Keith Urban, Kix Brooks & Casey Beathard Among Those Inducted Into The Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame
The star-studded event took place in the heart of Nashville on October 11.
Keith Urban, Kix Brooks, Rafe Van Hoy, Casey Beathard, David Lee Murphy; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Keith Urban, Kix Brooks, Casey Beathard, David Lee Murphy and Rafe Van Hoy were officially inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during a star-studded event held in the heart of Nashville on Wednesday night (Oct. 11).
Taking place inside the grand ballroom of the Music City Center, the 53rd anniversary NaSHOF Gala welcomed this year’s group of inductees alongside their friends, family and many esteemed members of the country music community. Decked out in cowboy hats, sharp attire and elegant ballgowns, this supportive group gathered to help celebrate the talented songwriters that were selected to join the class of 235 existing members of the Hall that was established in 1970.
Beathard and Murphy were inducted into the contemporary songwriter category, Van Hoy joined the veteran songwriter category, Urban was inducted as a contemporary songwriter-artist, and Brooks joined as a veteran songwriter-artist.
The evening began with opening remarks by NaSHOF Executive Director Mark Ford and Board Chair Rich Hallworth, who each set the tone for the night ahead as they emphasized the great sentiment behind these honors.
“We are here tonight to honor the songwriters who have reached the pinnacle of success in their respective careers,” said Hallworth. “We celebrate the creativity and talent that go into writing a song of merit, cultural value and long-lasting impact, and we do that tonight by welcoming these newest members into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.”
John Jarrard Inducted Into The Legacy Category
Next, Hall of Fame member Gary Nicholson stepped up to the podium to honor the late John Jarrard on his induction into the Hall’s Legacy category. Jarrard’s widow, Janet Jarrard was on hand to accept the accolade and speak on her late husband’s behalf, making sure to highlight his touching journey and his incredible philanthropic efforts. In remembrance of the Georgia Music Hall of Famer, the band Blackhawk performed their 1994 Jarrard-penned hit, “I Sure Can Smell The Rain.”
Bobby Bare Receives The Frances Williams Preseton Mentor Award
Bobby Bare was then named the first-ever recording artist to receive the Frances Williams Preseton Mentor Award. Since he was unable to attend the event in person, his son, Bobby Bare Jr., proudly stepped up to the mic and shared a gratitude-filled acceptance speech penned by his father prior to the gala.
“I have promoted great songs and great songwriters my whole life, and I have gotten so much in return. That’s why this award means so much. Frances Preseton was a close friend and she helped me in many ways. All my closest, lifelong friends have been songwriters. Some big stars, some just writers. All were great,” Bare Jr. read from his father’s words.
“Don’t forget, the brightest, wittiest, funniest, and most intelligent person in any room. is always a songwriter. No exceptions. And this room is full of them,” he added in conclusion, earning a round of applause from the room.
Once the cheers settled, Buddy Cannon introduced California-born Casey Beathard as the next inductee of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He started off by reflecting on the tremendous impact Beathard has had on the industry through his years of songwriting that spawned hits for the likes of Tracy Lawrence, Tracy Byrd, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church and many more.
Cannon rounded out his speech by sharing a brief story on how he initially passed on Beathard’s pitch for Kenny Chesney’s football-season inspired tune, “Boys of Fall.” However, after getting a call from Chesney himself, and hearing just how much love he had felt for the passionate song, Cannon admitted he was wrong to brush it off and label it as just another song about football. As a result, “Boys Of Fall” was released in July of 2010 on Chesney’s 12th studio album, Hemmingway’s Whiskey. It went on to become the country star’s highest debut single and reached the top spot on the charts by October of that year.
“After multiple weeks at No. 1 and a successful movie inspired by Casey’s song, I admitted I was wrong. You really don’t have to be a genius to be a record producer,” Cannon humbly shared.
Eric Church Honors Casey Beathard
The ceremony continued with an unforgettable musical tribute by country music superstar, Eric Church. As he appeared on stage to honor Beathard, not only did the 10x GRAMMY nominee unleash his star power with a delivery of “Like Jesus Does” from his 2011 album Chief, but for the first time in years, he was joined by his longtime collaborator and former backup singer, Joanna Cotten.
Before delivering the soulful time, Church reflected on getting to work with Beathard throughout his career and celebrated the fact that out of his only three outside cuts, Beathard had a hand in writing each of them.
“This man is a songwriter, mentor, and a North Star for me, as a writer. He’s an even better person. And it is an honor to be here,” Church shared.
While speaking with Country Now backstage ahead of the millstone event, Beathard exposed a similar message as his on-stage speech when he reflected on his journey of hitting highs and lows, building relationships and everything he learned along the way that has led to this prominent moment.
“I’m just grateful for the people that God has put in my life and that’s changed my life in these last 30 something years. Not just music, but the people that come with the music,” he expressed. “I honestly believe this past 33 years that God used music to get me here, to change my life, to get me closer, to get me to calm down. It’s not about you, surrender. I’m going to show you your wife [and] I’m going to show you your kids… going to give you this and give you that, and then just enjoy it and give it back. So that’s what I think it all amounts to.”
Bobby Braddock Presents Rafe Van Hoy
Rafe Van Hoy was the next honoree of the evening. Bobby Braddock began his introduction of Van Hoy by sounding off several of his greatest hits before summoning John Conlee to the stage to honor the inductee with an acoustic delivery of his first national number one record – 1979’s “Lady Lay Down.”
Braddock shared a sweet moment with Van Hoy as he raised his hands over the songwriter and earned a roar of laughter from the crowd as he declared, “I induct thee, I induct thee, I induct thee.” Although those stepping up to the mic were suggested to keep their speeches under the six-minute limit, Van Hoy made it clear that that was not nearly enough time to say what he needed to say and joked that the remainder of his words would come later in an extended Facebook post. So instead, he surpassed the allotted timeframe and brought joy, charisma, gratitude and plenty of laughs within his acceptance speech.
“I want to thank everybody that voted for me to induct me to the National Songwriters Hall of Fame. It’s always been a dream, something I hoped for…there’s a lot of brilliant songwriting minds in this town, and a lot of them are here tonight. I’m so, so, flattered and completely humbled.”
Credits His Father For His Success
Van Hoy went on to share that in many ways, he has his father to thank for this honor as he was the one who handed him a guitar and led him down the path of songwriting. The musical icon now credits his father for being the “sole single reason” for his success that has led him to receiving this high honor in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it wasn’t for him,” Van Hoy admitted.
Kix Brooks Of Brooks & Dunn
The evening continued with the next inductee, Kix Brooks of the country music powerhouse duo, Brooks & Dunn. He was presented by Bob Dipiero who shared stories from their time on the road together, when he would witness Brooks go from giving his all on stage to picking right back up on his songwriting as soon as he got on the bus. His impressive ability to balance both crafts is why Dipiero considers Brooks to be “the heart and soul of songwriting.”
Brooks also admitted to Country Now that he was “floored” when he heard he was finally among the chosen songwriters to be inducted into the coveted hall of fame. That same sentiment of humbleness, gratitude and a tinge of shock cursed through his acceptance speech on stage as he went on to say how grateful he was to be standing among his fellow inductees. This night marked a dream-come-true moment for Brooks because as he revealed to those before him, he wasn’t sure it was something that he would ever see come to fruition.
“I had a lump in my throat”
“I got a room full of friends in there that I’ve written a lot of songs for. This is a club that, man, I really wanted to be a part of so bad. And I just had a feeling that, it’s okay. I got nominated a lot of times, everybody doesn’t get a trophy. Maybe that one passed me by. And when Mark called me and gave me that news…I don’t cry at fricken funerals and that thing I heard so much about and it never happened to me, I had a lump in my throat. It was a thing that kept me from speaking. Any of you that know me know that is impossible.”
He contained, “I couldn’t believe it myself at the time. I guess tears started running out of my eyes because I couldn’t talk,” Brooks shared as he reflected on the moment he found out he had been chosen to become a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame alongside his musical partner, Ronnie Dunn.
Cody Johnson Performs Brooks & Dunn Hit
Brooks was also honored with a performance by Cody Johnson who brought his deep-rooted Texas sound to the stage while singing the duo’s beloved, pride-filled tune, “Only In America.”
David Lee Murphy
Craig Wiseman was next to take the stage as he was tapped to present singer/songwriter, David Lee Murphy. While keeping things short and sweet, Wiseman sung Murphy’s praises, commending the songwriter on his charm and uncanny ability to captivate a room full of people with his confident and cool persona.
“Tonight, may we elevate the ranks of the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, because, and I am not kidding when I say this, but I’m proud of this guy here,” Wiseman shared. “This guy is quite possibly one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known. The swag, just the casual…he’s the blue eyed, tall, good looking, thin songwriter. He’s epic.”
Kenny Chesney Delivers ‘Living In Fast Forward’
Taking the stage to honor the “epic” songwriter was Kenny Chesney, who donned a classic black cowboy hat, white button-up and gray slacks as he delivered his No. 1 hit, “Living In Fast Forward.” In addition to this fan-favorite tune, there have been several other duets, songwriting sessions and hits to come from Chesney and Murphy’s work together, including “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Live A Little,” and “Bar At The End Of The World.”
Murphy too expressed nothing but complete awe when he found out he would be added to the list of the 2023 inductees. That moment came while he was traveling on a plane and was immediately flooded with congratulatory messages. Now, standing on stage in front of so many of the people who he has looked up to over the years, who have become his friends and especially those who have recorded his songs, Murphy could hardly express the abundance of joy he felt. Plus, getting to stand beside songwriting greats like Urban, Brooks, Van Hoy and Beathard made the sentiment that much more special.
“I’ve known Kix since going back to the early ‘80s. I’ve known Keith since the late ‘90s, and I’ve known Casey since the mid ‘90s,” Murphy told Country Now. “And Rafe, I just loved his music all those years. He’s written so many hits and this is such an amazing group of people just to be associated with.”
The final inductee of the night was the 4x GRAMMY winner known for his out of this world guitar solos, Keith Urban. Before the ceremony began, Urban revealed to Country Now that when asked who he would like to present him that night, he took a shot in the dark and said “Dolly Parton.” In order to see this request through, he sent the country music icon a hand-written letter, and to his great surprise, she responded with a note of approval. So as the lights went dim and the dark figure walked out from behind the stage, a gasp could be heard throughout the room once it was apparent that Parton was present.
Dolly Parton On Hand To Honor Keith Urban
Parton first addressed all the songwriters in the room, sharing her admiration for all their work and dedication to the genre of country music. Then, she shifted her focus to Keith Urban, gushing about his kind heart and “unbelievable” talent.
“I’m sure all of you know and feel the same way, I have never seen a person with everything. Keith is so good looking, he’s so nice, he’s so kind and an unbelievable musician, singer, performer. But tonight, we get to honor him as a songwriter and I’m so happy that I get to be part of it,” she shared.”
Eric Church Returns To The Stage
Returning to the stage to honor Urban with a musical tribute was Eric Church. This time, he grabbed his guitar and performed Urban’s self-penned No 1 hit, “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.”
Bowing Down To Dolly
After hearing the kind words from Parton and witnessing Church do what he does best on stage, Urban hugged his fellow artists. He even bowed down to the “9 To 5” singer, showing his respect for her iconic legacy and equally as kind heart. He started off his speech by placing an “In Dolly We Trust” sticker on the podium and went on to thank many of those sitting in front of him, including his wife and daughters.
“Thank you so much to everybody for inviting me into the family because it feels full circle in so many ways,” he shared.
The “Somebody Like You” singer wrapped up his speech by reciting the lyrics from a deeply personal song he has in the works. The audience listened intently as he shared a snippet of the autobiographical narrative called “Just Getting Started” which he dedicated to those on his team who have been by his side for the duration of his career.
Keith Urban Recounts The ‘Surreal’ Moment
Prior to the ceremony, Urban gave a further look into this “surreal” night full of full-circle events as he described where he was the day he got the call.
“I was in the studio. I always like that you should be doing that thing that you’re being honored for at the time you get told…And particularly where I was at Backstage Studios, because I was at the back door looking over towards, I could see where Shoney’s [Inn] on Demonbreun used to be. It’s called Comfort Inn or something now, but it’s still there. And that’s where I stayed on my very first trip to Nashville. I’m looking at that while I’m on the phone hearing this news and it was just a beautiful metaphor of, it’s not that far from this place I’m looking at to here and it’s multiple lifetimes at the same time.”
Spirits were high as the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame gala came to a close. Overall, the spectacular event did the industry justice as the newest class of songwriters to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame were flooded with nothing but respect and admiration from those on stage, presenting the honors as well all those seated in the surrounding tables, who listened and patiently allowed each speaker to speak their truth of their peers. Even those who have passed on including John Jarrard and Jimmy Buffett were remembered for their contributions to music-lovers everywhere.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.