The final two pieces of the Academy of Country Music Awards puzzle fell into place this morning when nominees were announced for Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. The winners of both categories will be named at the 51st annual ACM Awards, which will be held April 3rd in Las Vegas.
Two of 2015’s biggest — and most striking — country hits scored Song of the Year nominations, as Cam’s breakout ballad “Burning House” and Little Big Town’s enduring “Girl Crush” both put their songwriting teams on the list. Keith Urban’s “Raise ‘Em Up,” a collaboration with Eric Church from his album Fuse, also made the cut, along with Chris Stapleton’s current single “Nobody to Blame” and Eric Paslay’s overlooked “She Don’t Love You.”
Unlike previous years, Song of the Year nominees were selected by a panel of professional songwriters and then voted onto the final ballot by the Composer class of ACM’s membership. In the past, general ACM membership voted on the songs that would appear on the final ballot.
All the Song of the Year nominees share a common bond of fearless expression that wasn’t necessarily geared to be a radio hit. “[W]e thought nobody was going to like the song but us, so we weren’t careful,” explained McKenna of writing “Girl Crush” with Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey. “It’s good for your songwriting soul to write a song that’s just for you and isn’t commercial.”
A group of songwriters who have mastered the ability to blend the personal and commercial will compete for the Songwriter of the Year honor, which is presented off-camera. Frequent ACM Awards contenders Shane McAnally and Rodney Clawson picked up their respective ninth and eighth career nominations — McAnally’s contributions include Sam Hunt’s “Break Up in a Small Town” and Kenny Chesney’s “Wild Child,” while Clawson’s include Florida Georgia Line’s “Sippin’ on Fire” and Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink.” Rounding out the category are McAnally’s frequent writing partner Josh Osborne (“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”), producer-songwriter Ross Copperman (“Lose My Mind”) and Ashley Gorley (“Don’t It”).
Chris Stapleton and Eric Church lead the field in the previously announced ACM Awards categories with five each, including Church’s first Entertainer of the Year nod. The winners will be revealed on Sunday, April 3rd, at 8:00 p.m. ET on CBS. Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley host live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Song of the Year (awarded to songwriter(s)/publisher(s)/artist(s))
“Burning House,” Cam
Songwriters: Jeffrey Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, Cam
“Girl Crush,” Little Big Town
Songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Liz Rose
“Nobody to Blame,” Chris Stapleton
Songwriters: Chris Stapleton, Barry Bales, Ronnie Bowman
“Raise ‘Em Up,” Keith Urban featuring Eric Church
Songwriters: Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, Jeffrey Steele
“She Don’t Love You,” Eric Paslay
Songwriters: Eric Paslay, Jennifer Wayne
Songwriter of the Year