By Vernell Hackett
(Nashville: November 4, 2014) — Vince Gill was honored as BMI’s newest Icon at the performance rights organization’s annual country awards banquet in Nashville Tuesday night. Rhett Akins was named Songwriter of the Year for having seven songs among the most performed on country radio this past year, including “I Can Take It From There” by Chris Young, “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett, “Parking Lot Party” by Lee Brice and “When She Says Baby” by Jason Aldean.
Song of the Year honors went to Ketch Secor for “Wagon Wheel,” recorded by Darius Rucker and co-written with Bob Dylan. It was one of the most performed songs of the year. Ironically, when Rucker first broached the subject of recording the song with his producer, he was told everyone had recorded that song. His response, “Well I want to record it too.”
Honoring Vince Gill during the evening were Keith Urban, Ashley Monroe and Michael McDonald. Urban recalled the time he snuck into the grand opening of Nashville’s Hard Rock Café in 1994 and introduced himself to Gill.
“I wasn’t invited but I snuck in because I really wanted to meet you and somehow managed to get a photo with you. I don’t know how it happened, but it is one of the photos I love so much. You are there with this ‘who is this kid’ look on your face. But you were so nice to me even though I was just one of the guys in the crowd. It’s such a sweet thing because a whole bunch of years later I get to do “Oklahoma” with you ever year (at the All for the Hall concert benefiting the Country Music Hall of Fame).”
Urban and Monroe performed “Whenever You Come Around,” and Urban sang “I Still Believe in You.” Michael McDonald acknowledged Gill with “When I Call Your Name.” Urban and Monroe closed the performances with “Liza Jane.”
“I’d give all this up if I had to lose the friendships I’ve made over the years,” Gill told the crowd after being presented with his award. “Rodney (Crowell) and Emmy (Lou Harris) encouraged me to write songs. I remember when I joined Pure Prairie League, they were recording an album and they asked if I had any songs. I had six and they recorded five of them. I thought, ‘Well this is easy.’
“All I wanted to do was write songs like my heroes and sing them. One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever had was when someone asked me if I wrote “The Old Lucky Diamond Café” with (songwriter) Guy Clark. I didn’t but it meant so much for me that they thought that.”
Gill recalled the time he approached singer and recording artist Bill Anderson to write with him. He said Anderson looked at him and said, “You want to write with me? I haven’t had anything on the charts in years.” I told him I did and I like to think I turned him on to writing songs again.
“I would like to encourage those 15 writers who received awards for the first time tonight, look around and find someone who can teach you when you’re writing together. And don’t hesitate to ask someone who might not have had a chart song in a while to write. But above all, always try to move someone with your songs.”
Akins told the crowd that it felt as far away as earth to Jupiter that he was on the stage accepting Songwriter of the Year status. He has won the award twice before. He went on to say, “Last year I sat at that table right over there and 50 people came up on that stage and accepted an award and I didn’t win one award. So don’t ever give up, just get out there and write.”
Akins also appealed to Gill, saying, “I heard what you said, and if you ever want to help me along by writing a song with me, I’d sure appreciate it.” He thanked numerous co-writers, ending with, “and my favorite songwriting partner, (son) Thomas Rhett.”
BMI’s Country Publisher of the Year was Sony/ATV Music Publishing. They published 28 of the 50 most performed songs from the BMI catalog, including “Drink a Beer” by Luke Bryan and “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice. The songwriters and publishers of the organization’s 50 most-performed songs from the previous year were recognized throughout the evening.