Songwriters Become the Stars of the Show at 5th Annual Nashville Songwriter Awards

by Preshias Harris / 625 days ago / Comments

Garth, Taylor Swift among stellar honorees

For decades, songwriters have been the unsung heroes of the music industry, creating the lyrics and melodies that make superstars of the artists who perform and record them.

Since its inception, Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) has been a tireless advocate and strong supporter of songwriters, reminding the world that “it all begins with a song.”  On September 20, NSAI, along with presenting partner City National Bank, hosted a sold-out crowd at the Ryman Auditorium to celebrate the 5th annual Nashville Songwriter Awards.

It was an evening to treasure, filled with music and memories.  And because songwriters are – at heart – storytellers, there were many stories to be shared, some deeply touching and others quite hilarious. For me personally, it was also an opportunity to meet and greet many of the songwriters and artists on the Red Carpet as they arrived for the gala evening, as you’ll see below.

Among the honorees: Garth Brooks (receiving the Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award), Ashley Gorley (Songwriter of the Decade) and Taylor Swift (Songwriter-Artist of the Decade). The Song of the Year Award was presented to Jacob Davis, Jordan Davis, Josh Jenkins and Matt Jenkins for "Buy Dirt" (recorded by Jordan Davis feat. Luke Bryan).

Additionally, Gorley was named 'Songwriter of the Year' for a record-breaking 6th time and Matthew West earned 'Songwriter-Artist of the Year,' making him now only the second-ever Christian genre songwriter-artist to receive the title. In addition, 11 songs in total were celebrated as winners in the cherished peer-voted '10 Songs I Wish I'd Written' award category.

Jon Platt, Sony Music Publishing Chairman and CEO, was presented with the previously-announced President's Keystone Award by NSAI Board President, Steve Bogard and celebrated with a performance of "Rich Man" by Little Big Town, and to honor Brooks and his lifetime of achievements, Luke Combs sang "Beaches of Cheyenne," and legendary songwriters Pat Alger, Kent Blazy and Tony Arata, performed a medley of hits, concluding with "The Dance".  

Among the many songwriters and artists making special appearances were Anne Wilson, Sam Hunt, Chris LaCorte, Josh Osborne, Kelsea Ballerini, Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins and Larry Fleet. Additional artist appearances that filled the night included: Parmalee, HARDY, GAYLE, Alana Springsteen, Walker Hayes, Tigirlily, Thomas Rhett and Babyface, as well as many of the incredible award-winning songwriters.

In a surprise Grand Finale, Taylor Swift took center stage after receiving her Songwriter-Artist of the Decade Award and performed "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)", bringing the Ryman audience to their feet as they sang along to close out the show.

On the Red Carpet before the show, I took the opportunity to catch up with fellow-Kentuckian Ashley Gorley, on his way in to the Ryman to receive two well-earned Awards. Ashley said, “It makes me realize I’ve been doing this a long time and at the same time it reminds me I’m not tired of it at all.” He added, “It’s wild to think I’ve been doing it this long.”

Contemporary Christian artist and songwriter Matthew West told me that he used to go up and down Music Row, trying to get his songs recorded by artists and trying to get a record deal.  “For three years I faced rejection but I kept going and finally got a record deal and now here I am,” he said. “Even when I got a record deal, I never stopped writing songs for other artists.”

Parmalee’s Matt Thomas told me that this was the first time they had been a part of the Songwriters Awards show. “It’s an honor to be here and to be part of this community,” he said. Talking about the group’s upcoming plans, he said, “We’re going out on tour with Walker Hayes, the ‘Glad You’re Here Tour.’ ‘This Girl of Mine’ has been just taking off and now we’re gearing up for next year, so it’s been really exciting."

Catching up with Jordan Davis on the Red Carpet, I asked him how he balances being a dad with his touring schedule. “I think the main thing is, when I’m at home the work’s turned off,” he revealed. “I try to write on the road so I don’t have to do a ton of writing when I’m at home and I can spend time with them.  It gets tough at times, but when I’m at home I’m dad and the music waits.”

Bringing one of the NSAI's mission pillars to the forefront, the Nashville Songwriter Awards, now it its 5th year, is truly a night all about celebrating songwriters and their importance to the community at large and beyond. The annual awards are set to return to the Ryman Auditorium Fall 2023.

More about NSAI and the benefits of membership at their website Nashville Songwriters Association International | It all begins with a song! on Twitter (@NSAIofficial) on Instagram (@nsaiofficial) and on Facebook Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) - Home | Facebook.

Photo: (L to R) Taylor Swift, Ashley Gorley. Photo credit: Catrina Engelby


About Preshias Harris

Preshias Harris Journalist

Preshias Harris is a music journalist who has interviewed everyone from Alabama to ZZ Top for articles and stories published in numerous music magazines. She is the author of longest-running monthly country music column in America and authored The College of Songology™ 101: The Singer/Songwriter’s ‘Need To Know’ Reference Handbook. As a music career development consultant with special emphasis on emerging and aspiring artists and songwriters, she focuses on ‘chasing the dream’ while understanding the realities of the music industry. She maintains a writers’ room on Music Row – named The Sangtuary – for her clients and their co-writers. She is a member of ASCAP (as a publisher), BMI, The Country Music Association (CMA), The Recording Academy, The National Association of Talent Directors (NATD) and a life member of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI).

You can find out more about Preshias at and find her blog at