‘Thank God’ Named Song of the Year, Jon Nite Named Songwriter of the Year at 2023 SESAC Nashville Music Awards

The event was held on Sunday, Nov. 5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.


Nicole Palsa

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November 6, 2023


4:14 pm

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Kane Brown, SESAC songwriters Christian Stalnecker and Josh Hoge; Photo Courtesy of SESAC

During the 2023 SESAC Nashville Music Awards, Jon Nite was honored as Songwriter of the Year in recognition of his hits like “Dancin’ In The Country,” recorded by Tyler Hubbard, “You Didn’t,” recorded by Brett Young, and “Pick Me Up,” recorded by Gabby Barrett. The performing rights organization’s annual Nashville Music Awards, held Sunday, Nov. 5 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, honored songwriters and music publishers behind the year’s most-performed country and Americana songs. 

Nite Reflects On His Successful Journey of Songwriting

Jon Nite; Photo by Katie Kauss
Jon Nite; Photo Courtesy of SESAC

Nite spoke with Country Now on the red carpet before the event and reflected on his journey as a songwriter. “I have written thousands of songs that have not seen the light of day,” he admits. “It’s a miracle that one of these gets through it and you get recognized and it’s a song you believe in.” One of those songs was “Dancin’ in the Country,” which was a snapshot of Nite’s childhood in Texas. Writing the tune with Keith Urban, Tyler Hubbard, and Ross Copperman was a surreal experience for Nite.

“I watched Keith just dive into the track with Ross and it was just a magic moment where he just was playing every instrument under the sun and he just went on and on for hours. He just stayed there until five or six watching him have fun with it. And then he would look over and he is like, is this good? Is this bad? I’m like, you’re Keith Urban, what do you think?” he laughed.

Nite was lauded by Urban and Hubbard, along with Dierks Bentley and Gabby Barrett in congratulatory video messages ahead of receiving the award. “Songwriter of the year? Duh!” exclaimed Urban.

Reflecting on the Highs and Lows

During his acceptance speech, Nite shared that arrived in Nashville in 1998 with $500 to his name and now, he has 18 number-one songs to his credit. If he could go back and tell his younger self what to expect, he would be honest about the highs and lows. “I would tell myself it’s going to take a lot longer than you think it’s going to take, and you’re going to hate it, and it’s going to be the best journey you’ve ever been on and just hang around. It’s going to take a long time, but it’ll be so sweet,” Nite told Country Now. “Life is pretty good to be able to write songs and actually get paid for it. Thank God for SESAC. Thank God for all of the PROs [performing rights organizations] that help make these dreams come true.”

Nite also shared advice for rising songwriters who hope to be in his shoes one day. “Treat it like you treat any [job]. If you’re a farmer, you get up and do it every day. Whether you make it, whether you don’t make it, just make it a discipline that you just do day after day after day, every morning you get up and just do. You’re going to write a lot of songs before you’re going to have any success and just know that it’s a 10 year town for a reason. Just everybody wants to do this. So just treat it like a job and write as hard as you can.” He recommends writing as authentically as possible, including the topics that are hard to deal with, that will resonate with people. “That stuff will shine through. People can smell it out.”

SESAC Song Of The Year: Kane Brown’s “Thank God”

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SESAC’s Song of the Year was awarded to the smash crossover hit “Thank God,” penned by Josh Hoge and Christian Stalnecker, and recorded by Kane Brown and his wife, Katelyn Brown. 

Hoge spoke with Country Now about how the song came to fruition. “It came together on my couch at my house in College Grove. Kyle Fishman sent me the track and the hook and we took it from there and just did it in the write. And I hate to say it, but it is so cliche, like, the rest is history. And so I sent it to Kane and he said, ‘I love it. If you could change this and make the second verse for my wife, we’ll cut it right now.’ So I said, okay, give me five minutes. So we did our best and again, the rest is history,” Hoge recalled. “There’s a lot of songs coming out now that are interpretations or remakes or whatever. And my thing is, it means more to me that we’re songwriters. We can do it. We can do it. And I’m just happy to be here with all my friends and everybody that I know and all this stuff, and that’s what means the most to me.”

Megan Moroney Celebrates Her Viral Hit “Tennessee Orange”

Megan Moroney; Photo by Katie Kauss
Megan Moroney; Photo Photo Courtesy of SESAC

Megan Moroney kicked off the night with a performance of her hit “Tennessee Orange,” which altered the course of her career at lightning speed. “My fans completely changed my life with that song,” she told Country Now. “They sing every single one of my songs off the record, word for word. And so seeing that and being able to experience that with my fans firsthand has been the highlight of my career, maybe my life. It’s just been so fun and so crazy how things can change so quickly. I played in Dallas and Houston this past weekend and last December I was the opener for Kameron Marlowe. So I was doing the solo acoustic right before he went on. And I remember last year in December, some of them knew ‘Tennessee Orange’ and some of them knew ‘Hair Salon’ like maybe 20, 30 people. And now it’s like the entire room. It’s the same exact rooms that I’m playing less than a year later, and they’re screaming every single one of them. So it’s really special.”

At her core, Moroney is a songwriter first, so the SESAC Awards are a special celebration. “I just love being around fellow songwriters. I feel like we all are kind of like-minded and we have the same brain. And since I’m on the road so often, I don’t get to see all my friends, like my songwriting friends. So nights like tonight I get to catch up with everybody and it’s just always a good time.”

Other Attendees Included Spencer Crandall, Isaac Hanson, Dillon Carmichael & more

Dillon Carmichael performed his hit song “Son of A,” which he wrote and recorded. The tune was recognized as one the year’s most-performed country songs, making it Carmichael’s first-ever award. “This award is unbelievable,” he told Country Now. “I really want to thank my co-writers, Phil O’Donnell and Casey Beathard for allowing me to be a part of this song. But it really started from a story of Casey Beathard’s personal experience with his children, and it inspired the idea. And then he allowed me and Phil to come in and finish the idea with him. And it’s really just about having someone in your life. It’s tough. Love someone in your life that they’re not going to be a yes man. They’re going to tell you how it is and you’re probably not going to like it. But when you get older, you realize that your parents were really just kind of, they had a chisel and you were the stone, and they were turning you into this, what you end up becoming as an adult. I think it’s a beautiful song, and I feel like I had a couple of lines in there, but more than anything as a songwriter, but more than anything, as an artist, I get to be the guy that gets to sing it for people. So I’m just so blessed and thankful.”

In addition to the honorees, several rising singer-songwriters attended the event and felt inspired by the achievements of their peers. Spencer Crandall said, “You watch people write hundreds of songs a year, and to have one of those songs change their life, that’s what we’re all trying to do. So it’s inspiring.”

You never know who you’ll see in Nashville and the SESAC Nashville Music Awards were no exception. Isaac Hanson of the fraternal pop trio Hanson walked the red carpet and chatted with Country Now about the importance of songwriting and what’s on the horizon for the band.

“We wouldn’t be here as artists and as songwriters were it not for that unique human gift of song,” says Hanson. “It’s what allows us to share with even perfect strangers, this experience, which is life. And along the way, you help people out. I mean, music is therapy in so many ways. It’s therapy for me as a writer, me as a singer, same with everybody else I know in this business.” Being a singer-songwriter had a profound impact on Hanson’s career as well. “I think it’s allowed for us to stay connected with our fans in a really unique way, because in a way, we’re all growing up together. And you’re writing the songs along the way that show those changes and those evolutions in life.”

The trio released the experimental Red Green Blue in 2022, where each band member took the lead for one third of the album. Looking ahead to 2024, they’re planning to continue growing in new ways. “We’re looking for other opportunities to stretch ourselves like that. Creative ideas that might kind of… something we’ve never done before. Maybe homages to other artists that’ve been really influential on us. That’s definitely something. And I think collaboration as well is something we’re real keen on right now. We’ve got so many friends in the business, but we’ve never done collaborative projects with them. So it’s kind of like, Hey, look, we’ve been doing this a long time. We’ve been friends a long time. We need to figure this out.”

Sony Music Publishing took home the title of Publisher of the Year, after winning seven awards throughout the night.

Performance Honorees


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


Written by: Jon Nite

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

Recorded by: Tyler Hubbard


Written by: Megan Moroney

Published by: Georgiamo, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Megan Moroney


Written by: Justin Ebach

Published by: Phat Racoon, Universal Tunes

Recorded by: Jon Pardi


Written by: Jon Nite

Published by: Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Brett Young


Written by: Jon Nite

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

Recorded by: Gabby Barrett


Written by: Casey Brown

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

Recorded by: Parmalee


Written by: Chris LaCorte

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

Recorded by: Sam Hunt


Written by: Josh Hoge

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

Recorded by: Kane Brown


Written by: Ben Simonetti, Zac Brown

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

Recorded by: Zac Brown Band


Written by: Josh Jenkins, Pete Good

Published by: Follow Me Where I Go, SMACKWORKS Music

Recorded by: Walker Hayes


Written by: Dillon Carmichael

Published by: Riser House Tunes, Sony Music Publishing

Recorded by: Dillon Carmichael


Written by: Jared Keim

Published by: Twelve6 Sequoia, Warner Chappell Music

Recorded by: Dustin Lynch


Written by: Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey

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

Recorded by: Margo Price


Written by: Jim Lauderdale

Published by: Wudang Mountain Songs, Critter City Music

Recorded by: Jim Lauderdale


Written by: Kelsey Waldon

Published by: MyKaintuck Publishing, Do Write Music

Recorded by: Kelsey Waldon


Written by: Ed Jurdi

Published by: Three Pisces Music

Recorded by: The Band of Heathens


Written by: Henry Brill

Published by: Kobalt Group Publishing

Recorded by: Devon Gilfillian

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Nicole Palsa

Written by

Nicole Palsa

Nicole Palsa is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. Since 2012, she has written about the newcomers, superstars, and legends of country music for publications including Music Mayhem, Country Now, and Country Music Tattle Tale. Palsa has served as a volunteer guide with Musicians On Call since 2016 and is a Troubadour member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and her Bachelor of Arts degree in French. In addition to being a devoted country music fan, Nicole is a family historian and genealogist who can often be found in stacks of research. She is also an avid traveler with a passion for wildlife and nature photography.