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The singer performed the tune acoustically, then called Jon to the stage to receive his award. "What a beautiful night this is," Lee said. "Me and Jon always talked about being on the chart together. Now, brother, here we are." (Jon is pictured above, far left, with fellow SESAC winners Lee Brice, Jerrod Niemann, Rob Hatch and Lance Miller.)
Catt Gravitt was named Songwriter of the Year. She picked up awards for "Amen," recorded by Edens Edge; "Alone With You" by Jake Owen; and "Why Ya Wanna" by Jana Kramer. Jana presented her with SESAC's highest honor.
"I am so blessed to be able to do this with my friends," Catt told the gathering, noting that her husband, sister and parents were all on hand to see her receive the honor. "If you would have told me I would be receiving an award like this during my menopause years I would never have believed it!"
Hillary welcomed Thompson Square to the stage to perform their single "If I Didn't Have You." She noted that the husband-and-wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson had opened for Lady Antebellum on several occasions and complimented them on their show.
"It wasn't that long ago that we were just a few blocks away, playing on Broadway and wishing we were a part of all this," Keifer told attendees.
Songwriter Monty Powell and Mike Vaughn, a retired military officer with over 20 years of service in Special Operations Forces, performed "For You," the song Monty co-wrote with Keith Urban for the movie "Act of Valor." Monty explained that he and Keith talked about the song for two days before deciding to write it from the perspective of a service member who had just been killed on the battlefield.
Jerrod presented songwriting awards to Rob Hatch and Lance Miller for "Shinin' on Me," a song he recorded. "It's great to be here with our buddies," Rob told The Boot. "Niemann took time off the road and honored us to come and give us an award. It's a great night!"
"He was nice enough to take us on the road," Lance said of Jerrod. "We went all over Texas to get this song written and it's done really well for us. We're glad he's here with us tonight."
The Bluebird Café, which is featured prominently in the new ABC series "Nashville," turns 30 this year, and SESAC presented a special tribute to the venue featuring songwriters Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Kim Williams and Don Henry, who performed several of their hits including "That's My Job," "The River," "Papa Loved Mama" and "Where've You Been," respectively.
The Bluebird is recognized as one of the most important music rooms for songwriters. Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea are among the many singers and somgwriters who give the venue a nod as an important starting point in their careers.
Three members of the "Nashville" cast, Charles Eston (Deacon), Jonathan Jackson (Avery) and Sam Palladio (Gunner), talked about the Bluebird's importance in the series. "It's the mecca for songwriters, they respect songwriters and it treats them well," said Charles. "That's why we're here, to say thank you on behalf of the others [in the 'Nashville' cast]."
Hillary Scott first performed at the Bluebird while still in her teens. "I played there with Victoria Shaw, who was my first publisher and a dear friend," she told The Boot. From there, of course, she went on to form Lady Antebellum with Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley. She received four awards for songwriting at this year's event, for "Just a Kiss," "Dancin' Away With My Heart" and "Wanted You More," all hits for Lady Antebellum, and "A Little Bit Stronger," recorded by Sara Evans.
During the Americana music portion of the evening, Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers was presented with SESAC's Summit Award, which recognizes the band for their "sky-rocketing career and genre-defying music."
"Public speaking is not my strength," Seth joked as he took the stage to accept the honor after performing "The Ballad of Love and Hate." "In 2004, when no one was interested in us, SESAC talked to us. I am proud to be part of the SESAC family. Let's keep making music!"
SESAC is the only performing rights organization that recognizes the singers and songwriters from the Americana genre. Others who were recognized included Ray Wylie Hubbard, Bob Dylan, late blues great Robert Johnson, Dustin Welch and Jim Lauderdale.
Sony/ATV/EMI was named SESAC Country Publisher of the Year. SESAC's Tim Fink, who hosted the evening, also announced that the organization would begin paying their songwriters on a monthly basis, making it the first of the three U.S. organizations (BMI and ASCAP being the others) to do so.