimed country song of the year, one of four Galyon-penned titles honored among the 50 most-performed country songs during a chilly Nov. 12 event at BMI’s Nashville facilities. Galyon also co-wrote Lee Brice’s “Boy,” Keith Urban’s “Coming Home” and Lady Antebellum’s “Heartbreak” to nail down her first songwriter of the year honor.
Copperman likewise loaded four compositions onto the most-performed list — Kenny Chesney’s “Get Along,” Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It,” Justin Moore’s “Kinda Don’t Care” and Dierks Bentley’s “Woman, Amen” — though it marked his third time to lead the BMI country field.
“It’s always shocking when a song succeeds,” Copperman said on the red carpet. “It’s so hard to get it cut by an artist, and then to get it to go to radio, and then for it to work at radio and be consumed by the fans. So literally winning one of these awards is like winning the Super Bowl.”
The most commercial songs often have such a ring of inevitability about them that they become as endemic to pop culture as the Super Bowl, though they would not exist unless a songwriter took the time to create them.
“Neither of my parents are musicians, but they’re both experts on making something out of nothing,” Kansas native Galyon said, noting their attendance. “My dad has poured concrete his whole life, and he has built a foundation every day. And my mom has built a house from the inside out from scratch. And isn’t that really what we’re all doing here every day? We’re just trying to make something out of nothing in this town.”
Warner-Tamerlane Music Group benefited from Galyon’s song structures, folding her four titles alongside 20 others to win BMI’s publisher of the year a second time. The win gave Warner Chappell a PRO sweep, matching similar publisher of the year honors from SESAC on Nov. 10 and ASCAP on Nov. 11.
The three PRO events lead into the Country Music Association Awards, aired by ABC on Nov. 13. A number of the CMA nominees were present to collect BMI medallions, including Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Morgan Wallen and Carrie Underwood.
But the BMI celebration made a point to celebrate career achievements in addition to recognizing the best of 2019. Dwight Yoakam received the President’s Award, adding his name to a list of influential music figures that already includes Kenny Chesney, Toni Braxton, Brooks & Dunn, P!nk, Pitbull and late Nashville songwriters Harlan Howard (“I Fall To Pieces,” “Why Not Me”) and Billy Sherrill (“Stand By Your Man,” “The Most Beautiful Girl”).
BMI also introduced the Evergreen Award, honoring the iconic bluegrass standard “Rocky Top,” created by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant in a focused, 10-minute spurt in 1967. It became a signature for the Osborne Brothers, but also emerged as the fight song for the University of Tennessee. Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, who led a storied collegiate career with the Volunteers, indicated in a video package that “Rocky Top” is one of his go-to songs when he ends up on stage with country artists.
“We gotta sing something that you know the words to,” he said.
Ironically, a poll of country artists walking the red carpet suggested that almost no one knows all the words. “We can fake it pretty good,” LOCASH’s Preston Brust confessed. “I think we can get through the chorus just fine.”
No faking was apparent during Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s rippling cover of “Rocky Top” at BMI. The Yoakam tributes were also convincing. Jon Pardi delivered “Guitars, Cadillacs” with garage-band ferocity, Margo Price and Bob Weir applied a raw feel to “Fast As You,” and The Highwomen – backed by Jason Isbell on guitar – layered four-part harmonies on “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere,” with Brandi Carlile’s end-of-chorus yodel-like embellishments recalling Yoakam’s trademark hiccup effects.
“He doesn’t take things lightly,” actor Billy Bob Thornton said of Yoakam in a pre-produced video package. “When Dwight writes a song, or does anything, he goes into it 100 percent. He and I share the gift of OCD, so Dwight will beat it ’til it’s right.”
BMI Nashville vp creative Jody Williams was saluted during the evening, as he prepares to step down at the end of the year to go back into music publishing.
Williams’ final ceremony as a PRO employee was unofficially the coldest in the agency’s history, as temperatures dropped to a stiff 18 degrees with a wind chill of 11. While propane heat and hundreds of blankets raised the temps in BMI’s dressed-up parking garage, cold feet were abundant.
“Thank you all very much for honoring me,” Yoakam quipped, “and for sticking it out in arctic-like conditions.”