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Jon Nite, Josh Hoge, Christian Stalnecker, Sony Music Publishing Win Big at SESAC 2023 Nashville Music Awards

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One of the Nashville music industry’s most festive, star-studded weeks got underway on Sunday evening (Nov. 5) in the walkup to Wednesday’s CMA Awards, with SESAC’s Nashville Music Awards celebrating the writers and music publishers behind many of the year’s most-performed country and Americana songs.

Following a cocktail hour where more than 400 of Nashville music industry denizens schmoozed, Megan Moroney started the ceremony by performing an acoustic, husky-voiced rendition of one of the celebrated songs of the evening, “Tennessee Orange.” The ballad, which Moroney co-wrote, is nominated for song of the year during the CMA Awards (Moroney is also up for new artist of the year).

SESAC executives including chairman/CEO John Josephson, president/COO Scott Jungmichel, chief creative officer Sam Kling, senior VP/head of Nashville creative Shannan Hatch, and Lydia Schultz Cahill and ET Brown (senior directors, creative services), guided the evening’s festivities and led the charge in honoring the writers’ and publishers’ accomplishments.

“We have a hugely talented group of creators here tonight,” Jungmichel said. “Supporting you continues to be our focus.”

“What an amazing year it has been for country and Americana songwriters,” said Hatch, noting songwriter Rafe Van Hoy’s recent induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year. “Also, more Nashville writers were honored than ever during the SESAC [all-genre] Awards earlier this year.”

SESAC writers Josh Hoge and Christian Stalnecker contributed to writing “Thank God,” recorded by Kane Brown and his wife Katelyn Brown. The song became a No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay chart hit and on Sunday evening, was named SESAC’s song of the year during the Nashville Music Awards. The gratitude-filled ballad is also up for musical event of the year at Wednesday’s CMA Awards. Brown was on hand to help present Hoge and Stalnecker with the honor.

Sony Music Publishing was named publisher of the year, after earning seven awards throughout the evening, for the company’s role in publishing sterling country radio hits including “Thank God,” “Tennessee Orange,” “Dancin’ in the Country,” “You Didn’t,” and “Pick Me Up.”

The SESAC Heritage Award celebrated the legacy of “I’ll Fly Away” songwriter Albert E. Brumley and recognized SESAC’s 80-year partnership with the song and Brumley. Betsy Brumley accepted the heritage award on his behalf. Jamey Johnson was also on hand to perform a gorgeous acoustic version of the song.

Other SESAC-affiliated songwriters honored throughout the evening included Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey, Justin Ebach, Casey Brown, Dillon Carmichael (who earned his first industry award that evening and took the stage to perform a rendition of his song “Son of a A”) and Kelsey Waldon.

The evening concluded with the coveted songwriter of the year trophy, which went to Jon Nite, in recognition of his work in composing songs including “Dancin’ in the Country” (recorded by Tyler Hubbard), “You Didn’t” (Brett Young), and “Pick Me Up” (Gabby Barrett). Video tributes for Nite came from Keith Urban, Tyler Hubbard, Gabby Barrett, songwriter-producer Ross Copperman, Sony Music Publishing’s Josh Van Valkenburg, as well as tributes from Nite’s family.

“I don’t deserve this; this is unbelievable,” Nite said after taking the stage, first thanking his family and his Sony Music Publishing champions.

Nite recalled moving to Nashville over two decades ago, with $500 to his name. He offered advice to any aspiring songwriters: “Keep writing the songs that are part of your life—those are the only ones that work.” He noted the intense work ethic and long-term vision required for forging success within the industry, saying, “I wrote 1,000 songs before I got one cut.” He ended on a note of gratitude, and a bit of incredulousness, for being able to live out his dreams, saying, “It’s unbelievable that SESAC pays us to do what we do…what we love.”

See a full listing of the year’s SESAC Nashville Music Awards honorees below:

“Thank God”

Written by: Josh Hoge, Christian Stalnecker

Published by: Blunts and Bonfires Music, Feels Like Friday, Sony Music Publishing, Chorus 2 Music, RMM 416 Publishing

Recorded by: Kane Brown and Katelyn Brown

“DANCIN’ IN THE COUNTRY”

Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Cuts Like A Nite Music, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Tyler Hubbard

“TENNESEE ORANGE”

Written by: Megan Moroney

Published by: Georgiamo, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Megan Moroney

“YOUR HEART OR MINE”

Written by: Justin Ebach

Published by: Phat Racoon, Universal Tunes

Recorded by: Jon Pardi

“YOU DIDN’T”

Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Brett Young

“PICK ME UP”

Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Cuts Like A Nite Music, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Gabby Barrett

“GIRL IN MINE”

Written by: Casey Brown

Published by: Track & Feels, Warner Chappell Music, Tape Room Tunes

Recorded by: Parmalee

“WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE”

Written by: Chris LaCorte

Published by: Card Tables Music, Hang Your Hat Hits, Concord Tunes

Recorded by: Sam Hunt

“BURY ME IN GEORGIA”

Written by: Josh Hoge

Published by: Blunts and Bonfires Music, Chorus 2 Music, Sony Music Nashville

Recorded by: Kane Brown

“OUT IN THE MIDDLE”

Written by: Ben Simonetti, Zac Brown

Published by: Simonetti Music Publishing, Day For The Dead Publishing

Recorded by: Zac Brown Band

“Y’ALL LIFE”

Written by: Josh Jenkins, Pete Good

Published by: Follow Me Where I Go, SMACKWORKS Music

Recorded by: Walker Hayes

“SON OF A”

Written by: Dillon Carmichael

Published by: Riser House Tunes, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Dillon Carmichael

“PARTY MODE”

Written by: Jared Keim

Published by: Twelve6 Sequoia, Warner Chappell Music

Recorded by: Dustin Lynch

“CHANGE OF HEART”

Written by: Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey

Published by: Peach Pit, Fisheye, RMM 416 Publishing, Good Songs We Love

Recorded by: Margo Price

“THAT KIND OF LIFE (THAT KIND OF DAY)”

Written by: Jim Lauderdale

Published by: Wudang Mountain Songs, Critter City Music

Recorded by: Jim Lauderdale

“TALL AND MIGHTY”

Written by: Kelsey Waldon

Published by: MyKaintuck Publishing, Do Write Music

Recorded by: Kelsey Waldon

“DON’T LET THE DARKNESS”

Written by: Ed Jurdi

Published by: Three Pisces Music

Recorded by: The Band of Heathens

“ALL I REALLY WANNA DO”

Written by: Henry Brill

Published by: Kobalt Group Publishing

Recorded by: Devon Gilfillian

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