The 48th annual CMA Awards descend upon Nashville tomorrow night in a cloud of road closures, red carpet appearances and Meghan Trainor cameos, but the televised awards show — billed as "country music's biggest night" — isn't the only ceremony hitting Music City this week. Three of America's four performance rights organizations are also getting into the trophy-giving spirit, with ASCAP honoring its biggest songwriters, performers and publishers during last night's 52nd Annual ASCAP Country Music Awards.
One of the evening's biggest winners was Ashley Gorley, ASCAP's Country Music Songwriter of the Year, who spent 2013 penning nearly half of Luke Bryan's double-platinum album, Crash My Party, as well as hits for Brett Eldredge, Randy Houser, Scotty McCreery, Chris Young and others. Other honorees included songwriters Ben Hayslip and Jimmy Robbins, whose chart-topping cut for Thomas Rhett, "It Goes Like This," was named ASCAP's Country Music Song of the Year.
Meanwhile, ASCAP celebrated its 100th anniversary by handing out a pair of Heritage Awards — sort of the ASCAP equivalent of a lifetime achievement plaque — to icons Alan Jackson and Craig Wiseman. Jackson, who launches his 25th anniversary tour in early January, was named the most-performed country singer of the last century, while Wiseman — the songwriter behind hits like Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone" and Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" — received a similar honor as the century's most-performed country songwriter. Out in the audience, artists like the Cadillac Three, the Doobie Brothers, Angaleena Presley and Jennifer Nettles watched Wiseman's tearful acceptance speech.
In tribute to the behind-the-scenes songwriters who rarely receive public credit for the hits they've penned, the ASCAP Awards also included live performances of the five most popular country songs of 2013, sung by the songwriters who wrote them rather than the artists who popularized them. That meant Hayslip and Robbins performed "It Goes Like This" instead of Thomas Rhett, and Gorley sang "Crash My Party" instead of Luke Bryan. Meanwhile, singer/songwriter Eric Paslay straddled the line between both worlds by performing his own hit, "Friday Night," which originally appeared on Lady Antebellum's 2011 release, Own the Night, before being rerecorded for Paslay's debut album.