Jerrod Niemann had some 500 partygoers raising their glasses to “Drink to That All Night,” as he opened SESAC’s Nashville Music Awards at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Sunday night with an acoustic performance of his chart-topper. The intimate fete — which kicks off four straight nights of country music awards in Music City, culminating at Wednesday’s CMA Awards — honored preeminent songwriters and publishers in the country and Americana worlds. “Drink to That All Night” was named SESAC’s Song of the Year, with Tim McGraw making a surprise appearance to present the award to one of the tune’s four co-writers, Lance Miller (who happens to be signed to McGraw’s StyleSonic Publishing company).
Rob Hatch was named Songwriter of the Year, while his publishing company, Magic Mustang Music was honored with the Publisher of the Year accolade. Lee Brice and Randy Houser serenaded Hatch with acoustic versions of tunes he co-wrote with them: Brice’s “I Don’t Dance” and Houser’s “Goodnight Kiss.”
SESAC’s Most Performed Songs of the Year were Lady Antebellum’s “Bartender,” co-written by SESAC writer Hillary Scott, Dustin Lynch’s “Where It’s At,” co-written by SESAC’s Cary Barlowe, and Thompson Square’s “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About,” co-written by SESAC songwriter Keifer Thompson.
Americana song honors went to Victoria Shaw, Adam Chaffins, Pete Sallis, Jim Lauderdale, Rick Scott and Bob Dylan (who was not present).
SESAC is a performing rights organization that has worked on behalf of music publishers and songsmiths since the 1930s.