Bailey Zimmerman Praises ACM Artist-Songwriter of the Year, HARDY: ‘You’ve Been A Really, Really Big Inspiration To Me’

Zimmerman performed “Signed, Sober You” in honor of HARDY.

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

September 18, 2023

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Bailey Zimmerman and HARDY; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM

HARDY was crowned ACM Artist-Songwriter of the Year during the 16th Annual ACM Honors ceremony and Bailey Zimmerman was on hand to perform “Signed, Sober You” in his honor. 

Zimmerman took to the iconic Ryman Auditorium stage in Nashville to deliver a stripped-down rendition of the HARDY track, accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. 

“You’ve been a really, really big inspiration to me because you have always been you, man. You’ve always done what you wanted to do, your way or the highway.” Zimmerman explained from the stage. “We’re so appreciative to have you, know you, be around you and creative with you. It’s truly been incredible calling you a buddy.”

“Signed, Sober You”

Bailey Zimmerman; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM
Bailey Zimmerman; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM

Bailey Zimmerman has had the opportunity to get to know HARDY a bit more throughout the past year as they have both appeared as special guests on Morgan Wallen’s One Night At A Time World Tour. 

Cousin Presented Him With The Award

Following Zimmerman’s performance of the track, which appears on HARDY’s 2019 Where To Find Me EP, HARDY’s cousin, Dennis Matkosky, took the stage to present the award. 

Matkosky, who is a songwriter and publisher in Nashville, joked, “I met HARDY when he had a first name.”

HARDY; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM
HARDY; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM

In all seriousness, he went on to recall the evolution of HARDY’s songwriting and praise the songwriter and artist he’s become. 

“There was a depth about his writing from the very beginning. Every time he came over, songs just got better and better,” he recalled. “At one point, he played me a song that he wrote about his dog dying called ‘Dog Years.’ It was an amazing song and still is, but he wrote it from the dog’s perspective, not from the person. That was so unique that by the middle of the last verse, I knew I had to work with him and sign him to his first publishing deal…That was 10 years and 13 number ones ago!”

When it was time for HARDY to say a few words, he opened up about his passion for writing songs and showcased his gratitude to everyone who supported him along the way.  

Bailey Zimmerman, HARDY; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM
Bailey Zimmerman, HARDY; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM

“This Is A Huge Honor”

“I signed my first publishing deal in 2014 and I signed my first record deal in 2018. Since then, there’s needed to be a balance between my artist career and my songwriting career. If you know me, you know that I am passionate about one thing at the end of the day, and that’s writing songs and writing a great song,” he said from the stage. 

“It takes a lot of work from my publisher, record label and my wife, and I just want to thank all of you guys for helping me maintain both of those careers,” the “Truck Bed: singer added. “It’s such an appropriate title for this award because I’m truly an artist in the sense that I love singing songs and I truly am a songwriter. This is a huge honor.”

HARDY, Caleigh Ryan; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM
HARDY, Caleigh Ryan; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for ACM

2023 ACM Honors

The 16th Annual ACM Honors was filmed on Wednesday, August 23 at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dubbed “Country Music industry’s favorite night,” the 2023 ACM Honors recognized several special honorees, including Tim McGraw (ACM Icon Award), Chris Stapleton (ACM Triple Crown Award), Charlie Daniels (ACM Spirit Award), Clint Black (ACM Poet’s Award), Mary Chapin Carpenter (ACM Poet’s Award), BRELAND (ACM Lift Every Voice Award), Kane Brown (ACM International Award), HARDY (ACM Artist/Songwriter Of The Year Award) and more.

The coveted awards show also featured performances from BRELAND, Keith Urban, Lee Brice, Brandy Clark, Priscilla Block, Jordan Davis, Billy Ray Cyrus, FIREROSE, Sara Evans, Chris Janson, Lady A, Nelly, Bailey Zimmerman, Dennis Quaid, The War And Treaty, Trisha Yearwood, Brett Young as well as the show’s host Carly Pearce, among others.

Hosted By Carly Pearce

Carly Pearce; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM
Carly Pearce; Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM

Randy Travis, Big Kenny, Marty Stuart and Storme Warren were also on hand to present.

Carly Pearce returned as the show’s host for the third consecutive year. “The Academy of Country Music has played such a crucial role in the rise of my career in the last several years, giving me opportunities to expand my artistry with hosting,” Pearce previously shared in a statement. “To be able to come back as the host of the ACM Honors for the third year in a row, I feel so grateful and excited for what I know will be such a special night!”

ACM Honors premiered on Monday, September 18 at 8/7c on FOX. The show will also be available to stream on Hulu on Tuesday (Sept. 19).

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.